As is often said, it’s not a matter of if, but of when, a large earthquake strikes the heart of one of California’s most densely populated regions. State officials and local agencies know the clock is ticking, and mile by mile, pipe by pipe, work crews are replacing or retrofitting water lines throughout much of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas. Upgrades have also been made in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the heart of the state’s water distribution system, where potential levee ruptures have made water officials uneasy for decades.
The San Andreas Fault, which generated the 1906 (7.9 magnitude) and the 1989 (6.9 magnitude) Bay Area earthquakes, could potentially produce a quake greater than 8.0. However, the Hayward Fault is widely considered the greater threat at this moment in geologic time. Scientists consider a 7.0 magnitude quake to be the largest likely to occur on the Hayward Fault, an offshoot of the San Andreas that runs through San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond. The Hayward Fault hasn’t slipped significantly since 1868, and experts say it’s overdue for the proverbial “Big One.”
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