California Drought Causes “Water Wars” Among Residents

Written by Aviva Shen

Someone stole 20,000 gallons of water from an elementary school in Bridgeville, CA over Labor Day weekend — the second water theft in the rural area over the last several weeks. According to the Humboldt County sheriff’s office, the culprit used a school garden hose to drain the water tank and carried it off in a truck. The school had to close for a day as the tank was refilled.

Another water tank in the area was drained of 20,000 gallons in July, leaving 330 people briefly without water. That tank provides water to another elementary school, a fire station, the post office and a state park campground.

Humboldt County, a remote northern California region dominated by cattle ranches and marijuana farms, has been hit especially hard by the drought afflicting California and other Western states. Because of virtually nonexistent snowpack over the winter, normally robust rivers are running extremely low, while rainfall has lagged 25 to 50 percent below normal since January. The unusually dry weather prompted the county to apply for federal aid in July for the first time since 2008. The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Humboldt as a “primary natural disaster area“ in August because of the severe drought damage. The federal crop insurance program, however, is already stretched thin by so many drought-stricken farms.

This critical water shortage has led to “water wars” in the area. Sheriffs arrested marijuana growers (who, of course, are not eligible for federal aid) last week for diverting streams to their operations. “We may see more of that if the weather stays like this,” Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Steve Knight warned.

Drought will only become lengthier and more severe as climate change sets in. Crime and violence will likely increase as temperatures rise and vital resources become more sparse.

Bracing for these effects, Humboldt County has been working on a climate action plan since joining the Cities for Climate Protection campaign in 2007. The county’s Board of Supervisors approved a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 2003 levels by 2020.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo credits: Thinkstock

80 comments

Linda McKellar
Past Member 3 years ago

The future is here. Behold the shape of things to come. Unfortunately, Canada holds the majority of the world's fresh water. Wonder where the US will get its future supply.

june t.
june t3 years ago

it is just the beginning of the "water" wars, unfortunately...

Lynnl C.
Lynn C3 years ago

just the beginning

Mike Wilkinson
Mike W3 years ago

how long does it take to drain a 20,000 gallon tank? how big a vehicle to make off with the loot?........sorry if you have a drought you would think this kind of theft just does not happen....the powers that be would know that that tank would be a target........unless someone is looking the other way........maybe it is the pot growers..........

Liliana Garcia
Liliana G3 years ago

Good grief! As terrible as it is to steal water from an elementary school it's even worse to steal the water supply of the fire station! Maybe they are taking steps by joining the campaign mentioned in the article and that's positive. But is there enough time left?

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Water is just one of our resources that too many people take for granted.

Lorri R.
Lorri R3 years ago

Is anyone really surprised about this? If you are aware of the whole climate thing, then it's expected.

Angela Ray
Angela Ray3 years ago

This is something else!!

Ros G.
Ros G3 years ago

Thanks for the article...Water Wars - it was only a matter of time..Food Wars will be the next thing..

Vita Pagh
Vita P3 years ago

A very sad development....
Thank you for posting.