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High & Dry: California's Drought Prompts Crackdown On Marijuana Farmers

SANTA ROSA (KCBS)— There's no high water in the rivers and streams of California's North Coast and the booming marijuana industry is partly to blame. As the drought worsens, water managers are drafting new rules to mitigate the impact of pot farming.

Ever since medical marijuana was legalized, pot has been one of the biggest cash crops, from Santa Rosa north.

"There's just been an exponential increase in the cultivation of marijuana in the North Coast region and as a result of that we've seen some pretty significant impacts to water quality," said Matt St. John, executive officer of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The board, which governs watersheds and rivers from the Russian River to the Oregon border, says river flows are way down, partly because of marijuana irrigation— both legal and illegal.

"If you don't have water in the stream then it's not going to be able to support fisheries so this program is trying to keep this water clean and keep water in the streams for the benefit of aquatic life," said St. John.

The program is a package of regulations on marijuana growers, to conserve water, control erosion and safeguard water quality. The water board is still taking public comment, but is expected to vote on the measures, in three months.

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