20,000 Gallons of Water Stolen From Elementary School in Drought-Plagued County

This was the second water theft in the rural area over the last several weeks.

Bridgeville Elementary School
Photo Credit: California Energy Commission

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 alreadystretched thin by so many drought-stricken farms.

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

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.

Aviva Shen is Associate Editor of ThinkProgress. Before joining CAP, Aviva interned and wrote for Smithsonian Magazine, Salon, and New York Magazine. She also worked for the Slate Political Gabfest, a weekly politics podcast from Slate Magazine.