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Article

Water Availability for Cannabis in Northern California: Intersections of Climate, Policy, and Public Discourse

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
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Climate Adaptation Science Program, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
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Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
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Department of Plant, Soils, and Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
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Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
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Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
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Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2021, 13(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13010005
Received: 5 November 2020 / Revised: 12 December 2020 / Accepted: 18 December 2020 / Published: 23 December 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Water Resources Management, Policy and Governance)
Availability of water for irrigated crops is driven by climate and policy, as moderated by public priorities and opinions. We explore how climate and water policy interact to influence water availability for cannabis (Cannabis sativa), a newly regulated crop in California, as well as how public discourse frames these interactions. Grower access to surface water covaries with precipitation frequency and oscillates consistently in an energetic 11–17 year wet-dry cycle. Assessing contemporary cannabis water policies against historic streamflow data showed that legal surface water access was most reliable for cannabis growers with small water rights (<600 m3) and limited during relatively dry years. Climate variability either facilitates or limits water access in cycles of 10–15 years—rendering cultivators with larger water rights vulnerable to periods of drought. However, news media coverage excludes growers’ perspectives and rarely mentions climate and weather, while public debate over growers’ irrigation water use presumes illegal diversion. This complicates efforts to improve growers’ legal water access, which are further challenged by climate. To promote a socially, politically, and environmentally viable cannabis industry, water policy should better represent growers’ voices and explicitly address stakeholder controversies as it adapts to this new and legal agricultural water user. View Full-Text
Keywords: cannabis; California; water; climate; media cannabis; California; water; climate; media
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MDPI and ACS Style

Morgan, B.; Spangler, K.; Stuivenvolt Allen, J.; Morrisett, C.N.; Brunson, M.W.; Wang, S.-Y.S.; Huntly, N. Water Availability for Cannabis in Northern California: Intersections of Climate, Policy, and Public Discourse. Water 2021, 13, 5. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13010005

AMA Style

Morgan B, Spangler K, Stuivenvolt Allen J, Morrisett CN, Brunson MW, Wang S-YS, Huntly N. Water Availability for Cannabis in Northern California: Intersections of Climate, Policy, and Public Discourse. Water. 2021; 13(1):5. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13010005

Chicago/Turabian Style

Morgan, Betsy, Kaitlyn Spangler, Jacob Stuivenvolt Allen, Christina N. Morrisett, Mark W. Brunson, Shih-Yu S. Wang, and Nancy Huntly. 2021. "Water Availability for Cannabis in Northern California: Intersections of Climate, Policy, and Public Discourse" Water 13, no. 1: 5. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13010005

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