Water Pirates

As drought grips most of California, water thefts have increased to record levels. Thieves tap into hydrants, pump water from rivers and break into remote water stations and tanks.

Water thieves -- likely working for illicit marijuana operations -- had pulled water from remote filling stations and tapped into fire hydrants, improperly shutting off valves and triggering a chain reaction that threatened the water supply of nearly 300 homes.

Bandits in water trucks are backing up to rivers and lakes and pumping free water they sell on a burgeoning black market. Others, under cover of darkness, plug into city hydrants and top up. Thieves also steal water from homes, farms and private wells, and some even created an elaborate system of dams, reservoirs and pipelines during the last drought. Others are MacGyvering break-ins directly into pressurized water mains, a dangerous and destructive approach known as hot-tapping. [...]

But, again, the thieves are a step ahead. When it became clear that law enforcement was on the lookout for suspicious water tankers, thieves shifted to putting 275-gallon water cubes in the back of their pickups or on trailers. More recently, they have taken to renting U-Haul vans to hide their cargo. Any conveyance with space to carry is put to work: Bostwick said someone in the area is driving around an old fire truck, and another guy is using what appears to be a converted airline fuel tanker.

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14 Responses:

  1. bbd says:

    Any minute now, someone realizes that selling ice is a combined product. You get to run your steampunk AC on it until it is liquid, then you use it for irrigation. Or drink it, depending on how adventurous you are.

  2. CJ says:

    This brings to mind a pretty fun PBtA-based RPG called Hydro Hacker Operatives: http://www.encodeddesigns.com/h2o/ - among the classes is a Plumber, who's integral to stealing clean(er) water from the Authority that keeps a tight grip on it.

    Pretty "awesome" to be living in the timeline where our sci-fi dystopias are coming to fruition at an ever-accelerating rate!

  3. Erin M says:

    Typical corporate-style reporting. They want to talk about water theft, yet they conveniently ignore Nestle and similar bad apples. Go figure. Just easier to blame desperate people and pot farmers (always blame pot farmers). I guess if the pot growing laws weren't as ridiculously restrictive as they are in CA, this wouldn't be an issue. But... maybe that was the intent.

    • MattyJ says:

      Most news articles and reporting tend to stick to one topic, or else you end up with a book.

      Besides, Nestle isn't technically stealing. They pay dozens of dollars for 50 year leases to mine our water. All perfectly legal and above board.

  4. Derpatron9000 says:

    Just making the run to bullet town...

    • Elusis says:

      So... a couple of days before this was published, my dad mentioned to me that he finally sold his vintage firetruck he's had since I was a kid.

      He remarked on the fact that he put it up on eBay for bid but also with a "buy it now" price, and he couldn't figure out why the listing wasn't showing up an hour after he'd posted it, until he realized why his eBay app had made its little "cash register" noise just minutes after posting....

      Now I can't stop wondering.

      • jwz says:

        I mean, even for a car hoarder, I'm a little upset that someone would part with a vintage fire truck!

        • Elusis says:

          My future self, which owns a little old man and his car hoarding detritus, is very relieved.

          On the other hand, you never know when you might be sorry that you didn't keep that fire truck. For your water scarcity grim meathook future, if nothing else....

  5. Chad says:

    Anyone know a reliable source for kangaroo supersoldier DNA? Asking for a friend.

  6. dzm says:

    I am a few weeks away from loading two of those 275 gallon IBC totes (the water container cubes in the photo) onto a utility trailer and heading off to a nearby boat launch. I figure this will be a weekly ritual until the lake goes dry or the rains come back. So, yeah. Until the lake goes dry.

  7. ContextSans says:


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