Vandals attacked an inflatable dam on Alameda Creek, California, resulting in the loss of nearly 50 million gallons of water.
The timing could not have been worse as California struggles through the worst drought on record.
Police believe he vandals entered a restricted area sometime on Thursday morning and intentionally damaged the dam, causing it to spill the precious water.
“The dam, which is instrumental to the Alameda County Water District’s water supply operations, suffered irreversible damage,” police said.
More than 150 acre-feet of water, approximately 49 million gallons, washed past the destroyed dam and into the San Francisco Bay.
The wasted water was to have been percolated into the Niles Cone Groundwater Basin for use by residents and businesses in Fremont, Newark, and Union City.
“This amount of water is enough to supply the needs of approximately 500 homes for one year,” police said.
District staff acted quickly to open upstream diversions, which saved some of the water from being wasted yet the damage done was immense.
“This is a very significant loss of water under any circumstances, and more so in the drought conditions we are experiencing,” said ACWD General Manager Robert Shaver. “It is an utterly senseless, destructive, and wasteful thing to do.”
The inflatable dams are large, heavy-duty devices, which can be inflated to impound water or deflated to allow water to flow through the creek in storm conditions.
The timing of the vandalism is interesting as it could be a move by activists to draw attention to California's absurd water usage. While residents struggle with water bans, celebrities continue to waste water while farmers use water-intense practices that are not possibly sustainable in the dry California climate.