Our Mission and Vision
The mission of the California Geological Survey is to provide scientific products and services about the state’s geology, seismicity, forests and watersheds, and mineral resources that affect the health, safety, and business interests of the people of California. We envision a future in which geoscience information fully informs policy decisions, rural and urban planning, resource development, and infrastructure investments at the state, county and local levels to ensure the safety and prosperity of all Californians.
The California Geological Survey operates the following major programs:
Burned Watershed Geohazards Program - BWGP
After wildfire, communities within and downstream of burned watersheds are subject to destructive debris flows and flash floods. These events pose public safety concerns including potential loss of lives and destruction of property and public infrastructure. In many of California’s post-wildfire catastrophes, wildfire has occurred in late fall months just before the wet season, providing little or no time for community emergency managers to prepare for storms and catastrophic mud and debris flow. To help California adapt to these risks that are likely to increase due to climate change, the legislature and governor approved the funding for the Burned Watershed Geohazards Program within CGS. This program is tasked with helping communities prepare by proactively developing maps of mud and debris flow risk considering warming climate conditions, and by evaluating risks posed to life and property after wildfire.
The Forest and Watershed Geology Program provides technical information and advice about landslides, slope stability, erosion, sedimentation, and other geological hazards across the state's watershed and parkland areas. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Parks and Recreation, Regional Water Quality Control Boards, other state, federal, and local agencies, industries, and the public use these data as they make land-use decisions on California forested lands and rural watersheds. The program publishes maps for select areas where critical forestry-related land-use decisions are being made, and provides technical services and advice regarding slope stability, erosion, sedimentation, and watercourse restoration for projects led by various state and local agencies. The Forest and Watershed Geology Program performs vital geological reviews of Timber Harvesting Plans under AB1492, along with CAL FIRE, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards.
The Regional Geologic and Landslide Mapping Program was established to prepare and maintain a baseline source of current and scientifically correct information on the geology of California. Basic geologic mapping is the foundation for any comprehensive study undertaken to evaluate earth-science and geology-related environmental issues that impact California's many communities. RGMP geologists map the geology of the state and its offshore continental margin at various scales. The program also publishes landslide and landslide hazard maps, and provides technical advice regarding slope stability and landslides. The products of this program form the foundation for all other Survey analyses.
The Mineral Resources and Mineral Hazards Program provides unbiased, technical information about the availability and consumption of non-fuel mineral resources in California to federal, state and local government agencies, industry, and the public. This information enables these agencies and organizations to make better informed land-use and long-term planning decisions that will impact the economic and environmental future of their communities, regions, and the state. Additionally, this Program provides technical assistance on issues related to mineral hazards such as radon, heavy metals, and naturally occurring asbestos in the environment to agencies such as the California Air Resources Board, local Air Pollution Control Districts, Regional Water Quality Control Boards, California Department of Public Health, California Department of Transportation, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The Mineral Resources and Mineral Hazards Program has also been involved, through the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, in providing baseline information for characterizing the potential for geologic sequestration for carbon dioxide (CO2) in California.
The Seismic Hazards Program delineates areas prone to ground failure and other earthquake-related hazards including soil liquefaction, earthquake-induced landslides, surface fault rupture, and tsunami inundation. Cities and counties are required to use these maps in their land-use planning and building permit processes so that these hazards are identified and mitigated for development projects prior to the next major earthquake. Additionally, the program reviews and provides comments on geologic and seismic hazards that apply directly to the design and construction of essential and critical facilities around the state. These facilities include schools, hospitals, nuclear power plants, hazardous waste repositories, and others, typically under contract to other state agencies. The program compiles information about past earthquakes, the potential for earthquakes on major faults, and rates of deformation across California to estimate the potential for future earthquakes. The Seismic Hazards Program works closely with the U.S. Geological Survey to produce earthquake shaking maps that are used in development of building codes and in earthquake damage and loss estimates.
The California Strong Motion Instrumentation Program obtains critical data for structural engineering and seismological purposes through a statewide network of strong-motion instruments. These instruments, installed both on the ground and in hundreds of different types of structures, are monitored and maintained by CSMIP. This program currently oversees approximately 1,300 strong motion stations (over 8,500 instruments) across the state.
Strong shaking on the ground and in structures caused by earthquakes is recorded and provided to structural engineers to help design earthquake-resilient structures. CSMIP data, also, are used to aid emergency response personnel following an earthquake, help improve building codes, and assist local governments in their general plan development process. The Strong Motion Instrumentation Program has partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to establish the Center for Engineering Strong Motion Data, which processes, archives, and makes available to the structural engineering community vital earthquake strong motion data from around the world.