SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -

People at one home in the Mission Hills community near Lompoc are accused of illegally tapping into the local water source. The Mission Hills Community Services District says workers have noticed other customers in the community tampering with their water lines and stealing water as well.

According to the district, the people who live at the house on Calle Nueve hadn't been paying their water bill, so the valve connecting to the home was shut down and padlocked. At least it was before a routine check today.

"Certain accounts we double check," said Sean De Havilland, Operations Superintendent. "We came out to double check this account and realized that our locked tab had been broken."

The cost of the stolen water is minimal. The district says it was about $20 for the 8,200 gallons drained from the system. But that doesn't include the labor costs of replacing the valve and meter.

Moreover, the district says it's a matter of principle, especially during the drought. As the state continues to suffer because of the drought, the Mission Hills Community Services District is dealing with its own problems. The primary groundwater well is down right now, forcing the district to use their oldest well to keep water flowing.


"For us, any way we can prevent water loss is always a good thing business-wise and of course for the environment," said De Havilland. "There's no sense in pumping water to somebody who is not paying for the service."

Water theft is a greater focus across the Central Coast now with the drought. In Santa Barbara, police and public works are encouraging people to report suspicious activity.

In Mission Hills, neighbors are keeping their eyes peeled as well.

"That bothers me a lot," said Mission Hills resident Glenn Green. "That's mooching. That's a bad precedent to set with the people. If one person does it then everyone is going to be doing it because they think they can get away with it."

Sheriff's deputies were called over to the home to take a report of the water theft. The district says the costs of replacing the valve and meter will be billed to the homeowner.