California’s water use linked to earthquakes along San Andreas fault

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 10:50pm


The water use that helped produce California's agricultural bounty may be increasing the chances of earthquakes along the San Andreas fault.

A new study, published in Nature this week, said groundwater depletion in California's Central Valley was putting additional pressures on the fault. The paper is among the first to attribute a human component to earthquakes along the San Andreas fault.

The researchers used data from GPS networks to analyse the tiny movements in the Central Valley and the surrounding mountains, where an estimated 160 km {+3} of groundwater has been lost through pumping, irrigation and evaporation over the past 150 years.

The mountains surrounding the valley have also been undergoing tiny shifts each summer and autumn, moving upwards as the seasonal snowpack melts. Those competing pressures have brought the San Andreas fault closer to failure, the researchers said.

The Guardian