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Health, Science, Environment

Where can we find water after the Big One?

After the next big earthquke, many Bay Area residents will find themselves without water. What’s next, and where should they expect help?A massive California earthquake with a 7.0 magnitude has a 51 percent chance of hitting the Bay Area within the next 25 years. When that happens, 800 people could lose their lives, homes in liquefaction zones could collapse, and high rise buildings could become unusable for nearly 10 months.

But just as importantly, all this movement in the ground may be too much for some pipes to handle.
Betsy Laupe Rhodes, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, points out that the SFPUC’s water system crosses every fault in the area, sometimes multiple times. These pipes serve 2.7 million customers in the Bay Area.

According to Rhodes, the earthquake could do quite a number on the pipes. “The pipelines could smash like a tin can. The pressures could rip it apart like a toilet paper roll tube,” she says.

If this happens and the people are stranded without water, agencies are poised to set up “points of distribution,” or places for people to get water.

According to Oakland Emergency Services Manager Toshia Shavies Marshall, these points of distribution would be at big, undamaged buildings, like schools. Residents can find them via government alert apps, websites, and emergency broadcasts.

“I sign up to my local alerts and I love it because when there's something that first responders need to tell you, you get it immediately,” says Rhodes.

After a major earthquake, Bay Area officials say full water services will be restored within seven months. In the meantime, Allison Kastama of East Bay MUD says, Bay Area water agencies can share water with each other if necessary.

“It's not going to be the full capacity of our system, but it does give us enough that we can start bringing water into the undamaged portions of the system,” says Kastama.

East Bay MUD serves 1.4 million residents living in the eastern district.

Listener, Lena Ohlson says she and her roommate are now now having more conversations about earthquake preparedness because of this information.

She says, “We’re definitely going to see some really intense things in our lifetimes, so we should be prepared for that.”