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SAN FRANCISCO—According to a study by state biologists, several drought-stricken rivers in northern California’s coastal forests are being polluted and sucked dry by water-guzzling medical marijuana farms. Worse, many affected waterways also contain non-smoking endangered salmon, steelhead, and other species.

Biologists estimate that 30,000 pot plants were being grown in each river system. It’s also estimated that each plant consumes about six gallons per day over marijuana’s 150-day growing season.

“We knew people were diverting water for marijuana operations, but we wanted to know exactly how much,” said Scott Bauer, the department biologist who studied the pot farms’ effects on four watersheds. “We didn’t know they could consume all the water in a stream.”

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