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Spanish quake linked to groundwater pumping

Draining aquifers probably triggered deadly 2011 tremor

Farmers and other residents pumping groundwater from Earth’s crust probably triggered an earthquake that killed nine people last year in southeastern Spain, scientists have found.

Sucking up water for decades would have unloaded stresses within the ground and hastened a quake that was likely to happen anyway, says Pablo González, a geologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. 

“Even without the groundwater extraction, the earthquake was overdue,” he says. But human activities provided “a kind of triggering or controlling.”

González and his colleagues report the discovery online October 21 in Nature Geoscience.

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