Water Recycling: A Way to Make Cannabis Greener

While plastic, paper, and metal immediately come to mind in discussions surrounding recycling, those are not the only useful substances that can be recovered and reused. In fact, water is arguably the most important of all potential recyclable materials. Despite its critical role, water is also one of the most wasted natural resources. Given the current rate of water usage, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in places with absolute water scarcity while two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in regions that are water stressed.

California just suffered its worse droughtThe pressure to reduce water consumption is enormous in all industries, and cannabis is not an exception. In fact, early this year, California suffered the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years. California is one of the top crop producers in the world, and cannabis is quickly becoming one of its most highly cultivated crops. SB 837 was signed into the state’s law in order to regulate the burgeoning industry’s water usage.  As the pressure to enforce stricter water conservation builds, it is likely that other states will impose similar regulations on the industry.

Though it presents cannabis cultivators with restrictions on their growing practices, the emphasis on water sustainability is one that the industry should (and for the most part does) welcome. Water is essential to life, so using it in the most efficient and frugal way possible pays homage to the planet that we call home and ensures that we are doing our part to pass that home on to future generations.

Whether you are a cannabis farmer running a large-scale operation or cultivate a cannabis plant or two in your personal garden, you can recycle water.

3 Best Practices for Water Reuse 

Sure, paying attention to how much and often we use water is going to require some mental capital that might at first feel unnecessarily stressful. But the more we practice sustainability, the more ingrained it becomes, and the happier the future inhabitants of this world will be for it.  Here are three ways that you can get started.

Recover rainwater. 

Harvesting rainwater is the easiest way to conserve both water and money, and since rainwater is ultra-filtered and chemical free, it’s also better for your plants. The occurrence of rainfall is just about inevitable at some point wherever you live, so anyone can do it.  Rainwater collection requires three components: a collection area, a water transportation system, and a storage container. The collection area can be any location where water is not directly absorbed into the ground—a roof for example. The gutter and downspouts that are typically built into the roof already make up the transportation system. You will also want to include a filter between the gutter and the downspout to ensure that debris doesn’t get collected along with the rainwater. The water runs through the gutter, down the spout, and into the storage container you’ve chosen. A rain barrel is made just for this purpose.

Reclaim gray water. 

Reclaim your grey waterGray water is the tap water we use to shower, bathe, wash dishes, and do the laundry, and we use a lot of it. The average U.S. household uses almost 280 gallons of gray water a day. Though gray water isn’t potable, it is perfectly suitable for agricultural needs but is often drained directly to the sewage system.

If collecting gray water is a route you want to take, you can purchase a gray water reclamation system and install it into your plumbing. These systems collect water from your laundry, shower, sink, and/or bath plumbing, filter the water, and divert it into your irrigation system.

The use of gray water in your irrigation system will definitely reduce your water bill, but installing a gray water collection still may not be in your budget right now. If that’s the case—or if you’re still testing the waters of water reclamation—there is still one very simple way you can collect at least some of your gray water.  Before taking a shower, most of us let the water run a few minutes while it warms up.  Instead of letting that water go down the sewer, collect it.

Advocate for the legalization of cannabis at the federal level.  

It might seem out of place on this list, but the descheduling of cannabis would facilitate the growth of a much more sustainable industry.

Advocate for deschedulizationEcologist Mary Power spoke with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies’ Yale Environment 360 at length about the unnecessary hurdles illegalization creates for sustainability. For example, cannabis’ federally illegal status is a huge incentive for growing operations to keep their grows unregistered even in states where cultivation has been legalized.

Power explained, “There are good growers who don’t want to damage the environment, and who want to make a living and not a killing.  So they get all their plants registered, and they pay $500 every time the sheriff visits to make sure the environment’s okay…there’s been some rumors that the feds use the sheriff’s lists of good, law-abiding—at least at the county or the state-level—growers. There’s been some concern that feds might use those lists to make easy arrests of people that are not going to shoot them… Remember, the federal law doesn’t permit any growing.”

Powers emphasized the power federal legalization would have on the industry’s willingness to be open as well as the demise of the black market.  “If it were legal in every single state, and every single place where there’s a market, then it probably could be grown in the sunshine…The enforcement would be transparent, and the plants would be out in the open.”

She continued, “But if it’s just legalized state-by-state, I’ve heard the cartels are organized enough to keep pushing the crop east, where there still is a market and it’s still illegal.  So as long as there is a market that will pay enough to compensate the brutally hard work they do to grow this stuff in forested mountains, then it will keep growing.”

Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.