Throughout the state, there are more than 100 active faults that
have produced earthquakes resulting in widespread damage and
deaths. In Southern California alone, since 1933, there have been
23 significant quakes of magnitude 5.9 or greater. The San
Andreas Fault, the major fault line running through California,
is expected to be the source for a major earthquake. It was the
source for the earthquake that leveled San Francisco in 1906.
Water infrastructure is vulnerable to earthquakes:
* In the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, man-made levees
dating back to 1850 are identified as at risk when a major
* The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates a magnitude
7.8 temblor on the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault will
cause major damage to infrastructure, including water lines and
A panel of experts in Southern California also has identified the
following risks as a result of a major earthquake:
* Likely major damage to the main aqueducts bringing water
to Southern California from Northern California and the Colorado
River. Repairs may be hampered due to damaged roads and
* In the following days after a major quake, there may be
no water available due to infrastructure breaks and loss of
power. After that, repairs will bring supplies online slowly.
Water districts and agencies have prepared earthquake
preparedness and emergency plans to address the emergency.
Also, groundwater basins will be used as emergency reservoirs to
make up the water shortages when imported supplies are
It’s been about eight years since the Salton Sea was the
epicenter of a swarm of earthquakes, but the abundance of
temblors doesn’t necessarily indicate a larger one to
come, a renowned seismologist says.
Researchers at the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and the
campus department of earth and planetary sciences gained new
insight into the movement of tectonic plates as a result of the
multi-year study published Friday in the journal Science.
UC San Diego has found evidence that large
earthquakes can quickly produce powerful and potentially
dangerous aftershocks on nearby faults, an insight that
could aid experts planning for how to deal with seismic hazards
In the Bay Area, more than $22 billion in infrastructure
upgrades since Loma Prieta have built a metropolitan area that
is far safer and far more resilient than before. Major water
pipes are now designed to bend, not break.
Facing threats of earthquakes, wildfires and floods, almost
200 Southern California cities depend too much on big
government to protect them, which will lead to slower recovery
time when “the big one” hits, according to experts on disaster
U.S. Bureau of Land Management senior geologist Gregg Wilkerson
was happy to respond Wednesday to a new study showing the
Bakersfield area slowly sinking and other areas in California
slowly rising as a result of seismic strain from
the San Andreas Fault.
Cutting beneath the lower Mississippi River, the New Madrid
fault is a T-shaped geological hazard that is primed for a
fierce tremor. A magnitude 7.7 earthquake where the fault
crosses the Missouri-Tennessee border would be devastating,
snapping water distribution pipes and toppling power lines in
seven states, as far as 200 miles from the epicenter.
For the first time, scientists have produced a computer image
showing huge sections of California rising and
sinking around the San Andreas fault. …The breakthrough
accomplished by [Sam] Howell and his team involved writing a
computer code that filtered out how the land was rising or
falling from non-seismic factors.
Findings published in the journal Nature Geoscience
indicate a “small-amplitude, but spatially considerable,
coherent pattern of uplift and subsidence straddling the fault
system in southern California.”
The Pacific Northwest kicks off a massive earthquake and
tsunami drill Tuesday as part of a multiday event to rehearse
scenarios on how the region would deal with a dual natural
disaster that could kill thousands, cut off coastal
communities, and collapse phone and internet service.
On Tuesday, as many as 20,000 people across Washington, Oregon,
California and Idaho, mainly federal employees, will begin a
four-day exercise called “Cascadia Rising” — a trial run at
responding to a massive magnitude 9.0 quake on the Cascadia
Subduction Zone off the northwest coast near here, and the
tsunami that would inevitably accompany it.
Southern California’s section of the San Andreas fault is
“locked, loaded and ready to roll,” a leading earthquake
scientist said Wednesday at the National Earthquake Conference
in Long Beach. … Other areas of focus have included
strengthening Los Angeles’ vulnerable aqueduct systems and its
Scientists say the Sierra’s eastern front is long overdue for a
large earthquake along the California-Nevada line, where a
magnitude-7 event expected on average every 30 years hasn’t
occurred in six decades.
In a significant step for the largest reservoir project in the
Bay Area in 20 years, workers have finished building the
spillway — a massive concrete channel as wide as eight
lanes of freeway and a quarter mile long — at Calaveras Dam
near the Alameda-Santa Clara county line.
The Rancho California Water District is looking into the
feasibility of building a new dam at Vail Lake to augment the
existing structure, a 68-year-old mass of concrete that has
been deemed “deficient” by a state agency.
The renowned U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones has
studied our earthquakes, and gone on television time and again
to give us information and comfort. Now the “Earthquake Lady”
is retiring – but still kind of wishing, in the nicest possible
way, for a chance to experience a Big One.
