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Washington Pot Growers May Not Get Federal Irrigation Water

Ed Andrieski
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Farmers in eastern Washington who want to get into the marijuana business may face an immediate hurdle.

The U.S. government is currently deciding whether it will give growers access to federal water. The agricultural heart of the state depends on these irrigation systems. 

There are only around 20 licensed pot growing operations in Washington right now. About eight of those farms are east of the Cascades, and farmers there are wondering if they’ll have the water to get their first crop to harvest. Federal irrigation districts deliver much of the irrigation water in eastern Washington. 

Alan Schreiber, a Franklin County farmer who applied to grow marijuana, says most of his farm runs on federal irrigation water. Still, he’s not too bothered. Schreiber says marijuana is so valuable per acre that buying water for a pot farm from a private well "is an inconvenience, not a problem. It’s an expense rather than a real problem.” 

The federal government plans to speak up on water by early May. Next, approved marijuana users will need to navigate their farm’s city and county zoning requirements.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.