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Abstract

Long-term continuous monitoring in the Houston-Galveston area indicates that, during the past two decades (1993-2012), the overall land subsidence has been decreasing, while the groundwater head has been increasing. Subsidence in downtown Houston, the area along the Houston Ship Channel, and the coastal area of Galveston has almost ceased. Slight ground surface rebound has been observed at several sites along the Houston Ship Channel. Assuming that the hydraulic head in the aquifer will reach or exceed the preconsolidation level in the near future, will the subsidence in the Houston-Galveston area eventually cease? The key to answering this question is to identify if there is deep-seated subsidence in this area.

This study investigated the recent subsidence observed at different depths in the Houston-Galveston area. The subsidence was recorded by using 13 borehole extensometers and 76 GPS antennas. Four of the antennas are mounted on the deep-anchored (549, 591, 661 and 936 m below the land surface) inner pipes of borehole extensometers. We conclude that recent subsidence (1993-2012) in the Houston-Galveston area was dominated by the compaction of sediments within 600 m below the land surface. Depending on the location of specific sites, the compaction occurred within the Chicot and part or all of the Evangeline aquifer. No measurable compaction was observed within the Jasper aquifer or within deeper strata. Recent GPS observations also suggest that there is currently no considerable lateral ground deformation or subsidence associated with deep-rooted faulting activities in the Houston-Galveston area.

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