DWR Prepares California Water System for Next ‘Big One’


Logo for Great Shake Out of 2019

2019 Great Shakeout

Earthquakes are a fact of life in California. Every Californian learns at an early age how to prepare for an earthquake: drop and cover, protect your head, and stay clear of heavy objects that could fall.

But what about the critical infrastructure that is foundational to our economy and way of life – roads, bridges, energy and water systems?  As part of the Great Shakeout 2019, which takes place Oct. 17, DWR is sharing how we are preparing the State Water Project (SWP) for the next big earthquake in California.

DWR is committed to public safety and making the necessary investments to protect California’s water system. We remain vigilant and constantly monitor seismic activity with a network of state-of-the-art equipment in more than 100 locations. These instruments provide timely information about the location and intensity of earthquakes; they also provide information used to estimate the potential for damage to critical infrastructure. This information is used to prioritize post-earthquake inspections, help predict how structures respond to earthquake shaking, and guide design decisions for future seismic retrofit projects.

DWR is currently conducting a thorough evaluation to prioritize upgrades for all State Water Project facilities, including 26 dams and 36 water storage facilities. Seismic retrofits are the top priority.

DWR’s seismic upgrade projects currently include:

  • Perris Dam Remediation
  • Sisk Dam Remediation
  • Delta Seismic Study
  • Bridge Seismic Retrofits
  • Seismic Monitoring System Upgrades
  • San Bernardino Intake Tunnel Gate Seismic Triggers
  • Pyramid Dam Modernization Program
  • Outlet Towers Seismic Evaluation (Castaic and Frenchman Dams)
  • Lower Quail Canal Gas Pipeline Seismic Retrofit

Due to California’s unique geology and seismic activity, the seismic resiliency of our State’s dams is paramount. DWR’s Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) is entrusted with regulating 1,200-plus dams across California. Evaluating dams for seismic stability has been a part of our mission for decades, and we regularly work with dam owners to mitigate seismic deficiencies. More than $1.5 billion has been spent on upgrades and repairs at over 100 dams over the last decade.

DWR also works closely with local and federal agencies to monitor and improve the State’s aging flood control infrastructure. We recently finalized the Delta Flood Emergency Management Plan, which details preparedness, response, and recovery activities in the event of earthquake-induced flooding in the low-lying, heavily leveed region of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

In preparation for response to a major earthquake, we integrate our planning, engineering, and operations activities to build resiliency. We evaluate flexibility in our operations, perform recurring assessments, and continually expand our emergency response capabilities.

Earthquakes happen without warning but DWR is preparing for seismic events today so that we can effectively respond in an emergency and protect Californians’ critical water and energy supplies.