The extreme and prolonged drought in the western United States is driving water thieves to take advantage of other people’s scarce supplies.
More than 12 billion gallons of water have been stolen in California in the past eight years, according to state officials, but the problem has been further compounded by the ongoing drought and recent scorching heat waves of early summer.
Authorities have attributed a significant amount of the recent water theft to illegal cannabis cultivation in some parts of the state.
“Water theft has never been more severe,” said John Nores, head of the California Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Control (MET) team, told CNN.
While the term “water theft” has been questioned by some experts and activists, state officials told the television news network that examples of recent events have involved “taking advantage of hydrants, rivers, and even small family homes and farms.” .
They allege that much of the prohibited use comes from people who grow marijuana illegally.
Nores said the problem had an impact on legal farmers, Native American tribes and other small communities in California.
It has also affected drinking water sources. Last spring, the water supply of 300 homes was threatened when water valves were improperly closed, according to the Desert sun newspaper covering the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley area southeast of Los Angeles.
According to the publication, 125 Californians have reported thefts to state authorities so far this year, doubling the number of reports made a decade ago, with water supplies under pressure throughout the state and throughout the western region.
Recently, The Sun reported, people in tanker trucks have been backing up into rivers and lakes and pumping free water not just for their own use but to sell in an underground market.
Others, under the cover of darkness, connect to fire hydrants in the city and recharge. Some also steal water from homes, farms and private wells.
“As the state enters another potential drought emergency, we must ensure that this new activity does not further exacerbate the water shortage,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told CNN.
While a recent The Brookings Institution publication shows that this has been a problem outside of California, in relation to cannabis cultivation in Oregon and Colorado, previous publications by the research group also delve into why the term has been considered controversial.
In 2017, the Brookings Institution noted that news organizations were increasingly highlighting water theft as a problem, but added that “water experts, water-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments and communities disagree on if there is theft of water ”.
According to the expert group, the dispute stems largely from competing beliefs that water is a basic human right that should be accessible and from the idea that it should be priced for sustainability and efficient use.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism