Report Water Theft
Water theft is a crime. Anyone using water illegally imposes costs on other paying customers. Consistent with the work we do to provide customers with the highest quality water and the best service at the lowest possible price, the Otay Water District works hard to stop water theft.
Water theft is a serious offense and can result in significant fines as well as criminal or civil prosecution. In addition to penalties, anyone found to be stealing water will be assessed all costs associated with investigating and documenting the crime, as well as any costs related to replacing damaged equipment.
Otay Water District has the technology and procedures in place to identify water theft and will always take aggressive action to stop it. We also appreciate the public’s assistance in reporting water theft or other suspicious activities. If you are aware of water theft taking place at a property, or are suspicious that water theft may be occurring, please contact us at (619) 670-2222.
Evidence will be collected and that evidence will be used to pursue prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Help us protect your water supply by reporting suspicious activity around water supply equipment.
Recent Penalties Assessed for Water Theft
The District has recently levied large fines on individuals for stealing water and tampering with their water meter. As noted, the District has technology and procedures in place to quickly identify meter tampering. Meter tampering is a violation of the District’s Code of Ordinances as outlined in section 72.03C, which reads:
“In addition to other remedies, tampering is subject to a Type II fine pursuant to Section 72.06. Additionally, tampering may be prosecuted as a crime under Section 498 of the California Penal Code, as set forth in Section 73.01 of this Code.”
As a result of meter tampering, a property owner within the District was recently notified that a $1,000 fine would be added to that customer’s next water bill. That fine becomes an inseparable part of that customer’s bill. If the charges remain unpaid, the District may disconnect water service, lien the delinquent property, and may assess damages and penalties established by the District or otherwise authorized by law. Applying the fine to the property is consistent with the District’s Code of Ordinances, which states:
“Each person receiving service, or that owns a property that receives service, agrees to pay the District any applicable fees and charges. Such persons are also responsible for all costs and damages in connection with any violation of this Code relating to their service.”
In addition to the $1,000 fine, the property owner was charged the District’s costs to investigate, document and determine an appropriate course of action, including the cost of replacing the damaged water meter. Costs incurred to investigate and remedy a violation are not appealable to the Board of Directors and are treated as inseparable from all other fees and charges on the customer’s account. Customers caught stealing water will also be charged for the water they used.
Otay Water District has also fined individuals and businesses for using unmetered fire hydrants to obtain water without the knowledge or approval of the District. Under the Code of Ordinances, anyone found to have stolen water can be fined up to $5,000 for a first offense, plus the cost of the water and all costs to investigate and document the incident.