Groundwater Level Change Management on Control of Land Subsidence Supported by Borehole Extensometer Compaction Measurements in the Houston-Galveston Region, Texas

Author/Creator ORCID




Civil Engineering


NSF program: Identification of Urban Flood Impacts Caused by Land Subsidence and Sea Level Rise for the Houston-Galveston Region

Citation of Original Publication



As much as 3.05 m of land subsidence was observed in 1979 in the Houston-Galveston region as a result primarily of inelastic compaction of aquitards in the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers between 1937 and 1979. The preconsolidation pressure heads for aquitards within these two aquifers were continuously updated in response to lowering groundwater levels, which in turn was caused by continuously increasing groundwater withdrawal rates from 0.57 to 4.28 million m3/day. This land subsidence occurred without any management of changes in groundwater levels. However, the management of recovering groundwater levels from 1979 to 2000 successfully decreased inelastic compaction from ~ about 40 mm/yr in early 1980s to zero in around 2000 through decreasing groundwater withdrawal rates from 4.3 to 3.0 million m3/day. The inelastic consolidation that had existed for about 63 years roughly from 1937 to 2000 caused a land subsidence hazard in this region. Some rebounding of the land surface was achieved from groundwater level recovering management. It is found in this paper that a pseudo-constant secondary consolidation rate of subsidence of 0.08 to 8.49 mm/yr emerged or tended to emerge at the 13 borehole extensometer station locations while the groundwater levels in the two aquifers were being managed. It is considered to remain stable in trend since 2000. This secondary consolidation subsidence is beyond the control of any groundwater level change management schemes because it is caused by geo-historical overburden pressure on the two aquifers. The 13 Borehole extensometers’ compaction measurements since 1971 not only successfully corroborate the need for groundwater level change management in controlling land subsidence but also yield the first empirical findings of the occurrence of secondary consolidation subsidence in the Quaternary and Tertiary aquifer systems in the Houston-Galveston region.