Earthquake Risks to Sanitation Infrastructure

Earthquake-prone areas - such as the United States' west coast - are at risk of a devastating seismic event. By using alternative, decentralized and waterless systems, we can strengthen community resilience before a seismic event and speed recovery after it.
In the Pacific Northwest, geologists have predicted that we are due for "A Really Big One." (We're talking about earthquakes here!)

The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) megaquake is overdue, based on an analysis of 10,000 years of earthquakes along its length. PHLUSH has been playing a role in education, advocacy, and outreach to answer questions, such as:

  • What’s going to happen to sewer infrastructure? 
  • What are we going to do when the toilets don’t work?
  • Do we have the knowledge and materials we need to build safe, functional household and multi-household toilet systems?
  • Shouldn’t we plan now for more resilient sanitation systems?
The release of the Oregon Resilience Plan in February 2013 predicted how a 0.9M CSZ quake could devastate sewers.

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management outlines several aspects of disaster preparedness, including their Oregon Resilience Plan. Predictions for sewer infrastructure include:

  • A much longer recovery time for sewer and wastewater systems than for drinking water systems.
  • For Portland, controlling threats to public health and routing sewage away from population will take an estimated 6 to 12 months
  • Repairing collection systems that convey sewage to wastewater treatment plans will take 1-3 years.
  • Recovery times are much longer for the coastal zone, where it will take 1 to 3 years just to control threats to public health and route sewage away from population. The rest will take more than 3 years.
We (and our partners) have developed resources for communities and households to prepare and respond to an emergency sanitation situation.

CLICK HERE to learn more about how to prepare with decentralized, sustainable sanitation solutions for your community and household!


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