Cal Fire offers locks for Scotts Valley hydrants to stop water theft

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- The newest battle to conserve water is being fought in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The region's main fire agency, Cal Fire, is offering residents locks so their hydrants won't be a target for water theft.

There's no question that firefighters will need instant access to these newly locked fire hydrants, so they will be carrying special keys with them at all times. It's another example of how the drought has generated a special and new need to protect a limited resource.

The locks are the newest tool to prevent theft. And they're not just for municipal fire hydrants on the street. In rural areas, hydrants are connected to large, above-ground storage tanks.

"For private hydrants, there's quite a few," said Cal Fire inspector Colleen Baxter. "There's hundreds of them because anytime someone builds new construction in Santa Cruz County, that's one of the requirements is above ground supply, 10,000 gallons of water and a residential fire hydrant."

So Cal Fire is offering the locks for $100 for private hydrants and $200 for municipal water systems. Residents of Scotts Valley hope no one is stealing water from hydrants.

"Construction companies or something," said Scotts Valley resident Don Roberts. "But I wouldn't think, though. Hopefully they're honorable enough not to."

When asked if he thinks the locks will be a deterrent, fellow Scotts Valley resident Bart Berardo said, "Oh, yeah, sure. I mean, it would be to me because when are they going to do it? At night? If you're going to do it at night and start breaking a lock, you're going to wake everybody up, right?"

In Contra Costa County, fines are being imposed. It's $250 for a first offense in one water district and $500 the second time.

While the last water theft was a year ago in the Santa Cruz Mountains, residents are well aware that actor Tom Selleck got in hot water earlier this summer when a crew tapped a hydrant and transported the water to his Southern California ranch.

"A straight fine doesn't work," said Scotts Valley resident Julie Miller. "I mean, $500 to him would be like me finding a nickel on the sidewalk."

Selleck has reportedly reached a tentative deal to settle his case.

To learn how much water your city is required to cut back, click here. For water rebate information from Bay Area water suppliers, click here. You'll find tips about how to conserve water here and information on how to to report water wasters #WhereYouLive, here.

For full coverage on the drought, click here.
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