Have you ever contemplated what it takes to maintain a large scale cannabis cultivation business in respect to the amount of water these types of operations use on a daily basis? It probably takes a bit more than what you might think. But, due to the cannabis industry’s evolving nature, and the federal government’s illogical decision to perpetuate cannabis prohibition, limited official research has been carried out in regards to exactly how much water it takes to cultivate cannabis plants.
An analysis of tax data that was released by the Colorado Department of Revenue shows that the state’s cannabis industry raked in approximately $700 million in 2014 in recreational and medical cannabis retail sales combined, and was projected to reach $1 billion for 2015. Needless to say that’s a lot of pot and pot related products, that in turn requires a large amount of cultivation efforts in order to supply the overwhelming demand. And where there are cannabis plants being grown, a valuable natural resource is being consumed, water. However, since the cannabis industry is relatively new, it lacks comprehensive regulation in regards to certain aspects of the industry. Such as, restricting usage of potentially harmful pesticides and insecticides in growing operations, as well as proper water conservation practice. Fortunately for the evolution of the cannabis industry, and the environment for that matter, there are a handful of cannabis cultivation operators that are employing conservation practices that could quite possibly set the standard for the industry. In fact, Tim Cullen is one of those operators, and runs one of the largest cannabis related businesses in the entire state of Colorado. He is the CEO of the Colorado Harvest Company, which operates a 10,000 square foot facility that at any one given time houses somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 cannabis plants.
“The plants at the Colorado Harvest Company are cultivated using a grow media made from shredded coconut shells known as coco fiber rather than utilizing a more commonly used peat based potting mix.”
Cullen and his cultivation team are vigilant in respect to conserving water at their grow facility. Even to the point of monitoring how much water each plant in their operation receives throughout every phase of the plant’s lifespan, down to the milliliter. The plants at the Colorado Harvest Company are cultivated using a grow media made from shredded coconut shells known as coco fiber rather than utilizing a more commonly used peat based potting mix. Cullen says they use coco fiber at their operation because it is a substrate with no nutrient value. He claims using said grow media allows them to keep a close eye on all the nutrients being fed to the plant, which are mixed with, and delivered to the plant’s root system by, water. Cullen’s exercise of closely monitoring water conservation is something that intrigues, Jeff Tejral, Manager of Conservation for Denver Water. Tejral considers Cullen’s water conservation methods to be “the best practice” that he would “like to see a lot of people using”. James Zazanis is President of ZJ analytics LLC, which is an agricultural research company located in Maryland. Zazanis’ company is partnering with another cannabis cultivation facility in Denver in order to monitor water usage, with an end goal of fashioning a set of guidelines for the industry. They are collecting their data by using soil moisture sensors to monitor in real time how much water each plant is using. Zazanis says the grow facility his company has partnered with “are the leaders in using the newest technology,” and “they’re really championing conservation.” As the budding cannabis industry continues to mushroom, Tejral says that Denver Water will be very interested in Zazanis’ company’s findings to help further inform them of best practices in regards to conserving water.