September 26, 2020

Water everywhere after Napa Quake — but it’s no drought solution for California


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Vallejo-Water-Surge-01Vallejo-Water-Surge-02Vallejo-Water-Surge-03Vallejo-Water-Surge-04Vallejo-Water-Surge-ThumbnailBy Katie Sola From Mashable

The Napa 6.0-magnitude earthquake has released tens of thousands of gallons of groundwater into the area’s drought-dry creek beds.

Locals are thrilled — but a geologist warns the babbling brooks could deplete scarce water supplies rather than add to them.

Three Sonoma Valley creeks, and two in the counties of Solano and Napa, saw increases in water flow after the quake, according to the local Press Democrat. U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Tom Holzer said the Survey has received reports of eight streams flowing more than usual.

“It’s common enough that geologists are not surprised when it happens,” Holzer told Mashable. He added that the earthquake most likely increased the permeability of uphill water reserves, so more water is released downhill faster.

“The water table is declining in the upper part of the hills, and rising in the lower part,” Holzer said.

The sudden increase certainly thrilled locals. “The sound is delightful,” Richard Grahman, who lives next to the newly engorged Carriger Creek in Sonoma, told the Press Democrat. “It’s a good flow. You can kayak this practically,” Napa resident Mike Smith told the Napa Valley Register.

Full streams are also a welcome sight during California’s historic drought. 77% of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought as of June; water shortages are expected to cost $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs in the long run.

Franz Nestlerode, assistant public works director in Sonoma County, told the San Francisco Chronicle his department is testing samples of the 200,000 gallons of water surging past the water-treatment plant every day on Wild Horse Creek, to see if it’s safe to use.

But the lavish flow won’t last for long — because it’s not new water bubbling up from deep underground, Holzer said.

Chemical testing shows that the water comes from shallow aquifers several hundred feet below the surface.Water flow will return to normal in three to five months, which means upland shallow wells could run dry because the water has drained out of elevated areas.

“I like to look at it as when you overdraw your bank account,” Holzer explained. “You discover a few weeks later that you spent money you wish you hadn’t.”

IMAGE: Vallejo-water-surge-thumbnail Green Vally Creek in Fairfield California on September 10th 2014. After the earthquake on the 24th of August in Napa, several creeks and rivers throughout Green Valley saw an unusual increase in water flow. IMAGE: SAM WOLSON/MASHABLE





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