A new report from a group of scientists and academics calls for statewide action to predict and mitigate Arizona’s growing problem with earth fissures.
Fissures are potentially dangerous ground cracks that have been found in the San Tan area of Pinal County as well as elsewhere in the state.
The Arizona Land Subsidence Group developed the report, which is being published by the Arizona Geological Survey at its Web site.
“The report really makes recommendations to the state and the science community to what the next logical steps would be to understanding fissures and mitigating them,” said Michael Conway, spokesman for the Arizona Geological Survey.
Earth fissures are subsidence cracks caused by groundwater harvesting and are commonly exposed during heavy rains. A report issued by the Arizona Geological Survey earlier this year showed that three-quarters of the state’s fissures are located in rural Pinal County.
As the state’s population grows, the need for water may cause further groundwater harvesting, possibly resulting in more fissures.
Conway said the group was originally created to investigate subsidence and ways to minimize its impact on the Arizona public. The Arizona Geological Survey asked the group to serve as an advisory committee for its state-mandated Earth Fissure Mapping Program.
Right now, the Arizona Geological Survey is working to map all of the earth fissures in Arizona, starting with the Chandler Heights area south of Queen Creek.
That area was selected for the first map because of the growth and the need to show developers and residents where fissures could pose a hazard, said state geologist Todd Shipman, who is heading up the mapping project.
“Mapping is just the first step in a broader effort,” Conway said, noting that it also needs to include the prediction and mitigation of fissures.
The report calls on the state’s geoscience, geotechnical, academic and engineering communities to establish a monitoring program to track fissures throughout south-central Arizona, create an online clearinghouse to store and distribute information, challenge Arizona’s universities to establish research centers dedicated to the study of subsidence and fissures, and partner with neighboring states facing similar subsidence issues.
The report also calls for integrating new knowledge of fissures into publications that can be distributed widely.
“This is foundational information for policy- and decision makers in the state,” Conway said.