By Marlee Ginter

NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) – As if California’s dire dry season wasn’t already difficult, thieves are making matters even worse.

Illegal pot growers are stealing water anywhere they can get it. That’s why the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has a warning that investigators are cracking down.

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Officers and biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Nevada County Code Enforcement, and biologists with the California State Water Resources Control Board conducted multiple marijuana search warrants within the county in early July. They discovered large environmental impacts due to poor cultivation practices. Many were also not permitted with the state or local agencies.

So in the middle of a blistering fire season that’s expected to be one of the worst on record and extreme drought conditions with low lake levels forcing water restrictions, Nevada County sheriff’s investigators are now seeing the unthinkable.

“It’s disregard. It’s disregard for all of our citizens in Nevada County for their safety, for a profit,” Sgt. John Dzioba told CBS13.

Sgt. Dzioba says illegal pot growers are stealing water sources without any regard for their neighbors in need.

“We’ve seen where they dug holes underneath the berms and siphoned water for their grows,” said Sgt. Dzioba.

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They’ve even dropped gasoline-driven water pumps into neighborhood ponds. All this is happening while many struggle with their own water supply.

“Living on stored water as it is and not having enough to just do their daily duties of doing dishes or taking showers,” said Sgt. Dzioba.

But beyond stealing water, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is also finding the illegal grows lead to large environmental impacts due to poor cultivation practices and waste contaminating water resources. It’s a multi-agency crackdown on illegal pot grows.

“We appreciate the working relationships we have created with our state partners in the [California State Water] Resources Control Board, Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Cannabis Control, Cal Fire and county Code Enforcement as we prioritize the very large illegal, non-permitted, locations that are causing the safety issues in Nevada County,“ Nevada County Sheriff Shannan Moon said in a statement to CBS13.

Sgt. Dzioba says investigators also found faulty wiring at the illegal grows, creating incredible fire hazards.

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“It’s all done with no regard for public safety. It takes one spark in some of these areas to launch fires like we’ve seen all over the place,” said Sgt. Dzioba.