Effects of Drought in California Compounded by Theft

According to the latest news, California’s water supply problems are only increasing in severity and leading some news organizations to suggest the drought has reached “biblical-plague” proportions. The worst part of this dilemma might not be Mother Nature, however. New reports state that water thieves are adding insult to injury and complicating an already difficult situation.

The California Drought

Back in January, California’s governor announced a drought-related state of emergency based on dire predictions for the coming year regarding weather. The drought has lived up to those predictions and is making life hard for many Californians. The state has spent much of the year preparing for the drought by instating various conservation programs. Even so, while some conservation programs appear to be working, some news reports say that water usage in the state is actually up. The unprecedented drought has garnered national attention and many other drought-plagued states are watching to see if and how California solves this situation. According to a PBS report, about 60% of the state is experiencing severe drought conditions.

Stealing Water

Adding to the drought problem are water thieves that have begun making headlines of late. In some of California’s worst hit areas, water has become a black market commodity, with some people turning to illegal means as a way of acquiring it. Thieves are actually stealing billions of gallons of water from both local and public water sources like hydrants. In some instances, even fire departments have been left with reduced water supplies, even during wildfire season. In the end, the state loses money from the theft, but Californians are losing the water they need to drink, to bathe, and to irrigate crops.

Who Is Stealing Water?

Reports have suggested that some of the water thieves may be illegal marijuana farm operators. In North San Juan, for instance, authorities suspect that area marijuana growers are responsible for a recent water theft. Some of the water rustlers are actually filling up trucks illegally at hydrants. Reports also suggest that residents may be diverting water illegally to empty wells. Even water theft in urban areas seems to be increasing. Some of the thieves are even siphoning water right from the rivers.

Dealing with the Problem

The state has been looking for ways to deter thieves from stealing water while it continues to promote extreme conservation efforts. Many communities have resorted to setting up special water patrols to ensure that water supplies remain safe. There are also hotlines in place for people to call to report water theft in their area. While state officials have been proposing a crackdown on these illegal practices, it has been difficult to apprehend the water thieves while in the act of stealing the water. Without an increase in rain, many people expect these instances of theft to continue, which could exacerbate the water supply problem in many areas of the state.

The drought in California is certainly serious enough; yet, water thieves have made this natural disaster even more complex. For now, the state is encouraging added vigilance to help protect its valuable water supplies.


1. The Week, “California’s drought has reached Biblical-plague proportions. It’s time for a drastic measure,” http://theweek.com/article/index/271693/californias-drought-has-reached-biblical-plague-proportions-its-time-for-a-drastic-measure

2. Fast Haul, “Water Thieves Adding to CA’s Drought Woes,” http://www.fasthaul.com/ecoblog/2014/11/15/water-thieves-adding-to-cas-drought-woes/

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