Debunking the Debunkers: Dams Really Can Trigger Quakes

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Even with our limited knowledge on RIS (which can be partly attributed to a falling off of funding since the 1960s), scientists recognize the key factors controlling the probability of RIS, including water volume, height of water column, local geology, and water level fluctuations.

The important thing now is to practice “the precautionary principle.” One good example of this is the Auburn Dam in California. A 1975 quake triggered by Oroville Dam, which was built on a fault previously thought inactive, led to the suspension of Auburn Dam, then being constructed in a nearby watershed. If Auburn Dam had been built, and failed, it would have overwhelmed Folsom Dam downstream and completely flooded Sacramento. Even with the suspension of Auburn, the Oroville region isn’t safe from future RIS and subsequent dam failure. If Oroville were to fail, more than 90,000 people in the area would be at risk. California, I hope you’re ready.