Shark and diver

Dear Evil Engineer: Could I steal a lake to top up my shark-infested moat?

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Evil Engineer turns their attention to a booming area of villainy: water theft.

Dear Evil Engineer,

Earlier this year I bought a derelict castle. I’ve been busy with upkeep, dealing with a bat infestation (the previous owner had chased them out) and fixing the dungeon (it had been converted into a yoga and wellness studio). The final addition will be a shark-filled moat.

I have dug out a deep moat around my castle and now I just need to fill it. However, my water is metered, so I hesitate simply to get out the hosepipe. Could you suggest how I could empty a nearby lake in the dead of night and use the stolen water to fill my moat?

If you also have any time for suggesting how to  transport sharks (I can’t be certain it is impossible to send them whooshing down a pipeline, but I’ve never tried), that would be much appreciated.

An aquatic villain


Dear villain,

Water theft, “a crime as old as time”, as we say, is enjoying a steady revival in the villainy sector. I even included it in last year’s listicle, Top 10 Troublemaking Trends for the 2020s, in Evil & Treachery Magazine. It is poorly policed, making it a great strategic area of growth for thieves, and the sector is booming; according to Interpol, between 30 and 50 per cent of Earth’s water supply is stolen every year.

Large-scale operations tend to involve tapping water supply infrastructure and redirecting it towards farming of enjoyable plants or other water-intensive industries, including many with the appearance of legitimacy.

In your case, unless you have a nearby lake with convenient geography that would allow you to divert outflow to your moat, you will need to pump the donor lake. As you want to finish the job overnight, you will need to set up portable equipment between lake and moat.

The first thing to say is that you must ensure you have access to an industrial drainage pump, as consumer pumps are very unlikely to cut the mustard. For a moat the shape of a tinned pineapple slice, its volume is πd(R2-r2), where d is depth, R is outer radius, and r is inner radius. I don’t know the size of your moat, but to get a grasp of magnitude, let’s stick in some figures: for d=10m, R=50m, r=45m, you’ll need 15,000m3 of water.

An industrial pump, such as an Andritz wastewater and sewage drainage pump, which looks more mobile than most and pumps 10,000m3/hour at 16 bar, would certainly shift enough water overnight even for a much larger moat. However, if you are stuck with consumer pumps, such as an impressive Makita model that pumps 14.4m3/hour, you would not be able to steal a moat’s worth of water overnight (unless your moat is the size of a child’s swimming pool).

Next, to the matter of transporting thousands or tens of thousands of tonnes of water between lake and moat. Although HGVs are sometimes deployed to provide water during emergencies, I would not recommend driving tanks of water back and forth between lake and moat, even if the distance is minimal. In the UK, a six-axle vehicle is not recommended to carry more than 44 tonnes, requiring hundreds of trips. So – unless there is existing pipeline infrastructure handy for hijacking – a temporary pipeline it is. Set up a temporary flexible pipeline of the sort used in the oil industry for rapid deployment: a flexible lay-flat hose of knitted nylon and polyurethane running between the lake and moat. You can purchase lay-flat hose up to around 30cm in diameter, which can withstand around 12 bar.

Next, regarding the transport of sharks. Unless the sharks are very small (and, really, why bother?) the limited diameter of mass-produced lay-flat hose alone is a barrier to sending them whooshing o’er hill and vale into your moat. Thankfully, captive sharks are frequently carried from one place to the next, meaning there is a standard procedure to follow. This involves lowering a shark-sized canvas stretcher into the pool, sea, or other shark-infested body of water of your choice, forklifting the shark from the water, and immediately transferring it to a large fibreglass water tank.

Some species are content to sulk in the bottom of their tank while others, such as the great white, require constant movement and hence a tank large enough to swim in continuous loops during transit while minimising collisions with the walls. For a longer journey, consider using circulating pumps, oxygenators, skimmers, and monitoring equipment, to ensure your shark does not pass away before the night does.

Keep in mind that most species of shark cannot tolerate freshwater (river sharks and bull sharks are among the species that can) and will die if released into a lake. But I’m the Evil Engineer, not your mother, so if you want to kill some sharks, go ahead and kill some sharks. You could even get some soup out of it.

If this heist is well planned and executed, it could be completed in a single night using an HGV with a forklift to drive one big loop. Drive from castle to lake, laying hose as you go; set up pump at lake; pick up sharks using forklift and stash in back of HGV during pumping; return to lake and uninstall pump once enough time has passed to fill moat; drive back to castle rolling up hose as you go; release sharks into moat using that forklift. Good luck!

The Evil Engineer

PS: Alternatively, you could look for an unmetered water tariff.

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