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Abstract

Land-surface subsidence due to the withdrawal of fluids by man has become relatively common in the United States since 1940 and has been described at several other places throughout the world. This paper reviews the known examples of appreciable land subsidence caused by fluid withdrawal. Those related to exploitation of oil and gas fields include Goose Creek, Texas; Wilmington, California; Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela; Niigata, Japan; and the Po Delta in Italy. The areas of major subsidence related to ground-water withdrawal include areas in Japan; Mexico City, Mexico; and Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California. The areas of greatest extent and maximum subsidence are in California.

The principles involved in the compaction of sediments and of aquifer systems, basically the increase in effective stress, are examined briefly, together with their application to subsidence problems involving head decline both under water table and confined conditions. The amount of compaction that a confined aquifer system will experience is a function of compressibility. Other factors that influence compaction (and, in part, compressibility) include particle size and shape, clay mineralogy, geochemistry of pore water in the clayey beds and of the water in contiguous aquifers, and secondary compression.

Land subsidence has caused great damage in some areas. At several of these places, subsidence problems are being alleviated in one or more of several ways; these include (1) cessation of withdrawal and (2) increase or restoration of reservoir pressure by reduction in production rate, artificial recharge, or repressuring by injection of water. The greatest subsidence control measures are being taken at Wilmington, California, where subsidence that had reached 27 feet at the center now is nearly stopped; in addition, significant rebound has occurred.

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