Growing Green & Water Quality

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During this harvest season, we  want to take a moment to discuss why SYRCL is involved in cannabis issues, what we are doing to address concerns, what we are planning, and how community members can help.

Why is SYRCL involved in cannabis issues?

Cannabis cultivation has been present in the Yuba watershed for decades and is expected to stay well into the future. Like many common agricultural crops, cannabis cultivation has the potential to affect local water quality and watershed health. In fact, the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife designated the Yuba River watershed as a “priority watershed” for cannabis issues due to severe impacts by egregious illegal grows.

Cannabis cultivation can create water quality concerns such as sedimentation, pesticide pollution, excess nutrient run-off, and bacteria, all of which are all present in our watershed. SYRCL is committed to protecting and restoring the Yuba River watershed, thus the following are of great importance to us:

  • Water quality
  • Watershed health
  • Water resources

While specific practices associated with cannabis cultivation have the potential to impact watershed health, the use of cultivation Best Management Practices can preserve water quality and watershed health. 

What does SYRCL do to address concerns?

In response to the potential impacts listed above, SYRCL initiated the Growing Green for the Yuba program in 2013. This program aims to inspire and educate the community to practice sustainable and ecologically sound cannabis cultivation in the Yuba River watershed. 

Our program is continually expanding. Below, we list a few of our key focus areas:

  • SYRCL coordinates with Nevada County staff, state resource agencies, and the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance to educate community farmers about environmental regulatory requirements, Best Management Practices (BMPs), and their role in regulating the cannabis industry. 
  • SYRCL participates in state and local cannabis policy to track the regulatory landscape and encourage safe, watershed-friendly cannabis cultivation.
  • SYRCL engages with the community to understand and synthesize attitudes and concerns about cannabis in the watershed. 
  • Lastly, SYRCL has developed a Water Quality and Soil Testing protocol to measure the effectiveness of Best Management Practices on reducing impacts of cannabis cultivation on water quality. 

What’s in store?

SYRCL has exciting things on the horizon for the Growing Green program:

  • We will participate in the upcoming revision of the Nevada County Cannabis Ordinance, likely to be issued in early 2022.
  • We are working to find ways to collect more data, which is why we are currently looking for cultivation partners who use BMPs, so we can determine how BMPs may minimize cannabis impacts on watershed health.

If you are interested in collaborating, please contact Alecia Weisman, SYRCL’s River Science Program Manager, at alecia@yubariver.org.

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