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Laurence B. James

The role of engineering geology in building the California state water project

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The State of California is blessed with an adequate but maldistributed water supply. Approximately two-thirds of its rainfall occurs in the north, largely during winter months, while the greatest demand for water is in the south. A $2.3 billion water project has been constructed to capture and regulate flood and other surplus waters and convey them to areas of need within the State.

A staff of 128 engineering geologists investigated more than 100 variations of alignment for the 1,100 kilometer aqueduct and the sites for its 21 dams, 6 powerplants, and 22 pumping stations. This paper considers three select studies which influenced the routing of the State Water Project and its design and construction:

(1) the earthquake hazards imposed by the San Andreas and other active faults;

(2) four kinds of land subsidence with which the aqueduct had to contend; and

(3) the development of a procedure for estimating costs of tunnel construction based upon geologic factors.

To cite this article

Laurence B. James, «The role of engineering geology in building the California state water project», Annales de la Société géologique de Belgique [En ligne], Publications spéciales = special publications, La géologie de l'ingénieur - Centenaire de la Société géologique de Belgique, 1974, 237-258 URL :

About: Laurence B. James

State of California, Resources Agency, Department of Water Resources, P.O. Box 388, Sacramento 95802, U.S.A.