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Water Theft Is A Crime On The Rise

Nearly two-thirds of the earth’s surface is covered by water, but a mere three percent is suitable for human consumption. Fresh water on our planet is limited.

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Drought, global warming and urban population growth have all contributed to its increasing scarcity. There’s an old saying that water is for fighting over. But maybe before the fight, there is crime.

The earth’s growing scarcity of water, according to a Brookings Institution senior fellow, is leading to an increase in water smuggling and other criminal activity. Water theft includes illegal acquisition of natural water courses as well as piped or harnessed water, bit of which are designated as non-revenue water.

In other words, water that is “lost” before reaching its intended customer. Loss of water through theft can occur in several ways, including damaging or removing water meters and stealing aid tanks.

Vanda Felbab-Brown also blames water shortages on several factors including climate change and increasing urbanization. Felbab-Brown told KNPR’s State of Nevada that 30 to 50 percent of the water used in the world is purchased illegally.

Felbab-Brown will deliver her lecture “Water Crimes: A Global Crisis on the Rise” at 5:30 p.m. at the Greenspun Hall Auditorium on the UNLV campus.

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The talk is sponsored by Brookings Mountain West, which has more information on its website.


Vanda Felbab-Brown, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution
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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)