(NaturalNews) In what appears to be a crime related to widespread, ongoing drought conditions in California, police in rural Mendocino County say 3,000 gallons of water were stolen recently from an elderly couple when someone illegally drained their above-ground storage tank overnight.
As reported by The Press Democrat newspaper, Gualala resident Kathy Dimaio, 87, discovered that her tank had been drained when she ventured outside on May 24 in the afternoon to water her garden.
Per the local newspaper:
Dimaio was so angry she could barely articulate her fury and frustration Tuesday. "This is just ... aurghrgh!" she said.
Other thefts have occurred in the same region
The recent theft was the second time in the past year that the tank had been drained, but Dimaio said her husband, Richard, was not completely convinced that the first time was an actual theft. The couple, who are longtime residents of the area, did not report the first incident to law enforcement personnel. They said they believed the first time happened in January.
At the time of the second occurrence, the tank had been full, the couple said, storing water pumped in from a well on their property for use in their yard and vegetable garden.
To make sure that none of the water leaked out once the tank was full, Richard Dimaio turned off the pump and shut a valve to the house the day before the discovery. Still, there remains a valve at the bottom of the tank that someone likely used to drain its contents into a water truck or another type of receptacle, Kathy Dimaio said.
Mendocino County Sheriff Sgt. Greg Stefani said the water tank is visible from the rural lane near where the couple lives. But the tank is inside a fence surrounding the couple's property, he added, so whoever took the water, which was valued at around $1,000, would have had to use a private road to get it.
The Dimaios' home is about 16 miles from an earlier case reported at the Horicon School in Annapolis, where up to 13,000 gallons of water disappeared one weekend in late January, forcing the school to shut down for a day, local reports said.
Police were not able to confirm that the water had actually been stolen, but some minor plumbing issues or small leaks at the little school could more than likely not have accounted for so great a loss, Principal and Superintendent Patty Dineen said.
The tiny school campus had just trucked in a couple of tank loads of water five days earlier, and were forced to spend about $1,800 more to replace what was taken, Dineen said.
Hoping for El Nino
Neither Stefani nor Sonoma County Sheriff Sgt. Mike Raasch, who oversees property crime investigations for his department, could recall any similar cases, though the issue of water diversions from well and natural water sources, typically for illicit marijuana gardens, remains a problem for the area.
Drought conditions in California have been worsening for months and have gotten so bad that some are even hoping for El Nino-inspired hurricanes, to bring in much-needed rainfall. But a number of experts say that, even if El Nino brings more storms, the additional rain won't be a drought-buster.
In Northern California, weak or moderate El Ninos have had little correlation with winter weather conditions, while strong ones have been associated with some of the region's wettest years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The El Nino year of 1997-98, for example, pounded San Francisco with a record 47.2 inches of rain.
"We continue to be confident that an El Nino will develop," said Mike Halpert, acting director of the Climate Prediction Center, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But "maybe it's not looking like the '97-98 event that a few folks thought a few months ago."
Until then, drought-stricken areas can expect more water theft.