When Jaison Joy woke to no running water in his Blacktown apartment, his first thought certainly wasn’t that the water meter of his entire building had been stolen.
Finding the taps running dry at 6.30am on Tuesday, Mr Joy phoned his strata, who told him complaints had already been made.
An hour or so later, after a call from the plumber, Mr Joy wandered outside and was surprised to find that the entire pipe and water meter had been ripped out. It was left broken and spurting out the water that he and his wife, Sabina Sebastian, needed to brush their teeth with.
“I never thought that out of all places, you know, Sydney, something like this could happen,” he told news.com.au.
“They did a poor job at it,” Mr Joy explained, recounting the water leakage the thieves left behind.
“It looks like they knew how to take the pipe away and somehow lock it in, [but] they didn’t, probably because they were in a hurry or what not,” he said.
Sydney Water reported that 150 customers were affected by the theft, with residents of at least two apartment blocks left with no running water for approximately seven hours.
Without access to water, Mr Joy and his wife had no choice but to take the day off work. And after hours of waiting for a solution, they eventually had to head over to a friend’s house.
“We just take it for granted because it always comes from the taps,” Mr Joy said.
His neighbour had noticed issues with the water at 5am that morning and had to go to a friend’s house nearby to get ready for work. It was a little more difficult for his sister who was working from home that day.
Ryan from the Insight Plumbing Group, who attended the emergency call out on Tuesday and reported it to the police, said they “weren’t shocked” by the theft.
“It’s all been a bit crazy,” he told news.com.au.
While the plumbers responded to the call out, it was still hours before they were able to turn the water on, having to travel to three different stores to find the correct replacement parts.
“We were there at 7:15am but with the run around for parts we weren’t able to get the water back on until 1pm,” Ryan said.
Bolts from a water meter across the road were also stolen, according to Ryan, who believes the thieves “got spooked” before they could steal the entire pipe and meter.
“They took out a few down this street and over in Fifth Avenue,” he said.
During their trek to their friend’s place, Mr Joy and his wife heard from the taxi driver — a Blacktown local — that this sort of theft is common in the area.
The driver suggested to the couple that people sell the copper pipes from the water meters to make a buck.
However, working on metal water services comes with the risk of electric shock, which has left Mr Joy scratching his head.
“I can’t understand why people would do it,” he said.
“They’re putting a lot on the line just for that scrap metal value.”
However, a resident in an apartment block down the road, who’s lived there for over a decade, said he’d never heard of any water meter thefts in the area.
A motive for stealing these meters is unclear. Some believe that thieves may be selling the water meters as scrap metal. However, there’s also a chance people may be using stolen water meters in between scheduled readings to avoid large water bills.
For now, though, the Insight Plumbing Group were able to replace the piping and get the water back on for Mr and Mrs Joy and the two apartment blocks while Sydney Water added big bolts onto the pipes.
Sydney Water provided a statement, saying an investigation is underway.
“Crews responded to the issue as a high priority, with full services restored to around 150 customers. Sydney Water is investigating if supply was disrupted as the result of water meter theft in the area.”
However, they’re yet to replace the meter in Mr Joy’s building.
NSW police did not comment when approached by news.com.au.