Originally published September 15 2014
Desperate Californians steal water from fire hydrants as rich community pays half a million dollars for overwatering lawns
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) The ongoing water crisis in California has sparked an apparent crime wave in some parts of the state, with desperate residents illegally taking water from fire hydrants in the middle of the night to keep their lawns green and their animals happy. Reports indicate that, in some areas, as much as 10 percent of the water supply has gone missing, presumably due to theft, a premonition of much worse things to come if rains remain at bay.
The city of Lemoore, for instance, a community of some 25,000 people south of Fresno, has seen numerous water thefts in recent weeks -- a growing black market for water amidst one of the worst droughts in California history. According to The Hanford Sentinel, thieves are believed to be attaching hoses to fire hydrants throughout the city and pumping water into large plastic tanks affixed to the back of trucks.
This water is then resold in other areas, or used to maintain lawns and landscapes where water restrictions prevent such activity from occurring legally. According to Harlin Casida, the mayor of nearby Avenal, there has been a marked increase in the number of trucks with such tanks roving throughout the area.
"We don't know that we're having a problem, but we're seeing activity around fire hydrants," stated Lemoore public works director Dave Wlaschin to the media. "It just makes you think."
Water losses have more than doubled throughout the Central Valley, most likely a product of theft In Avenal, there is currently only one employee who enforces water compliance, and this person works part time. Because of this, thieves have mostly unobstructed access to all the water they want, a growing problem that area officials say has led to a massive increase in water losses throughout the past several months.
Typically, only about 3-4 percent of water is lost in the system, and this is usually the result of faulty piping and other unnoticed leaks. But now, that number has jumped to 10 percent, a roughly 300 percent increase that is being blamed on thievery.
"There was a hydrant that had a hose on it and whoever was there left the hose," stated Wlaschin to ABC 30 Action News.
Santa Barbara suburb racks in $532,000 in fines for water overuse In other areas, water theft is taking place in a much different way. Residents of the wealthy Santa Barbara suburb of Montecito, which currently has major water restrictions in place to conserve dwindling supplies, have racked up more than half a million dollars in fines for breaking these restrictions.
Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Dennis Miller and Ellen DeGeneres all have homes here, and Politico reports that many of them are now shipping water in via tanker trucks. This is to make up, of course, for the deficit of water that these folks can't use from the local water district, which has already collected a hefty sum from the area's many water hogs.
Last year, Oprah Winfrey reportedly received a bill of about $125,000 from the Montecito Water District for her annual water usage, which well exceeded the restricted limits. This year, she has cut her city water usage in half by trucking in water from elsewhere, though the source of this water hasn't been disclosed.
Diversion of water is another problem, as desperate farmers seek ways to keep their crops alive and cash flowing by redirecting streams and rivers. Though water at large is technically owned by the public, individual members of the public who deprive it from others in this way are exploiting an already difficult situation that will likely only get worse.
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