Marijuana grower accused of siphoning water to feed his plants

A 19-year-old Winton man is facing stiff fines for not only growing marijuana illegally, but also stealing more than a million gallons of water to feed his plants.

Late last week, Sheriff’s deputies discovered 100 mature plants, ready for harvest, growing on a hillside on a lot located on Ranger Circle Drive in Yosemite Lakes Park. Following the recent amended marijuana ordinance, the grower now faces $25,000 in fines just for the plants alone. Deputies eradicated the entire crop on site.

Half way up the hill deputies found a hole (two-feet deep and two feet wide) formed by water leaking from a coupling. The hose had a Y connector and two battery powered control valves, which led to an irrigation line feeding smaller drip lines used to water each individual plant.

A hose illegally hooked up to the YLP’s water system, stretched approximately 1,000 feet up the steep embankment to the marijuana garden, which measured 40,000 square feet.

Deputies were able to reach the property owner by phone, who admitted the marijuana plants were his. When asked how often he visited his property, he told deputies every couple of weeks.

He claimed no knowledge of Madera County’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance — yet said to have a medical marijuana recommendation. When confronted about the water theft, he said he had every right to take it.

It’s believed nearly 1.5 million gallons of unmetered water was siphoned from the subdivision’s water tank, with a value of more than $18,000.

“With wells running dry, it’s appalling to learn this much water was stolen during these drought ridden times,” said Sheriff John Anderson.

The investigation is ongoing.