“We can go to multiple wells that we know exist, including myself,” said Moore, referring to a Custer County operation that had three wells, “very clearly about 17 tire houses right next to it water”. He said the discrepancy meant “obviously someone is not reporting properly” what is being used or accessed.
Gibson said the OWRB has so far approved four groundwater access permits and is considering eleven other applications as well as one for access to creek water, but that many farmers often don’t even realize they need a water permit. She said the disparity between complaints and requests for proper access appears to be greatest in northeast Oklahoma, where nearly half of the 16 complaints related to cannabis operations were generated.
Domestic wells, for example for household use or for watering cattle, do not require a permit, she said. But Gibson said she saw how rapidly growing farms can grow in size and how they can affect the people living nearby.
“What we see with some of these plants is that the grower says, ‘Hey, I just need a house well and I have my 12 plants here, just small,” she said. “So they go out and drill so well and then all of a sudden there’s a little tire house and then a bigger tire house and then suddenly it’s a large-scale operation that needs a permit.
“And then the growers have invested time and significant resources in building these crops and now they can’t irrigate them because they don’t have a permit.”