The big push by liberals and libertarians to legalize marijuana is troubling to many conservatives. Their concerns center on the anticipated social impacts of making a mind-altering drug more accessible–and its use more socially acceptable. Now there is another reason for concern.

The burgeoning marijuana growing business in Northern California is becoming a serious threat to rivers and streams in the area—and a struggling salmon population that depends on them.

Marijuana plantations are drawing enormous amounts of water from nearby waterways—up to 6 gallons per plant per growing day. With as many as 40,000 plants already being grown in some watersheds, it can really add up. These plantations, which are not well-regulated, have also been accused of polluting streams with pesticides, fertilizers and sediment.

Marijuana growing is also very energy intensive, according to a 2012 report in the journal Energy Policy, each dining-table-size hydroponic growing unit consumes as much electricity as the average US home.

With the Obama Administration, pot-friendly states, and liberal (or libertarian) lawmakers unlikely to target pot growers with new regulations or adequate enforcement of existing laws, protecting the waters and fisheries of states that have legalized marijuana will likely depend on how willing conservatives are to press the issue.

Here is a recent article from NPR on this growing problem:

California’s Pot Farms Could Leave Salmon Runs Truly Smoked

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