17 arrested in Tulare County marijuana grow site bust

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Detectives spent weeks investigating marijuana grow sites at 20 locations. They say residents in the Orosi community noticed suspicious activity and a lack of water prompting the investigation.

Water is a commodity. Right now, some places in Tulare County it's a rare sight. Recently people in Orosi became suspicious that some of their water was being used illegally.

Teresa Douglass with the Tulare County Sheriff's Office says they began investigating and discovered 20 different sites where marijuana was being grown illegally. This week they served warrants and arrested 17 people and pulled out more than 3,000 plants.

Douglass said, "We estimate the value on the street to be more than $3 million dollars."

This has been a busy growing season for the sheriff's department. In April they arrested more than 30 people at a 60-acre grow site outside of Delano. These massive grows mean thousands of gallons of water are pumped from the ground each day.

Douglass said, "These are people who cannot necessarily even have the luxury of filling a bathtub and here we have illegal marijuana growers draining the system."

Each marijuana plant requires more than five gallons of water. The plants in Orosi were using around 15,000 gallons a day.

The sheriff's office says since the start of January 2014 they've removed more than a half million marijuana plants. That's around three-million gallons of water being used illegally.

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