Someone I know, who lives in near a regional centre in Victoria's Goldfields district, had her water stolen recently.
How do you steal someone's water? Well, you use a large water tanker to steal the water from their water tank. Of course, it helps if you've targeted a regional or rural property that is a little secluded or distant from prying eyes, and you visit that property when the owners are away for a couple of days.
Alternatively, you may be masquerading as someone selling water – a booming business in these days of water shortages – and show up on the pretense that you're filling, rather than emptying, the water tank and fool the neighbours.
This person lost all the water in her 2,000 liter bladder water tank – which was under her back deck, suggesting they had 'thoroughly cased the joint' to know it was there. She was quite upset about it, and the police, who've indicated it is not an uncommon occurrence, haven't been able to do much. Apparently, the owners of a holiday house in the area also lost their water recently, but they don't know when the theft occured because of the time lag between their visits to their property.
I don't think this is a new problem, though it hasn't received much coverage outside the regional press and radio, but with the severity of the water shortages in rural areas and the drought making every drop of rain caught in rain-water tanks liquid gold, theft like this is excruciating, and unfortunately will grow increasingly common. Especially after recent good rainfall has filled the tanks.
Amongst the group of us who heard this story last week, there was speculation that the thieves were using it themselves for thirsty livestock and crops, or possibly selling the water to others. Which raises the spectre that there is a blackmarket for water amongst water carters. It seems there is always someone who wants to profit from misfortune – in this case, drought.
It's no wonder the NSW police have many suggestions for farmers and those living in rural areas to keep their properties secure, such as putting a padlock on your water tank and keeping track of its contents. And I thought country people took pride in being able to leave their doors unlocked.
Doesn't say very much of our reputation for observing the principles of the 'fair go', persevering in adversity and 'helping out' in the country. Sorry, 'rural and regional Australia'.
[Image of Australian water tanks by Georgie Sharp (cc) ]