Sacramento officials say two men could face up to $1,000 fines for illegally tapping a city fire hydrant and taking thousands of gallons of water.
The suspected water theft was spotted by city police officers who were leaving a protest at the nearby Nestle’s water bottling facility shortly after noon Wednesday. The officers, in an unmarked vehicle, noticed a rental water truck connected by hose to a city fire hydrant on the 8100 block of Elder Creek Road.
“They observed an excess of water on the roadway and ... a hose connected to the fire hydrant,” said Officer Justin Brown, a spokesman for the Police Department.
Properly permitted, businesses can legally obtain water from a fire hydrant, generally for construction, said Rhea Serran, a spokeswoman for the city utilities department. Trucks legally taking water from a hydrant must be clearly marked with a sticker from the city and use a special meter to track the amount of water taken, Serran said.
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Depending on the volume of the truck, obtaining the water legally would have cost between $183 and $567, Serran said.
But in Wednesday’s case, “the person taking water did not have a hydrant-use permit,” Serran said.
The water was to be used to control dust as workers leveled a dirt area associated with M&M Truck & Trailer Repair’s new Elder Creek Road location, owner Mohamad Abdul said. He laid responsibility for the lack of a permit on the hired contractor.
“It’s not stealing. It was just a mistake by the contractor,” Abdul said.
What’s less clear is how much water was taken. The truck was roughly 3/4 full by the time the police forced the drivers of the BlueLine Rental water truck to shut off the water. BlueLine offers 2,000- and 4,000-gallon water trucks. It is not clear what size truck the two men used Wednesday.
Faisal Imran, who said he worked at a nearby FedEx ground shipping facility, contacted The Bee via email to say he saw the truck at the hydrant on Tuesday.
The incident is the first locally in recent memory.
“This is extremely rare. In the past five or six years, we have not seen anything like this,” Serran said.
Because one of the men did not have a valid California driver’s license, the Police Department moved to tow the truck, Brown said. The responding tow company said it would have to dump the water to tow the truck safely, but were persuaded otherwise by the officers at the scene. The truck – with the water still on board – was driven from the scene.
A handful of California communities have also dealt with water bandits, according to The Associated Press.