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The Drought Is So Bad People Are Now Poaching Water

Scott Lucas | November 13, 2014 | Story Politics

The future is here and it looks suspiciously like Mad Max.

The mega-drought encompassing California and the western United States is now so bad that poachers have turned to stealing water and reselling it at a massive profit (no, not these guys.)

The National Journal is reporting on a rash of watery crimes, including the story of a Los Gatos woman, Mary Madden, who set up security cameras to catch her Wet Bandits in action—but never did. What's happened to Madden is just small version of what's being going on up and down the state.

Though there’s no official tally of the total amount of water stolen, estimates range into the billions of gallons. A Sierra Nevada fire station, elementary school, and a health clinic have all been targeted, and the thefts are apparently concentrated in rural areas.

Authorities are trying to fight back, but they’ve had limited success. Contra Costa County recently adopted a $25 fine for those caught stealing water—a figure it may bump to a maximum of $500 soon. The state’s Water Resources Board has 22 employees investigating water theft—but there’s been no statewide coordinated effort to fight it.

So where is the water going? According to PBS, one of the major purchasing blocs on the black market is illegal marijuana grows in Northern California, which are further exacerbating the shortage caused by the drought. Though on the one hand, there's a case to be made for cracking down on them, wouldn't it be more rational to hook them up to the grid in an open fashion? What can't marijuana legalization solve? Wonder if future-Governor Kamala Harris is paying attention?

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