Two rural New Mexico water districts say medical cannabis farms in the area have put a strain on local water supplies. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District and Sile Mutual Domestic Water and Sewer Association penned a letter to state regulators and legislators expressing their concerns. The letter complains that an average home in the area uses three thousand gallons of water each month, while a medical cannabis producer can use up to twenty thousand gallons in the same period of time.
The problems are being compounded by a patchwork of local, state and federal regulations, combined with already strained water systems due to poor infrastructure and overuse. In New Mexico, domestic water cannot be used for agriculture. Farmers must find other water sources than those allocated for home use, then purchase water rights from the State Engineer. Additionally, mutual domestic well systems cannot be slated for growing cannabis because they would lose Federal improvement dollars, the Journal reports.
“The (cannabis) companies may think that the water rights were already taken care of when they purchased the property. We see the potential for these farms to bring economic growth to a rural community, so how do we support that growth while bringing water to our residents? We come from resource-poor communities, and many people have private domestic wells. We don’t have the infrastructure to move the quantity of water that (the farms) need.” — John Gurule, Peña Blanca system President, via the Journal
The affected groups suggest requiring medical cannabis producers to present “water rights” when submitting an application. Others suggest a “robust framework” passed by the legislature to regulate cannabis and water use, especially with adult-use cannabis potentially on the horizon for New Mexico.
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