Groundwater Withdrawals Causing Land-surface Elevation


Groundwater Level Declines Continue to Cause Land Elevation Loss in Houston – Galveston Region

Groundwater withdrawn from the Chicot, Evangeline, and Jasper aquifers has been the primary source of water for municipal supply, industrial and commercial use, and irrigation in the Houston-Galveston region since the early 1900s. The USGS monitors and studies the occurrence of water in these aquifers and rates of subsidence so that decision makers can make informed choices on how to manage this finite resource.

This new USGS report is the latest in an annual series depicting water-level altitudes and groundwater-level changes in the Chicot, Evangeline and Jasper aquifers. During the 38 years of the study, the amount of subsidence at monitoring stations ranges from 0.1 feet at the Texas City-Moses Lake site in Galveston County, Texas to more than 3.6 feet at the Addicks station in Harris County. Water levels in the southeast parts of the study area, to include the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers, have generally continued to rise since 1977. However, water levels of the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers in northwestern Harris County and the Jasper aquifer in Montgomery and northern Harris County, have generally declined.

“Subsidence, or the loss of land-surface elevation, can become a public safety concern during a flood, high-intensity rain event, or hurricane,” said USGS scientist Mark Kasmarek.

The study was prepared in cooperation with the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District, City of Houston, Fort Bend Subsidence District, Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, and the Brazoria County Groundwater Conservation District. The report, which contains various maps depicting water-level altitudes, short-term and long-term water-level changes, and measured subsidence, is available online.

“Long-term monitoring of groundwater resources is important to understand the impacts of development and changes in water-use on the resource and subsidence,” said Mike Turco, General Manager of the Harris Galveston and Fort Bend Subsidence Districts. “The data we get from the USGS is imperative in helping us make sound resource management decisions that benefit the public and the environment.”

The Houston-Galveston region, Texas—consisting of Harris, Galveston, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Brazoria, Chambers, Liberty, San Jacinto, Walker, Grimes, and Waller Counties—represents one of the largest areas of land-surface subsidence in the United States. By 1979, as much as 10 feet of subsidence had occurred in the Houston-Galveston region, and approximately 3,200 square miles of the 11,000 square-mile geographic area had subsided more than one foot.

Source: The Pasadena Citizen

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