Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 59, Issue 7, pp 1515–1524

Anthropogenic subsidence in the Mexicali Valley, Baja California, Mexico, and slip on the Saltillo fault


    • Department of SeismologyCICESE
  • Olga Sarychikhina
    • Department of SeismologyCICESE
  • Francisco Suárez
    • Department of GeologyCICESE
  • F. Alejandro Nava
    • Department of SeismologyCICESE
  • Robert Mellors
    • Department of GeologySDSU
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12665-009-0137-y

Cite this article as:
Glowacka, E., Sarychikhina, O., Suárez, F. et al. Environ Earth Sci (2010) 59: 1515. doi:10.1007/s12665-009-0137-y


Deep fluid extraction in the Cerro Prieto geothermal field (CPGF) has caused subsidence and induced slip on tectonic faults in the Mexicali Valley (Baja California, Mexico). The Mexicali Valley is located in the southern part of the Salton Trough, at the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates. The Valley is characterized by being a zone of continuous tectonic deformation, geothermal activity, and seismicity. Within the Cerro Prieto pull-apart basin, seismicity is concentrated mainly in swarms, while strong earthquakes have occurred in the Imperial and Cerro Prieto transform faults, that are the eastern and western bound of the basin. Since 1973, fluid extraction at the CPGF has influenced deformation in the area, accelerating the subsidence and causing rupture (frequently as vertical slip or creep) on the surface traces of tectonic faults. Both subsidence and fault slip are causing damage to infrastructure like roads, railroad tracks, irrigation channels, and agricultural fields. Currently, accelerated extraction in the eastern part of CPGF has shifted eastwards the area of most pronounced subsidence rate; this accelerated subsidence can be observed at the Saltillo fault, a southern branch of the Imperial fault in the Mexicali Valley. Published leveling data, together with field data from geological surveys, geotechnical instruments, and new InSAR images were used to model the observed deformation in the area in terms of fluid extraction. Since the electricity production in the CPGF is an indispensable part of Baja California economy, extraction is sure to continue and may probably increase, so that the problem of damages caused by subsidence will likely increase in the future.


Cerro Prieto Geothermal field Fault creep Creep events Subsidence modeling

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© Springer-Verlag 2009