Now [Lucy] Jones hopes to leverage her earthquake credentials
to tackle even more ambitious projects. She’s retiring from the
USGS this month to help officials develop science-based
policies related to climate change, tsunamis and other kinds of
San Francisco is having a fire sale on spare parts for the
city’s 100-year-old emergency water supply system — the network
of high-pressure pipes and hydrants designed to help
firefighting efforts should city water mains fail in a major
More than five years after Oklahoma first saw a startling spike
in earthquakes linked to the disposal of huge volumes of
wastewater created by hydraulic fracturing for oil, the state
continues to shake at an unprecedented rate and the number of
strong quakes is increasing.
UC Santa Cruz researcher Thomas Goebel suggests that, in fact,
we do have induced earthquakes here. His latest paper, in the
journal Geophysical Research Letters, is a detailed study of an
earthquake swarm that occurred beneath the Tejon Oil Field
south of Bakersfield on September 22, 2005.
In the last 150 years, Washington state has experienced 15
major earthquakes, and scientists say it’s just a matter of
time before the next one strikes. To get ready, President
Barack Obama’s new budget plan includes $8 million to help
bring an early earthquake warning system online.
A 2005 spate of quakes in California’s Central Valley almost
certainly was triggered by oilfield injection underground, a
study published Thursday said in the first such link in
California between oil and gas operations and earthquakes.
With officials still struggling to find money to create an
earthquake early warning system for the West Coast, a private
foundation, Intel Corp. and an arm of Amazon.com Inc. said they
will pitch in money or other support, officials said at a
White House summit Tuesday.
Seismologists say a full rupture of a 650-mile-long offshore
fault running from Northern California to British Columbia and
an ensuing tsunami could come in our lifetimes, and emergency
management officials are busy preparing for the worst.
State regulators ordered a few years ago that the vast lake
near Morgan Hill in Santa Clara County — which holds more water
than the other nine reservoirs in the county combined — could
not be filled any more than 68 percent full because geologic
tests found that in a major earthquake, its 240-foot high
earthen dam could slump, releasing a wall of water that could
generate a trail of death and destruction all the way to San
The quakes — ranging from the hardly perceptible magnitude 0.8
to a more robust 3.6 — have been occurring every few minutes to
every few hours, rattling residents in the surrounding
communities, particularly San Ramon.
U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle and computer
scientist Michelle Guy are taking social media to a new level,
using Twitter to help detect earthquakes in real time as they
are felt across the globe.
A group of U.S. drilling states, seismologists, academics and
industry experts issued guidance Monday in a frank new report
on handling human-induced earthquakes caused by hydraulic
fracturing or the disposal of fracking wastewater.
More than half a dozen water mains ruptured in the East Bay on
Monday, mostly in and around the areas affected by a magnitude
4.0 earthquake Monday morning, according to the East Bay
Municipal Water District.
An earthquake along the California coast could pose a greater
tsunami threat to the Ventura area than previously understood,
according to a new study published Tuesday by UC Riverside and
U.S. Geological Survey scientists.
The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded $4 million to help push
ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system, closer to
becoming a functioning $38.2 million network on the West Coast.
… The USGS last week announced it awarded about $4 million to
four universities: Caltech, UC Berkeley, University of
Washington and University of Oregon.
[Binod] Tiwari, a civil engineer at the Fullerton university,
has come to Nepal to help lead the Geotechnical Extreme Events
Reconnaissance team, which assesses the damage after
mega-earthquakes … Tiwari and the team, which is
supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, are
examining every bit of infrastructure they come across —
bridges, roads, houses and hydropower projects.
A giant earthquake will strike California this summer.
Skyscrapers will topple, the Hoover Dam will crumble and a
massive tsunami will wash across the Golden Gate Bridge. Or at
least, that’s the scenario that will play out on the big screen
in San Andreas.
In the film, opening this Friday, a previously unknown fault
near the Hoover Dam in Nevada ruptures and jiggles the San
Andreas. … U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough
accompanied The Associated Press to an advance screening of the
Despite concerns from some residents, scientists say two recent
earthquakes centered in the Baldwin Hills area — including one
Sunday morning — do not appear to be connected to drilling
operations at nearby oil fields.
East Bay Municipal Utility District crews were repairing a
minor break to a 12-inch steel water main at North Main Street
and Geary Road in Walnut Creek on Sunday night. The break was
reported at 4:15 p.m., but repair crews could not immediately
determine if the shaking caused the underground break to the
52-year-old water main, said EBMUD spokeswoman Tracie
Many studies have linked the rise in small quakes to the
injection of wastewater into disposal wells, but the Geological
Survey’s report takes the first comprehensive look at where the
man-made quakes are occurring.
New research released Wednesday suggests that the shaking from
“the Big One,” the long-predicted major earthquake on the San
Andreas fault, could trigger additional large temblors on
nearby faults, intensifying the overall seismic impact.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg proposed a Water Seismic Safety (SB664) bill
on Tuesday requiring local water agencies to evaluate their
earthquake risks and suggest ways to keep the water flowing in
the event of a disaster.
