CONCORD (CBS SF) — Seems the drought has made California into the wild, wild west.

Clayton in Contra Costa County is a city that remains true to its western roots. There’s even an old-time saloon. In this town, water has become as precious as gold, and thieves are resorting to stealing it.

The Contra Costa Water District says fire hydrants are their favorite targets, mainly along Marsh Creek Road.

They come in the dark of the night. “It’s not right,” said resident Delores Vargas.

Another resident, Marvin Taylor, agreed. “People who aren’t authorized to get into a fire hydrant shouldn’t be doing that.”

Unfortunately, they are. The reason is anyone’s guess. It’s clean. They can sell it, or use it for dust abatement.

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For the District, the health risk has become too high to ignore. “If there was some sort of contamination back in to the hydrant, that would affect the residents that are feeding off of that system,” said Jennifer Allen, a spokesperson for Water District.

“People don’t listen,” said resident Marie Gomes. “They think they can do whatever they want with it, but it’s not right.”

The county is cracking down, now, and about to pull the trigger on a new ordinance.

It raises the fine for first time offenders from $25 to $250. If thieves are caught a second time, it’s $500.

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“We want to put the harsher fine in place in order to deter people from the temptation to steal,” said Allen. If passed, the new fines kick in January 1, 2015. The County is also looking into security cameras.

For locals, the sooner the better, to keep the water thieves at bay. Marvin Taylor thinks it’s high time. “In a drought we need to be saving as much water as possible, and people breaking into fire hydrants to fill up whatever they’re filling up should have some sort of a consequence.”

Meanwhile, if you live in Concord and your well that has run dry, the Water District recommends you contact them. They will allow you to tap into a fire hydrant.

It will cost you, but it’s legal.

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