Deformation Near the Coyote Creek Fault, Imperial County, California: Tectonic or Groundwater-Related?

Rob Mellors

Published February 6, 2003, SCEC Contribution #874

Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) measurements show a consistent, 40-km2 wedge-shaped area of deformation partially bounded by a branch of the Coyote Creek fault (a southern extension of the San Jacinto fault) in Imperial County, California, west of the Salton Sea. The deformation is centered at 33.1 N latitude, 116.0 W longitude. 18 ERS-1 and ERS-2 (descending) interferograms falling within 1992 to 2000 are analyzed. An average line-of-sight range change over the area of 6 ± 3 mm per year away from the satellite is observed with peak values up to 12 ± 3 mm per year. The southwestern edge of the deformation is partially bounded by a fault segment that ruptured in the 1968 Mw 6.5 Borrego Mountain earthquake and which also showed triggered slip after the 1987 Superstition Hills earthquakes. The southeastern edge of the deformation also coincides with a mapped fault. The deformation is centered on a farming area that has pumped approximately 5.8 × 10−6 m3 per year of groundwater from 5 wells on the property and which shows declining water levels of 1.4 m per year. The area of highest change appears to be centered on location of the wells and away from the faults. The aquifer is at a depth of roughly 100 to 200 m and consists of sands with interbedded clays. It appears that the most likely explanation is subsidence due to groundwater withdrawal in a fault-bounded aquifer rather than tectonic slip.

Mellors, R. (2003). Deformation Near the Coyote Creek Fault, Imperial County, California: Tectonic or Groundwater-Related?. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 4(2), 1012. doi: 10.1029/2001GC000254.