While many in New Mexico are happy that more cannabis crops are being grown than ever before, it appears that cultivation could be putting a strain on the local water supply.
According to The Associated Press, two rural water systems in Sandoval County, the Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District and Sile Mutual Domestic Water and Sewer Association, claim that local supplies are being depleted. The Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District and Sile Mutual Domestic Water and Sewer Association sent a letter to legislators explaining the issue.
“The [cannabis] companies may think that the water rights were already taken care of when they purchased the property,” Peña Blanca district president John Gurule told The Associated Press. “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?”
The issue is apparently resulting because some grows are trying to operate without access to agricultural water, but instead are just dipping into the regular local water supply. From now, on advocates for the local water supply are asking that cannabis companies obtain the proper permit to use water.
“Cannabis hasn’t helped this situation. It is illegal to use domestic well water for agriculture, but it is up to (Sile and Peña Blanca) to enforce that,” Romero said. “We can’t police every mutual domestic water association, but we will work with them and help to see if these properties have a valid water right for what they want to do.”
Still, despite gripes about the local water supply, the medical cannabis industry continues to grow in New Mexico. The state’s expanding program is attracting out-of-state patients and there are plans in place to help fund low-income patients. It seems clear that a setback with how to accurately source from the water supply won’t interrupt things for too long.