Letter to EcoNews: Got Water? Does the County Know?

Got Water? Does the County Know?

The answer is “no” when asked about estimated and actual usage totals related to cannabis projects/permits for the County (Public Record Request 21-383, dated May 18, 2021 responded to by the Planning and Building Department).

The reasons for the Public Records Request were:

  1. Each month the County sends out Cannabis reports (All Projects, Approved Permits, and Interim Permits – also uploaded to https://humboldtgov.nextrequest.com/documents.  Once on the website, enter CCMLUO into the Search box, click apply filters.  Click the “Upload Date” so you see the most recent uploaded report.). The estimated water usage and source(s) are in the application description.
  2. Each month the County Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission, and/or Board of Supervisors approve cannabis applications without any discussion about the cumulative effect of multiple cannabis operations within the same area (or including other farming operations, homes, etc., watersheds, or actual capacity of the area).
  3. The County is putting new cannabis applications on their agendas prior to reviewing applications for existing operations and abating illegal grows. As an example, refer to the Zoning Administrator’s May 20, 2021 agenda.
  4. The Governor of California declared Humboldt County to be in a drought emergency on April 21, 2021 and Humboldt County Board of Supervisors created a Drought Task Force on May 25, 2021 (“…drought task force and that the Board of Supervisors moves to use its existing alert systems to let the community know we are in a serious drought and therefore ask everyone to conserve water and be fire safe.” – ).

Please write or call your supervisor (https://humboldtgov.org/167/Board-of-Supervisors) and the Director of Planning and Building John Ford (707-445-7541 and jford@co.humboldt.ca.us) to request that the County:

* Start tracking estimated water usage by area (Willow Creek, Honeydew, etc. and sub-areas/watersheds).

* Develop a method to track actual water usage.

* Include actual water capacity for each project, sub-area, and area in Staff Reports.

* Do not approve any application that would stress current water needs and availability based on current drought statistics that states that “Rainfall for the 2020-21 water year has ranged from 50-70% of normal across Humboldt County…”  (June 9, 2021 County Administrative Office alert https://humboldtgov.org/civicalerts.aspx?aid=4016).

* Complete reviews of existing cannabis operations prior to hearing applications for new or expanded operations.

* Include water source connections and cumulative effects in the Staff Reports. For example, the Rolling Meadow Ranch project states that “Annual water use is approximately 4,628,200 gallons (18.4 gallons/sf). Water will be provided by three existing groundwater wells. There will be 320,000 gallons of hard-sided tank storage that will store rain from rooftop runoff.” How much of the groundwater well water source is coming from the Eel River? How much of the rooftop runoff would have gone to the Eel River?

* Expand the County’s Drought Task Force’s scope to include resolving the above issues.


Marisa St John

Upper Redwood Creek / Titlow Hill


Are you interested in helping track and map estimated water usage of cannabis farms? Contact Caroline at carolinenecmail@gmail.com