FREMONT, Calif., May 23 (UPI) -- Vandals damaged an inflatable dam holding back some 50 million gallons of drinking water, releasing enough water to serve 500 families for an entire year.
Police said the vandals entered a restricted area to damage the thick, rubber dam that was constructed in 1971. Police have no suspects or reasons for the damage. Repairs are expected to cost $3 million.
The vandalism comes as California struggles with a severe drought and is under unprecedented water restrictions.
"This is a very significant loss of water under any circumstances, and more so in the drought conditions we are experiencing," said Robert Shaver of the Alameda County Water District. "It is an utterly senseless, destructive and wasteful thing to do."
Vicki Mathis, a local resident, told KTVU she has been diligent about saving water only to see someone so egregiously waste it.
"I'm barely using water at home. I'm not watering my plants," she said. "And this? For what? How could you possibly feel good about doing something like that?"
Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison also said the vandalism underscores the need to take a closer look at the vulnerabilities in vital infrastructure. He wants state and federal lawmakers to shore up funding to protect such manmade structures.
"Hopefully items like this will raise attention to not just local leaders, but to state and federal leaders, that we need more money for infrastructure to make sure that our city and our regions are safe," Harrison told NBC Bay Area. "We need to make sure we're investing in infrastructure or things like this are just going to continue to happen."
Officials said the water loss will not have a substantial impact on long-term water supplies.