A new study suggests that pumping a large amount of groundwater for irrigation in California’s agriculture belt can increase the risk of small earthquakes. There have been reports of immoderate pumping of groundwater in San Andreas Fault.
Findings were released on Wednesday by the journal, Nature. GPS readings discovered areas of the San Joaquin Valley floor have been sinking for years through the gradual depletion of the aquifer while the surrounding mountains are being uplifted. The study suggests that human activities are causing the movement of the Earth’s crust and upper mantel.
In the past 100 years, the amount of groundwater drawn from the Central Valley for agricultural proposes is equivalent to the volume of Lake Tahoe. The drought is expected to enhance the problem as communities tap into groundwater faster than it can be replenished.
The earthquake dilemma comes into play due to the San Andreas Fault running parallel to the valley. Scientists say the upward flexing of the surrounding land can trigger small quakes. Although, it is not clear if long-term stresses from groundwater extraction has anything bearing on the future large quakes on the fault.
Crisscrossing California, the San Andreas is the most significant fault. The fault is responsible for some of the most devastating seismic disasters in state history, including the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that reduced much of the city to rubble.
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