Will Auckland's infrastructure cope in a volcanic eruption?

EQC-funded researcher might have just found the answer

Will Auckland's infrastructure cope in a volcanic eruption?

Insurance News

By Krizzel Canlas

Auckland’s key infrastructure is likely buried deeply enough that it would not be impacted during a short volcanic eruption, says one student researcher.

Sophia Tsang, an Earthquake Commission (EQC)-funded researcher at University of Auckland, is trying to find out how a lava flow could impact Auckland’s underground water pipes and power cables. They could, she explains, heat up and potentially limit water, sewerage and power service to parts of the city.

“The length of time the lava flow is active strongly controls how much heat is transferred into the ground below,” she explains.

Tsang noted that damage to pipes and cables is definitely something other places, such as Hawaii, have been concerned about during eruptions. Currently, her team is observing Kilauea’s ongoing eruptions to learn what happens to water supply in the area.

Tsang conducted her tests at the end of last year at Syracuse University’s Lava Project in the USA. EQC said her research will now focus on determining where lava would flow in a series of eruptive scenarios developed by the Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland (DEVORA) research programme. She will then take her work from the Lava Project to investigate potential impacts to buried infrastructure for the scenarios she models.

“These results will help planners and infrastructure providers reduce the risk of water, sewerage and power failing across a wide area if there is a lava flow,” Tsang added. “And with Auckland built on 53 volcanoes, it’s something we need to think about.”

According to EQC research manager Richard Smith, the research will be a great addition to studies on reducing the impact of a volcanic eruption on Auckland.

“Communities rely on infrastructure to keep functioning after a natural disaster,” Smith noted. “Even if your house is undamaged, you will only be able to stay there if you have services like water, sewerage and power. 

“Research like Sophia’s helps understand what could happen to infrastructure in a volcanic eruption now, and also help planners working on future projects avoid these kinds of hazards,” he added.



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