Where Ecology and Security Intersect: The California Water Crisis and Waterworks Protection

California by itself would be the 38th most populous country in the world, and concerns about its water supply are necessarily concerns about health, welfare, environment and civic safety. What may not come to mind, especially with the Golden State’s severe droughts and water crisis in recent memory, is waterworks security.

And that’s not just concerning to those in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Orange County, the Bay Area, San Diego or the Inland Empire: the threat of depleted water supplies put California’s significant agricultural sector in the Central Valley and Napa Valley’s wineries at risk.

In the Great Recession, looters and thieves stole copper lines from air conditioning units. More recently, catalytic converters were ripped from underneath cars for their precious metals. In California, systematic, prolonged water theft exacerbated drought issues and, after legalization of marijuana for recreational use in 2016, spiked as theft from pumps, hydrants and even reservoirs, rivers and lakes fueled illicit cannabis farms throughout the state.

Illegal pot farms where pot is legal? Legal simply means regulated, and regulated means able to be taxed. In the same way that bathtub moonshine is still illicit alcohol, operating outside the law even in California with cannabis remains illegal activity (though, to be clear, it is no longer a felony offense). In addition, it’s not like those who grew accustomed to no-overhead revenue over the years were suddenly interested in someone coming in and taking some off the top. 

What’s more, according to a 2021 story in LAist in partnership with CalMatters, the appetite to enforce the law for water theft is minimized specifically because of where these investigations lead: to illegal farms growing plants for legal recreational use. Further, those who back these farms are often connected to more dangerous entities, and threats – veiled or otherwise – against authorities are an ever-present reality.

Thankfully, several rainy seasons and heavy high altitude snowfalls have helped to counter California’s drought conditions and water crisis: 13 of the last 18 years yielded well below average precipitation. The drought may have ended in 2022, but concerns over water theft remain.

We bring up these events to say this: wherever there are waterworks, regardless of whether they are in a city, small town or rural or remote setting, there should be a secured waterworks enclosure.

Often, we mention the importance of having protection from freezing conditions, infestation or vandalism. We’ve covered the security concerns around backflow cages and fake rock enclosures, how they invite thieves to whatever is inside, regardless of its intrinsic value.

This dark chapter in California history, though, underscores the reality: it’s not just the equipment thieves are after anymore, but in some cases, water itself. If the environment continues to (by commission or omission) degrade, if clean water becomes a more scarce resource in the first world, pumps, control valves, backflow preventers, water meters; wherever they are, they will all have bullseyes on them.

We’re not talking about some kind of Beyond Thunderdome apocalyptic doomscape scenario, either: It’s already happening. Ecology and security are at a crossroads.

Units in landscape 2It’s time to be proactive, not just by Thinking Outside the Vault and bringing waterworks and utility equipment above grade where it won’t be in a confined space and prone to flooding, but by securing your system in a Safe-T-Cover enclosure with our patented MUNI-LOK vault key system. 

Providing total protection for your utilities is no longer optional. Protecting against the elements is critical, but as the climate changes, so too does the need to protect against theft of equipment and water itself.

enclosure-in-front-of-tankWe provide to-spec enclosures for leading waterworks brands, as well as custom enclosures for just about any context. Made with the best materials – polyisocyanurate insulation sealed onto marine grade aluminum, braced with sustainably harvested and durable California redwood – and shipped in industry-leading fulfillment times, we can protect your property as well as a vulnerable natural resource.

Review our sizing guide for Safe-T-Cover enclosure options, or contact us for more information on a custom design and quote.


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