Dam May Have Triggered China Quake

Weight of water may have triggered the earthquake early
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2009 12:22 PM CST
The Zipingpu Dam in Sichuan province is seen in a 2008 file photo. Pressure from the reservoir's water weighing on geologic fault lines may have helped trigger a devastating earthquake.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The damming-up of 320 million tons of water in a reservoir above a geological fault line may have contributed to the earthquake that left 80,000 dead or missing last year in China’s Sichuan province, US and Chinese geologists say. Whether or not the scientists are right, the suggestion is likely to spark political turmoil in China, reports the New York Times.

Experts stress that though the weight of water in Zipingpu Reservoir could have triggered the magnitude 7.9 temblor, the earth would almost certainly have shifted on its own anyway sometime during the next couple of centuries. The question is a volatile one, however, as China is constructing additional hydroelectric dams in the earthquake-prone southwest.