Joel Vargas-Hernandez
Photo courtesy Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Last week, Joel Vargas-Hernandez, 28, of Mead Valley, was arrested for suspicion of theft of water from the Pine Cove Water District. He has already been released on $52,000 bail.

According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s press release, investigators obtained several search warrants that lead them to Vargas-Hernandez in Mead Valley.

He was charged with three separate felonies, include stealing water and tampering with a fire hydrant.

Earlier this month, PCWD reported that more than 2.3 million gallons of water, worth more than $17,000, had been taken from the district’s distribution system just this summer. The water theft may have started in 2016, according to Jerry Holldber, PCWD general manager.

Besides the cost of the stolen water, Holldber estimated that other costs, such as staff time searching for leaks and detection equipment, have cost the district another $42,000.


  1. Could this theft also be linked to some extremely high and unexplained water bills in the Fern Valley Water area? How was he stealing the water? It would be nice if the article included more information about the investigation that led to his arrest.