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Originally published June 14 2015

Drought-stricken California - Thieves hijack water tanks, siphon private wells, illegally tap industrial pipelines

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Special law enforcement task forces, believe it or not, are reportedly being deployed throughout California to deal with a new crime wave blossoming in what 10 years ago would have been a rather unlikely economic sector: water.

The water wars have apparently already begun, as police battle a growing "gray market" for stolen water, with thieves now hijacking water tanks, siphoning private wells and even digging under city streets to illegally tap into industrial water pipelines, according to reports.

Persistent drought conditions followed by one of the worst rainy seasons on record is elevating the value of water resources in the Golden State to that of, well, gold. And a decree by California Governor Jerry Brown for businesses and residents to cut water usage by 25% is only further driving this water rush.

"The drought is driving the price of water up and you're starting to see people who are desperate for it willing to get it any way they can," stated John Coleman, a board member at the East Bay Municipal Utility District, to The Daily Beast.

A tanker truck containing 500 gallons of water was recently stolen from a median where it was idling in Oakland, which is located in Coleman's jurisdiction. The thief has yet to be identified.

"We've had situations in the past where people have stolen from their neighbor's houses when they're gone to some folks who didn't want to pay for the water and dug under the street and tapped into the main line."

Water shortages driving emerging "gray market" for stolen H2O

In other areas of the state, water gangsters are reportedly loosening water hydrant valves and helping themselves to the precious drops inside -- without paying for any of it, of course. Even some private contractors are engaging in suspicious behavior, linking up to water valves and stealing a few gallons here and there while out on jobs.

Wherever and whenever clean, fresh water can be found in the state, thieves are taking advantage of it. And as the drought situation worsens, authorities expect that this new criminal syndicate will only continue to grow stronger and more prevalent.

"The drought could potentially create a market for cheap water, giving any opportunistic thief a good financial incentive," stated Bill McClanahan, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Essex in the UK, to The Daily Beast.

"With the drought already having some serious economic impacts in the regions it's little wonder that people might occasionally be turning to whatever means they can identify to fill in the gaps."

California's biggest water hogs: factory farms and private bottlers

Despite the passage of a measure back in 1997 intended to cloak the identities of California's biggest water users and abusers, a few of the culprits have already been outed. These include corporate bottlers such as Nestle and the thousands of factory farms that blanket California's Central Valley.

"Corporate agribusiness uses tremendous amounts of water in the state and we have been focusing on the larger systemic problems that exist and what we should do about it," said Mark Schlosberg, organizing director of Food & Water Watch, as quoted by The Daily Beast.

Nestle, which is clearly upset about all the publicity it's been receiving as of late in relation to the drought, has basically threatened, in so many words, to pick up shop and move its operations to another state: this, if authorities attempt to restrict the company from bottling up the fresh water technically owned by Californians and selling it back to them at a premium.

"Nestle and other large drink companies have [already] drained water from wells in Africa, leaving villages dry, in order to obtain water for resale at great profits," opined one commenter at The Daily Beast.


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