New Cannabis Water Regulations for California Farmers

In 2019, the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted an approach to regulate cannabis cultivation and the source of the water supplies used for irrigation. The Board’s approach is to uniformly (for the most part) apply these new regulations throughout California without any consideration for the many differences in the geography, hydrology and climate across the state.

The new policy that I am referring to is the Cannabis Cultivation Policy - Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation. Under this policy, the Board has developed very unique rules for a specific crop - cannabis. For instance, a farmer may not use a single drop of water from an adjacent creek to provide irrigation to his/her growing crop during the dry season nor may he/she divert more than 10 gallons of water per minute during the wet season. These restrictions are in place even if the farmer holds a valid water right.

While these new water regulations currently apply only to cannabis farmers, anyone involved in agriculture should be monitoring the Board’s new regulations as they involve water supply and quality issues for an irrigated crop and could be an indication of a broader sweeping policy on the horizon.