There have been many people complain about fracking causing earthquakes. At first, it was considered nonsense. Now it looks possible.
Fracking: Fracking itself has not yet caused a major earthquake. The largest directly related to the process was 3.6 on the Richter scale. That doesn’t mean that every aspect of fracking can’t.
This was put forward after a 5.6 earthquake in central Oklahoma in 2011. The problem wasn’t the fracking, it was where they stored the waste water and how much was stored in one place. There have been and probably will be others.
Deep water wells: The San Joaquin Valley has been using deep water wells for about 150 years. There have been times when sufficient rain fell to replenish the underground aquifers, but not right now. The area is experiencing the worst drought in state history.
Geologists have noticed a rise in both the Sierra Nevada and the Coastal mountain ranges. They amount is small, 1-3 centimeters, but it’s definite. There is also subsidence (sinking) of the valley itself.
The San Andreas Fault runs through this valley. This movement suggests that stress is building up on the fault line. While geologists are still looking into the matter, the current theory is that the depletion of underground aquifers is putting added stress on the fault.
Understanding earthquakes: This isn’t going to be a full blown geological explanation. It will give you the background to understand the concerns. The simplest understanding is that the ground moves. For the purposes of this article, the most important factors are potential size and the area most likely to suffer damage.
The size of an earthquake is measured on the Richter Scale. There are many small quakes and they have been caused by fracking. There is a debate about whether there have been small quakes due to ground water removal, but it’s at the least probable.
A 3.6 can be frightening, particularly if you are near the fault line. It may break a few things, knock things off tables and so forth, but that’s probably the limit of the damage. A 5.6 can damage buildings and cause injuries. It’s not just twice the size of a 3.6, the scale gives each percentage point a ten times value.
In the case of the San Andreas, the potential size is from six points to over seven points. It will depend largely on how much of the fault ruptures. This is moderate to severe in range. There are some large cities in that area. The damage and loss of life could be high.
There is almost no way we can stop ground water from being used anywhere. People, plants and animals need drinking water. There is a way to stop the fracking problem. It means stop fracking. Whether or not that will happen is unknown.