How to stop water theft

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It’s been bitter sweet telling my old clients that I’m no longer working because I’m pregnant with my third child. Some of the common responses are “but weren’t you pregnant last time you came to my house?” Yes, yes I was. Life is full of surprises. 🙂

Anyway, one of our very loyal clients asked how to stop water theft on their property. They had been hearing the hose tap outside turn on at around 1am during the night and they believed that it was the neighbors stealing their water.

Firstly, when it comes to water theft, assumptions are no good and waking up at 1am to confront the thief could be dangerous and an inconvenience. The client asked if there were any plumbing fittings that could prevent the water from being stolen.

My first response was to turn off the water to the property at the meter each night before they went to bed and turn it back on in the morning for the day’s use.  It will give the thief a surprise when they try every accessible hose tap around the house and find it run empty.

But this strategy is a pain in the butt to keep in place each night and it may entice the thief to steal the water during the day when the client is not home.

The next strategy would be to install anti-vandal hose taps around the house which means the hose tap can only be turned on using a 4 way vandal proof tap key. Again this can also be an inconvenience, but it will prevent water theft (providing the thief doesn’t have access to the key) and will keep the water bill down. Many local councils installed these taps around parks to prevent water being stolen during the drought.

Anti Vandal hose tap and four way vandal proof key by Fix-a-tap
Anti Vandal hose tap and four way vandal proof key by Fix-a-tap

A lockable ball valve could also be installed on the water line, but this also requires a key which is more convenient to hang on a key ring, than a four way vandal proof tap key. Depending on how the water lines run into the house, the lockable ball valve can be installed on the hose tap lines only which means you can stop water going to the hose tap, but still allow water feed the rest of the fixtures and appliances in the house.

A lockable ball valve where the handle is locked into the off position.
A lockable ball valve where the handle is locked into the off position.

If the water theft has become a big problem and a major expense, it’s time to install an outdoor camera to film the thief in action so that you have evidence of the theft taking place. Once you have the evidence of the theft on film and photocopies of your water bill before you realized the theft had taken place and during the time of theft (you should see a spike in the water bill), take them down to your local police station.

Water theft is a serious offence, but the rigmarole in trying to find the culprit can prevent most people from doing anything about it.

The next best thing to do is to prevent it from happening by following my tips. Most homes usually have one hose tap on the side of the house, and another at the back of the house which is usually accessed through a fence, so installing an anti-vandal hose tap on the accessible side and locking the fenced gate or having a dog can deter thieves from entering the back yard.

Your local licensed plumber will be able to discuss what the best preventative measures are for your property. Just be sure to ask them to leave the keys for the taps before they leave!

Have you ever had water stolen from your property or do you know someone who has? Do you check your water bill regularly and compare it to previous bills for any irregularities?

I’m linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog on Tuesdays.