California Faces Water Thieves as Drought Worsens

Breya Bergom |
PC: Julia Volk

California has been desperate for water as a drought travels through the West Coast state. It is the worst possible time of the year for California, as it’s hotter and drier than ever, which is intensifying the drought altogether. With the dry period California is facing, people are more desperate than ever for water, leaving many resulting in theft to keep families and businesses afloat.

“Water stealing has never been more severe.”

– John Nores, former head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Enforcement Team

Since 2013, around 12 billion gallons of water have been estimated to be stolen within California. While the theft of such a scarce resource seems hard to do when desperation lingers, thieves have been tapping into fire hydrants, breaking into secure water stations, drilling into water lines, rivers, and using threats against farmers to retrieve water meant for crops.

Officials state that the theft of water isn’t something new yet is more intense than ever. The drought has hit record levels, with the seriousness of theft following closely.

The majority of theft is to keep illegal marijuana farms from dying. PC: ArtHouse Studio

“The amount of water that is being stolen to water those (marijuana) plants has a huge impact on our local aquifers.”

– Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah Larue

The water being stolen has only had negative effects on communities. According to CNN, about 300 residents in Antelope Valley (Southern California) experienced their water system crashing. The crash was caused by thieves tapping into fire hydrants and water mains illegally. Anish Saraiya, a public works deputy, explained how the water pressure in the area north of Los Angeles had dropped so low at one point it had caused the “system to fail.” She claimed that the county has experienced up to 18 water main breaks, resulting in about half a million dollars spent by the waterworks department. With the severity of the issue growing each day, communities have been forced to lock up fire hydrants or even remove them. Additionally, all water piping used to steal from bodies of water are threatening native fish and wildlife that rely on the water to survive during the blistering summer.

water pressure
The theft of water has lead to certain communities’ water pressure dropping so low that departments have been forced to spend money repairing the crashed system. PC: Justus Menke

Although The California Department of Fish and Wildlife MET team has made more than 900 felony arrests of illegal cannabis growers and removed over 400 miles of pipes diverting water from natural streams to man-made dams, there is still much more work to do in regards to stopping the thievery.  California Officials state that they are attempting to battle the problem by securing key water sources, enforcing greater authority, and removing fire hydrants.

The drought, which is scattered throughout the 163,696 square mile state, has the ability to create long-term effects with the help of climate change, states CNN“All of California has to get used to this concept of water scarcity,” claims Yvonne West, director of the State Water Resources Control Board’s Office of Enforcement.

PC: Markus Spiske

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One thought on “California Faces Water Thieves as Drought Worsens

  1. And how much water has California been stealing from the rest of the west for all these years?

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