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Water-theft crackdown

AUTHORITIES in Henan Province are intensifying a crackdown on people who steal water from public facilities and residential pipes.

A man who ran a car wash was fined after pleading guilty to charges of water theft and meter tampering in the province, court officials said on Saturday. Chinese call such people "water mice."

Wang Guang, 36, from the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, removed his water meter and stole water from a nearby community for five months, the court said. The value of the stolen water was estimated at 1,021 yuan (US$149), and he was fined 2,000 yuan.

In many Chinese cities, water prices vary substantially, depending on whether the user is a home or a business. The differences prompt some water-intensive businesses, such as car washes and bath houses, to tap into residential lines. Others go for public tanks and outlets.

Water stolen from public tanks and outlets exceeded 30 million tons a year in Zhengzhou, said Zhang Kexin, manager of the Zhengzhou City Water Company.

In the past 18 months, Zhengzhou has imposed 5.2 million yuan in fines and charged 26 suspects for water theft.


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