California's newest crime wave: Stealing water

The law of supply and demand is inexorable in that no matter how hard some people try to ignore it or overturn it, they fail. Communist countries have tried for nearly 100 years to make that pesky equation go away. Instead, they created societies of scarcity, where people stood in line for moldy beets and plenty of vodka to make them forget how bad things were.

Witness what is occurring in California where a serious drought has made water into a bankable commodity like gold or diamonds. Because of that, thieves see an opportunity to enrich themselves so that anything and everything related to water - including the precious liquid itself - has become fair game.

KQED:

“They’re taking the water hoses, taking the copper wiring,” says the county’s District Attorney, David Linn. “We’ve even had instances where they’ve come in and stolen the water pumps from the farmers.”

Linn has recently launched a new task force so rural residents and farmers can reach a deputy district attorney 24-7 to report crime, including illegal well drilling.

Linn says a hypothetical call might be, “You know over the past two weeks, the water flow on my kitchen sink has continued to decrease. I notice there’s a couple of big drill rigs across the road, looks like they’re very active.”

An investigator could come out and talk with the well driller to make sure they’re drilling where they should be.

“We want to stop the wholesale planned attempt by water drillers to essentially tap out entire neighborhoods of homes without proper legal authority,” says Linn.

If water is siphoned out of a storage tank, or a water pump goes missing, the DA’s office could dispatch investigators to the scene to collect evidence for prosecution.

Under last year’s landmark groundwater law, local officials will be taking on the primary responsibility for managing groundwater and enforcing new rules.

The Madera County Task Force also plans to educate farmers about the best kinds of fences and tank enclosures to keep out water thieves.

Officials in urban areas are grappling with similar worries: water robbers pilfering fire hydrants, water delivery trucks taking water to which they’re not entitled, or people tapping into water lines at construction sites.

I imagine this situation will get worse before it gets better. Farmers especially will have to actively defend their water. The problem isn't the lone thief who steals a pump or two. Organized criminal gangs will get involved if they're not already, making a bad situation worse.

California's irrigation system is a wonder of the modern world, allowing farmers to grow crops on vast tracks of land that ordinarily would not be arable because of the lack of rainfall. This drought - and the thieves who profit from it - are threatening the entire agricultural economy of the state. The crackdown on these criminals should be swift and sure. Deterrence is the best defense against this kind of criminal behavior.

 

The law of supply and demand is inexorable in that no matter how hard some people try to ignore it or overturn it, they fail. Communist countries have tried for nearly 100 years to make that pesky equation go away. Instead, they created societies of scarcity, where people stood in line for moldy beets and plenty of vodka to make them forget how bad things were.

Witness what is occurring in California where a serious drought has made water into a bankable commodity like gold or diamonds. Because of that, thieves see an opportunity to enrich themselves so that anything and everything related to water - including the precious liquid itself - has become fair game.

KQED:

“They’re taking the water hoses, taking the copper wiring,” says the county’s District Attorney, David Linn. “We’ve even had instances where they’ve come in and stolen the water pumps from the farmers.”

Linn has recently launched a new task force so rural residents and farmers can reach a deputy district attorney 24-7 to report crime, including illegal well drilling.

Linn says a hypothetical call might be, “You know over the past two weeks, the water flow on my kitchen sink has continued to decrease. I notice there’s a couple of big drill rigs across the road, looks like they’re very active.”

An investigator could come out and talk with the well driller to make sure they’re drilling where they should be.

“We want to stop the wholesale planned attempt by water drillers to essentially tap out entire neighborhoods of homes without proper legal authority,” says Linn.

If water is siphoned out of a storage tank, or a water pump goes missing, the DA’s office could dispatch investigators to the scene to collect evidence for prosecution.

Under last year’s landmark groundwater law, local officials will be taking on the primary responsibility for managing groundwater and enforcing new rules.

The Madera County Task Force also plans to educate farmers about the best kinds of fences and tank enclosures to keep out water thieves.

Officials in urban areas are grappling with similar worries: water robbers pilfering fire hydrants, water delivery trucks taking water to which they’re not entitled, or people tapping into water lines at construction sites.

I imagine this situation will get worse before it gets better. Farmers especially will have to actively defend their water. The problem isn't the lone thief who steals a pump or two. Organized criminal gangs will get involved if they're not already, making a bad situation worse.

California's irrigation system is a wonder of the modern world, allowing farmers to grow crops on vast tracks of land that ordinarily would not be arable because of the lack of rainfall. This drought - and the thieves who profit from it - are threatening the entire agricultural economy of the state. The crackdown on these criminals should be swift and sure. Deterrence is the best defense against this kind of criminal behavior.