Medical Marijuana’s Impact on Rural Water Systems in Oklahoma

An Oklahoma House of Representatives interim study discussed rising concerns regarding the growth of medical marijunana production.

The House Ag Committee held an interim study on August 31, 2021 regarding the growth of medical marijuana production across the state and the added demand it has placed on rural Oklahoma water systems.

Representatives from the Oklahoma Rural Water Association presented to the House Ag Committee information and recommendations regarding how high-use grow houses are impacting rural water systems. 

“These grow houses and their sudden high demand for water puts stress on our aging infrastructure. We must make investments in order to continue to supply Oklahomans in rural and small communities with quality water and other services,” said Sheldon Tatum, System Manager for Hughes County RWD #6. 

ORWA conducted a survey of Oklahoma water systems to collect information on how grow house operations are impacting their system. Some systems with adequate water supplies currently enjoy the added revenue, while many other systems face significant challenges that include water shortages, low pressure issues, contractual restraints, and added infrastructure cost. 

“There is no one size fits all remedy to this problem. That is why we need to continue to work with our Strategic Alliance partners and other Oklahoma industries in order to find the right solution,” said Brandon Bowman, Programs Manager at ORWA.

ORWA offered ideas for possible solutions: 

  • Limit the number of medical marijuana grow house permits that are issued.
  • Statewide coordination on resource availability and regulatory requirements with all utility providers, applicable government agencies and related industries.
  • Further discuss having high-use customers fund necessary infrastructure improvements to include impact fees for smart meters.
  • Further discuss rate structures that compensate for increased impact on a system.
  • Review state statutes.

For the latest information on the impact of grow houses and the Oklahoma Rural Water Association, visit

— Written by JD Rosman

The Oklahoma Rural Water Association was formed in 1970 and was the first of its kind, giving a voice for rural water systems and districts across the state. Today, ORWA represents more than 550 water and wastewater utilities, providing management solutions, training opportunities, serves as their legislative voice, and provides technical assistance to its membership. The ORWA works to meet the needs of its members, always working to provide the best and safest water supply to its customers. Learn more about ORWA at  

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