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Water district votes ‘dry’ on pot

Written by Chris Woodka
March 11, 2014
Pueblo Chieftain

The St. Charles Mesa Water District has prohibited using its water for commercial marijuana growing.

"We haven't had any problems, so this is preventative," Manager David Simpson said. "But it could be a problem with some of the people we buy water from."

The ban applies in the area south of the Arkansas River and north of the Bessemer Ditch on the St. Charles Mesa, the Blende and Vineland areas, which is called Zone 1.

The district provides treated water to more than 4,000 homes and businesses.

The board took the action at its meeting last week on Simpson's recommendation.

Although Colorado has legalized and regulates sale of marijuana, it is still a controlled substance under federal law, Simpson said.

While the district owns most of its own supply, the water is mixed with purchases from other sources, so the district adopted a policy to prohibit using any of its water for marijuana cultivation.

The prohibition does not extend to the district’s Zone 2, the area served south of the Bessemer Ditch, in the old Huerfano Water District. The usage is limited, so the district can show that no purchased water is applied.

Marijuana grows on the St. Charles Mesa presumably still could be served by Bessemer Ditch shares or wells augmented from other sources.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works and Pueblo West have not formally discussed the issue of using water in their systems for marijuana cultivation. Pueblo County has approved growing operations, while the city of Pueblo still is contemplating regulations.

Commercial marijuana operations became legal in Colorado in January, and the regulation of water used in them is unclear.

"People have come into the office looking at their options, and we've explained it to them as we would any commercial operation," said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer. "I don't know that we've been confronted with the question head-on."