A Massive Amount Of Water Is Being Stolen In California. Here's Why

Drought conditions are worsening all across the Western United States and California is being affected intensely. According to CNN, 50% of the state's area is in extreme drought that directly affects 14.5 million people who live there. To make matters worse, illegal water use or water theft is leaving less water for legitimate use by residents and businesses.

The drought creates a water shortage that not only affects the local population's access but also has national reverberations that none of us can ignore. The energy grid will be stressed, due to hydroelectric plants like the one in Lake Oroville being shut down due to low water levels, as CNN also reported. The National Centers for Environmental Information describes how drought and water scarcity lead to an increased fire risk and slower crop growth, which in turn affects the whole country's food supply and increases grocery prices for everyone.

With such severe drought conditions, billions of gallons of water are being stolen and creating even more devastation.

The truth about California's water theft

Water theft in California is a huge problem that is worse now than it has ever been. Food and Wine reports that water is stolen by filling trucks directly from rivers and lakes, tapping into local water main systems and fire hydrants, diverting water flows to illegal reservoirs with dams, and filling at businesses and private wells.

According to John Nores, former head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Enforcement Team, "water stealing has never been more severe" and more than 12 billion gallons of water have been stolen since 2013 (via CNN). The stolen water is mostly used in unlicensed cannabis growing operations. In some communities, fire hydrants are being removed or locked to prevent theft. State authorities are finding diversions and removing them, as well as actively pursuing the people responsible.

As the state continues into progressively worse droughts, each stolen gallon is felt by legitimate businesses and farms that need the water, like the almond industry. Hopefully, the most devastating effects can be limited.