General manager of Nevada Irrigation District clarifies comments about marijuana grows | SierraSun.com

General manager of Nevada Irrigation District clarifies comments about marijuana grows

A look at some medical marijuana.

The general manager of the Nevada Irrigation this week clarified his statement on indoor marijuana grows, saying no separate water connection is needed if a homeowner cultivates up to six plants for personal use.

Rem Scherzinger commented on the indoor grows a week after an Aug. 8 marijuana community advisory group meeting, where he said people who grow cannabis in their homes must have a separate hook-up to NID. Scherzinger at that meeting estimated the new connection would cost between $15,000 and $50,000.

Scherzinger this week said people growing for sale or trade must have the new connection. Personal use is different.

"If you're using it for personal use, we're going to have to deal with that differently," he said. "We don't have the rules written down yet. The state's going to have to deal with that at a regulatory level."

Asked about outdoor grows, Scherzinger said cultivators with a residential, treated water connection must have a separate hook-up. Those using raw water need no new connection.

Scherzinger said he had no chance at the Aug. 8 meeting to clarify his statement. At that meeting Scherzinger called personal grows production, meaning those cultivators must have a separate connection.

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The requirement isn't tied to marijuana, but any type of product, he said.

"So if you're producing tomatoes in your garage at a high level, we're going to force you to sever your connection," said Scherzinger at the meeting.

"So this is only commercial, not personal use?" a panelist asked.

"Personal use is considered production," Scherzinger answered. "You are producing."

NID must quantify water use, which led to the need for a separate connection. Irrigating plants isn't a residential use and that means it's regulated by the state Water Resources Control Board, Scherzinger said.

Questioned about NID's ability to ensure growers obey regulations, Scherzinger said people who grow a few plants likely will go unnoticed. A water meter won't show egregious use if someone grows three plants. It would for a 100-plant grow.

"Any regulation isn't about the law-abiding people," Scherzinger said. "Regulation is about the people who are trying to take advantage. One plant watered — we would be blind to that."

HOW MUCH WATER?

Related to the issue of NID connections is: How much water marijuana plants need? Citing state agencies, Scherzinger estimated 6 to 15 gallons per day, per plant.

Scherzinger pointed to a 2015 study, titled "Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California Watersheds," as the basis for 6 gallons.

The study states that cannabis uses up to 22.7 liters a day, which is about 6 gallons.

Speaking to various state agencies, including the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Scherzinger said he's heard marijuana needs 6 to 15 gallons per plant, per day.

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, said he knows the origins of what he called incorrect estimates.

Before Allen became the group's director, when it was known as the Emerald Growers Association, the organization issued a white paper that stated plants needed 6 gallons a day. Allen said one of his first acts as director was an attempt to correct that misconception.

"The larger the plant, the larger the water consumption," Allen said. "Indoor plants are the smallest. The 6 gallons a day figure is pretty exaggerated."

Allen attributed the 15-gallon number to a Press Democrat story, in which Tim Blake, founder of the Emerald Cup, said large, tree-sized plants need 15 gallons a day.

Allen surmised that the 15-gallon number has since entered the discussions of state agencies.

"That's perfectly reasonable for large plants," Allen said, calling Blake a well-known outdoor grower.

However, saying every cannabis plant needs 6 to 15 gallons a day is irresponsible, Allen added.