Thieves Stealing Water from Schools in Drought-Plagued Humboldt County

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It’s come to this in drought-plagued Humboldt County. Authorities in Northern California are searching for the culprit who stole tens of thousands of gallons of water from two rural communities over the past couple of months.

In July, someone made off with 20,000 gallons of fresh water from the Weott Community Services District Board, which provides water to 330 people. A water tank that services the Agnes J. Johnson Elementary School, the Cal Fire station, the post office and a state park campground was drained.

Then, over the Labor Day weekend, another 20,000 gallons was stolen from the county, this time from the Bridgeville Elementary School. The thief pumped the school’s water tank dry using a garden house and either a water truck or a trailer fitted with tanks, according to police.

School officials were forced to cancel school for the day, while maintenance workers replenished the tank with water from an underground well. New security cameras have been installed in Weott, not only by the district, but by individual residents.

“We’ve not had to deal with cases like this before, but with the warm dry weather conditions we’ve been having, we expect to see more this year,” Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Steve Knight told the Eureka Times-Standard. “It's disturbing that someone would put their own water needs before children.”

Humboldt has been particularly hard hit by drought, which decimated the mountain winter snowpack that feeds rivers. Normal rainfall since January is off up to 50% in some areas. The county was designated a “primary natural disaster area” in August by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.    

–Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

20K Gallon Water Tank Emptied at Bridgeville Elementary: Weott Community Hit in July (by Catherine Wong, Eureka Times-Standard)

Water Theft in Weott Leads to Increased Security Measures (by Virginia Graziani, Redwood Times)

20,000 Gallons of Water Stolen From Elementary School in Drought-Plagued California County (by Aviva Shen, ThinkProgress)

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