The operations at the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in southern California triggers seismic activity, according to a study conducted by the geophysicists at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).
According to the study, CalEnergy geothermal field operations involving pumping water into and out of an underground reservoir strongly correlates with earthquakes.
The geophysicists studied the earthquake records for the region from 1981 through 2012 and noted that during low-level geothermal operations before 1986, the rate of earthquakes in the region was also low.
UCSC geophysicist Emily Brodsky said that the study reveals the rate of earthquakes in the Salton Sea is in line with a combination of the volume of fluid removed from the ground for power generation and the volume of wastewater injected.
"The correlation was even better when we used a combination of all the information we had on fluid injection and net extraction. The seismicity is clearly tracking the changes in fluid volume in the ground," added Brodsky.
"The findings show that we might be able to predict the earthquakes generated by human activities. To do this, we need to take a large view of the system and consider both the water coming in and out of the ground."