Federal water restrictions could affect local pot growers

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Marijuana growers in Washington and Colorado and other states cannot use irrigation water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to grow their crops.

Marijuana grow operations are popping up around our area. Farmers typically use irrigation water to feed their plants. But in many cases, that water is diverted from dams operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. That's a federal agency and pot is still illegal on the federal level.

Under the new policy that came down, those irrigation districts under the federal nexus, or those under the Bureau of Reclamation, would no longer be providing irrigation water to marijuana farmers, which means pot growers in our area can't use irrigation water.

It took upwards of 30 calls to find a farmer who either applied for a license to grow or is already approved to grow marijuana, and was willing to talk about it. Everyone else was too scared their water would be turned off.

Doctor Alan Schreiber wasn't concerned.

"I don't think anyone thinks the Department of justice is going to take legal action against cannabis growers that are following the rules in Washington," he said over the phone.

Schreiber's license to grow pot is pending. He thinks the policy change will encourage farmers to be self-sufficient.

"With a crop of that kind of value, they'll simply spend 400 dollars for a five thousand gallon tank and go to somebody that has a well and fill up their tank. It'll be nothing more than minor inconvenience and it'll be calculated into the cost of doing business," he added.

There are at least three districts in our area are run by the Bureau of Reclamation, including Benton, Roza and Kennewick. They say they will eventually shut off the water of known pot farmers.

Local water districts that receive water from the bureau had requested a decision on whether the water could be used to grow pot.