Why are water thieves so hard to catch?
It’s not easy enforcing water regulations in the West. Just ask the officials in California who have been trying for almost a decade to penalize a man who took water from the river system that feeds San Francisco and bottled it for sale to stores like Starbucks. It sounds like a tall tale, but it’s illustrative of just how hard it is to stop scofflaws from using water the rest of the state needs during a water crisis. In 2015, at the height of a severe drought, California’s state water agency received a series of complaints about water theft on a small tributary of the Tuolumne River, the source of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir that supplies most of San Francisco’s water. G. Scott Fahey, the owner of a water bottling company called Sugar Pine Spring Water, was siphoning water from the spring and loading it on trucks, the complainants said.