The issue of water theft by illegal cannabis growers is becoming an even bigger issue as California's reservoirs dry out.
Officials say illegal grow sites are a severe problem, where water is illegally diverted from streams and creeks to fuel black market cannabis production. The intensifying drought has driven the thefts to record levels as reservoirs dry up and bandits make off with stolen water, often to cultivate the growth of illegal marijuana crops, according to CNN.
"Water stealing has never been more severe," said John Nores, former head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Enforcement Team. The agency has been fighting the thefts for years, usually in rural areas of the parched state, that have been "devastating" communities, he said.
At least 1.8 billion gallons of water are estimated to have been stolen across the state since 2013, impacting legitimate farming operations, drinking water sources, Native American tribes and small communities, Nores said.
KFBK's Aubrey Aquino has more: