California officials are trying to put a stop to a crime that would be odd in most parts of the country.
People are stealing water as an extreme drought continues to leave The Golden State dry.
Officials said water theft isn’t new, but it’s getting worse as reservoirs are running dry.
Thieves have been able to take billions of gallons of water by tapping into fire hydrants, rivers, farms and even people’s homes, CNN reported.
Many of the thieves are using the pilfered water to help sustain illegal marijuana growing operations, CNN reported.
More than 12 billion gallons of water have been taken since 2013.
“By our calculations, the illegal grows in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties require an astounding 5.4 million gallons of water a day, every day,” Curt Fallin, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s associate special agent in charge, said in a news release earlier this month, according to The Washington Post.
“Water stealing has never been more severe,” John Nores told CNN. Nores is the former head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Enforcement Team.
The thefts have been impacting farming, drinking water supplies, Native American tribes and small communities, Nores told CNN.
The thieves are using a variety of ways to get the water. Some are breaking into water stations, drilling into water lines, tapping into fire hydrants or threatening farmers.
Some are filling up truckloads of water during the middle of the night.
Others are drilling unauthorized water wells, The Washington Post reported.
To combat the thefts, officials have removed fire hydrants and secured water sources, CNN reported.
So much water was stolen last year that it caused the water system in an area north of Los Angeles called Antelope Valley to fail, CNN reported.
A recent sting operation in Antelope Valley found hundreds of illegal marijuana farms, police said, according to the Post.
The authorities arrested 131 people and seized 65 vehicles including two water trucks. They also found $28,000, more than 33,000 pounds of marijuana and dozens of guns.
At the end of the raid, 19 people faced water theft charges, the Post reported.
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