Collapse of major dam due to earthquakes would cause mass floods in California, federal agency warns

An agency in the US warned that a powerful earthquake could cause the Anderson Reservoir in California to collapse

A federal agency in the US has ordered a water district to drain a major reservoir to prevent a potential disaster. According to experts, a powerful earthquake could cause the Anderson Reservoir in California to collapse, causing mass floods in nearby regions.

The Anderson Reservoir, which is located in California's Santa Clara County, is an artificial lake that can hold up to 111 billion litres of water. The entire lake is enclosed by a dam that's about 73 metres high.

Draining The Anderson Reservoir


Due to its massive size and location, which is prone to earthquakes, experts fear that the reservoir is in danger of collapsing. Due to concerns over a potential disaster, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which owns Anderson Reservoir, to drain the dam, Fox News reported.

According to FERC, the reservoir should be drained starting on October 1. Currently, it only holds about 74 percent of its total capacity due to concerns that a magnitude 7.2 or higher earthquake could cause the dam to break.

Threat Posed By Elevated Dam

Representational Image of an earthquake
Representational Image of an earthquake Reuters

The order to drain the dam was issued through a letter penned by David Capka, the director of FERC's Division of Dam Safety and Inspections. In the letter, the agency official noted that since the reservoir was constructed at an elevated position, it poses a huge threat to nearby populated areas.

"It is unacceptable to maintain the reservoir at an elevation higher than necessary when it can be reduced, thereby decreasing the risk to public safety and the large population downstream," Capka stated.

Mass Flooding Caused By Dam's Collapse

After receiving details of the order, the Santa Clara Valley Water District agreed to begin draining the reservoir this year. In an official statement, the water district noted that it is well-aware of the possible dangers that the dam poses in the event of a powerful earthquake. According to the water district, previous reports have shown that a powerful earthquake could cause the dam to collapse, sending an uncontrollable amount of water to flood nearby areas.

"Studies have shown a large earthquake could damage Anderson Dam, causing an uncontrolled release of water that could inundate cities and rural areas from San Francisco Bay south to Monterey Bay, including much of Silicon Valley," the water district stated.