A massive earthquake in the central Aleutian Islands in Alaska
could send waves as high as 28 feet crashing into Rodeo Cove
near Sausalito, according to data presented Tuesday at Marin’s
first-ever tsunami preparedness symposium.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s call to strengthen Los Angeles’ water
system — one pillar of his ambitious plan to ready the city for
a major earthquake — would cost as much as $15 billion and
require decades of work, Department of Water and Power
A new California earthquake forecast by the U.S. Geological
Survey and partners revises scientific estimates for the
chances of having large earthquakes over the next several
decades. The Third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture
Forecast, or UCERF3, improves upon previous models by
incorporating the latest data on the state’s complex system of
active geological faults, as well as new methods for
translating these data into earthquake likelihoods.
Reactivated faults that have produced thousands of Oklahoma
earthquakes are capable of causing larger seismic events,
according to U.S. Geological Survey research published today
[March 6] in Geophysical Research Letters. … Several
recent studies have linked Oklahoma earthquakes with the
injection of wastewater from enhanced oil and gas
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has opened
a new 3.5 mile-long tunnel in Sunol Valley, a few miles
east of Fremont, that will transport 265 million gallons of
water a day, on average, to customers of the Hetch Hetchy water
The fault that caused that Napa quake is forecast to move an
additional 2 to 6 inches in the next three years in a hard-hit
residential area, a top federal scientist said at a meeting of
the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Los Angeles gets 88% of its water from three major aqueducts,
flowing from the Colorado River, Owens Valley and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. … Officials have long
warned that a massive temblor on the San Andreas could destroy
key sections of the aqueducts, cutting off the water supply for
more than 22 million people in Southern California.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday proposed the most
ambitious seismic safety regulations in California history —
rules that would require owners to retrofit thousands of
buildings most at risk of collapse during a major earthquake.
… Garcetti is also proposing sweeping plans to protect
aqueducts that supply L.A. with water and ensure firefighters
won’t be left helpless by ruptured pipes as fires burn through
Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and university
researchers suggest that the increased number of temblors
coincides with the injection of wastewater deep underground,
which is part of the process in hydraulic fracturing.
On a map of the whole state, the great earthquake faults of
California look like a pretty simple set of lines that join and
divide in a loose tangle: the San Andreas Fault Zone.
… A new paper in the journal Tectonics (open access) has
begun to lay bare the intricate buried structure south of
Hollister where two major faults come together, the San Andreas
and Calaveras faults.
Marin is the 17th worst place to own a home in the country,
almost as bad as Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Forrest County,
Mississippi, according to a report from the Weather Channel
website weather.com. Earthquake, flood and wildfire risk
combined to land Marin in the list of America’s 50 worst places
to own a house based on natural factors.
It’s been 25 years since a massive quake rocked the Bay Area
just before a World Series game … There have been about
$30 billion worth of upgrades made to roads and water and
The Bay Area is booming, building and growing. But its 7
million residents live under a shadow: a future earthquake that
could devastate the region as much as — or more than — the Loma
Prieta tremor 25 years ago.
A massive earthquake in Southern California could economically
cripple the Los Angeles region, earthquake “czar” Dr. Lucy
Jones warned City Council members during a hearing Wednesday.
… A seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Jones is
working for the city for free for 12 months, helping craft a
report on earthquake preparedness in building safety, water
issues and communication systems.
This week, the $288 million tunnel begins carrying the Bay
Area’s water supply from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite
National Park to the Peninsula, bolstering the dependability of
the region’s water system.
Four highly stressed seismic faults in the Bay Area’s densely
populated San Andreas system are moving on the surface and
could rupture in a major earthquake at any time, according to
scientists tracking their movements. … The scientists’
report was published Monday in the Bulletin of the
Seismological Society of America.
A popular rock climbing area and other recreational facilities
on the southeast side of Lake Perris will be closed for three
years starting this week so that seismic work can begin on the
dam, state officials said.
In greater numbers by the month, residents across north Orange
County are calling for an end to fracking, joining a growing
chorus of Californians demanding a stop to the controversial
oil drilling practice.
An extensive Bay Area News Group survey of our infrastructure
offers much reassurance: Major water pipes are now designed to
bend, not break. … But our readiness to recover from the Big
One gets far from a perfect score — more like a C-plus, say
experts who study quake preparation around the globe.
15-minute DVD that graphically portrays the potential disaster
should a major earthquake hit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“Delta Warning” depicts what would happen in the event of an
earthquake registering 6.5 on the Richter scale: 30 levee breaks,
16 flooded islands and a 300 billion gallon intrusion of salt
water from the Bay – the “big gulp” – which would shut down the
State Water Project and Central Valley Project pumping plants.
This beautifully illustrated 24×36 inch poster,
suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom,
focuses on the theme of Delta sustainability.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land
subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization and fish and
wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action
that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the California Bay-Delta
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management explains the
physical flood control system, including levees; discusses
previous flood events (including the 1997 flooding); explores
issues of floodplain management and development; provides an
overview of flood forecasting; and outlines ongoing flood control
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing
uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta,
its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues
with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural
drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.
This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the
Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at
improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying
California’s long-term water supply reliability.