San Andreas Fault Stressed By Irrigation

By: Lindsay McCane - May 14, 2014

On Wednesday, the journal of Nature released their most recent findings regarding the San Andreas Fault.

According to the study, excessive irrigation could be aggravating the fault, causing more frequent earthquakes. GPS readings have shown that parts of the floor of the San Joaquin Valley have been diminishing while the nearby mountains are being lifted higher. These motions are causing stress on the nearby faults, including the San Andreas.

Colin Amos, the lead researcher and a geologist at Western Washington University, wrote an email about their findings. “The magnitude of these stress changes is exceedingly small compared to the stresses relieved during a large earthquake,” he said.

Paul Lundgren of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who did not take part in the research, explained that human activities “can cause significant unclamping of the nearby San Andreas Fault system.”

Shockingly, in the past 100 years, the amount of groundwater that has been lost through irrigation in the Central Valley is equivalent to the amount of water in Lake Tahoe. The current drought that has bombarded California has also contributed to the loss of groundwater, as the community is having to tap into their supply.

The San Andreas Fault is one of the largest in California, running approximately 800 miles from just north of San Francisco to the Salton Sea near the United States/Mexico border.

Scientists have revealed that if a magnitude 7.8 earthquake were to occur near the southern part of the fault, it could cause the deaths of nearly 1,800 people and $200 billion in damages.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

Lindsay McCaneLindsay McCane is a writer, student, wife, and mom to a two-year-old little boy. She loves to read, write, and spend time with her family. Follow her on Twitter @lrmccane.

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  • Carl Mennare

    It will happen, it is just a matter of when. In my opinion it is not worth the risk to life and property to live near there no matter how nice the weather may be. I will stick with Michigan, I can always add another layer of clothing it is kind of hard to replace property that has slid off into the ocean.

    • Amanda Reckenwithe

      Typical uninformed answer….

      • Carl Mennare

        Nah Amanda, my problem is that I am very informed. I know the land isn’t going to slide into the ocean, I was being facetious. But, $200 Billion in property damage and 1800 dead??? No thank-you, not when a simple relocation will solve that problem.

  • Amanda Reckenwithe

    So, we’re now, in pre-clampsis?

  • Guest

    Transform faults do not cause the land to slide off into the ocean….

    • Carl Mennare

      It was a joke, but the main issue is that even the experts agree $200Billion in damages or more, I have no desire to be a part of that. Same reason why I don’t live in Washington or Oregon the Pacific Subduction zone is going to pop and set off some major damage, as it is right now the Continental shelf has been pushed back 18″ in the last 20 years according to the USGS. Last year, according to USGS, Oklahoma had 187 earthquakes above 2.0, this year from Jan. 1 to April 15, they have had 145, some people are blaming fracking, but if that is true then why no earthquakes at all of the other fracking sites? Oklahoma is only 500 miles or so from New Madrid and it is possible that the New Madrid fault line may be acting up again, last time was in the early 1811-1812 a series of earthquakes geologists estimate at 8.0 or greater.