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Water Conservation for Cannabis Cultivation

Trichomes with water drops

Climate change on the west coast is increasing the length and frequency of droughts each successive year. 2021 is already shaping up to be a historic year for water scarcity due to the severe lack of rainfall and record breaking temperatures. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country, is projected to be at its lowest level in history. At least 4 years of above average rain and snow are needed to refill critical reservoirs that supply water to 20 million people and large areas of farmland.

Multi-year long “mega-droughts” have started to make water issues a permanent problem in the west, and they aren’t going away any time soon. A 2020 study analyzing tree rings concluded that the region may be entering the worst prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall in more than 1,200 years.

Drought Impacts on the Cannabis Industry

Historically, environmental conditions in the western states have served as an ideal growing environment for outdoor cannabis, but now those same states face the worst drought conditions in the country. 71% of the nation’s legal and illegal cannabis supply comes from California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona, all of which face exceptional scarcity of water and are projected to face their largest water cuts to date.

Starting now and into the future, growing cannabis with consideration for maximum water efficiency will be absolutely critical for planning a commercial grow operation. As water restrictions and higher water bills begin to creep in, water conservation technologies and practices will be essential for helping to improve water use efficiency as well as the bottom line.

Drought with Plant

More than half of cannabis in the United States is grown in an indoor environment, and any advancement in reducing the energy or water consumption used to produce cannabis hydroponically contributes to both the potential success of a new company, as well as making the industry much more sustainable overall.

Utilizing the Cannabis Industry to Advance Water Conservation Technology

High profits, combined with strict regulations, positions the cannabis industry to address unique opportunities to advance water conservation technologies. When water supply is limited, indoor hydroponic systems are far more efficient than outdoor agriculture, using 97% less water. Agriculture uses up to 90% of the west coast’s dwindling water supply, so any advancements in water conservation could also have important implications for food systems, and could push more food to be grown hydroponically due to superior water usage efficiencies.

Additionally, with legalization bringing the industry out of the shadows, cannabis is looking to rebrand itself as a sustainable crop after a long and complicated history of resource intensive practices. In terms of sustainability, energy use from lights and HVAC is a frequently addressed topic, but only now is water being included as a precious resource also in need of conservation.
Hydroponic Watering System

Water Conservation Strategies

The two best strategies for conserving water in a commercial cannabis facility are to reduce the amount of water that enters the facility and be as efficient with that water as possible by reclaiming and reusing whenever possible. Reclaiming and reusing wastewater reduces the amount of source water needed for the daily demand.

Reclaiming HVAC Condensate

The best way to start conserving water is by reclaiming the most abundant and easiest to reclaim wastewater source within a cannabis facility—HVAC condensate runoff. Wastewater that would normally go down the drain can be effortlessly reclaimed, cutting daily water usage by up to 80%. Another benefit of reclaiming condensate runoff is that only a small amount of wastewater is produced during the treatment process.

Untreated HVAC condensate should never be used due to the bacteria, heavy metals, and corrosive pH. HyperLogic has developed the Automated Reclaimed Condensate System (ARCS) specifically to treat HVAC condensate, creating usable water that is perfectly pH balanced, ultra-low PPM, and completely free of contaminants, pathogens and bacteria.

Rainwater Harvesting

Collecting rainwater is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to dramatically cut water usage. Like HVAC condensate runoff, it is easy to treat and only produces a tiny amount of wastewater during the reclamation process.

By tapping into one of nature’s most abundant, yet under-utilized pure water sources, collecting rainwater is advantageous in both wet and dry conditions. At the nation’s average annual precipitation of 32 inches, a 10,000 sq ft facility that uses 2,000 gpd can capture 3 months’ worth of water demand, cutting annual water usage by 25%!

Since treating HVAC condensate and rainwater is fairly similar, the ARCS is the perfect remedy for both scenarios.

Rain Barrel

Water Conservation for Contaminated Water

Contaminated Water

It is rare for growers to have consistently pure water right out of the tap. Almost every kind of common water source can easily be contaminated past the point of practical  use for commercial production and will require some sort of filtration. 

Most indoor grow operations require reverse osmosis (RO) water quality for consistency and controlling inputs, however the reverse osmosis process will always create some amount of wastewater. If RO is to be used, a high efficiency system is essential for keeping water use as low as possible. If RO quality is not necessary or allowed due to permitting but the water still needs basic treatment, the City Pure is ideal for improving the water while creating minimal waste. 

The City Pure was designed for filtering low PPM or uncontaminated water that doesn’t require full RO treatment, but still removes the problematic contaminants present in municipally supplied city water. The City Pure is the most sustainable and economical way to improve city water quality while keeping wastewater from the treatment process to a bare minimum.

Moving Towards Minimum Liquid Discharge

More advanced methods of conserving water include reclaiming usable water from other forms of waste such as nutrient runoff. In most cases, this is not cost effective due to the high price of treating concentrated wastewater, and the fact that (for the time being) water is typically cheap. 

However, some facilities need to conserve as much water as possible or are forced to reduce wastewater discharge due to disposal regulations. For those attempting to eliminate it completely, treating wastewater becomes exponentially more expensive when moving from minimum liquid discharge towards zero liquid discharge.

Climate change and more frequent droughts will cause growers to consider conserving water and maximizing water efficiency. Our solutions will not only help you conserve water, they will save you money at the same time.

Water Dripping from Garden Faucet