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Impacts of land subsidence caused by withdrawal of underground fluids in the United States

Thomas L. Holzer
Thomas L. Holzer
U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Mail Stop 977, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA
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Devin L. Galloway
Devin L. Galloway
U.S. Geological Survey, 3020 State University Drive East, Suite 3005, Sacramento, California 95819, USA
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January 2005


Lowering of the land surface of large areas has been a major unintended consequence of groundwater and petroleum withdrawal by humans. Approximately 26,000 km2 of land in the United States has been permanently lowered. The decrease of land-surface elevation, known as land subsidence, typically occurs at rates measured in centimeters per year. However, the irreversible accumulation of its effects clearly qualifies humans as major geologic agents. Subsidence causes permanent inundation of land, aggravates flooding, changes topographic gradients, ruptures the land surface, and reduces the capacity of aquifers to store water. This paper reviews the mechanism, occurrence and history, impacts, and efforts by society to control land subsidence caused by underground fluid withdrawal in the United States.

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Figures & Tables


Reviews in Engineering Geology

Humans as Geologic Agents

Edited by
Judy Ehlen
Judy Ehlen
Department of Geology, Radford University, Radford, Virginia 24142, USA
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William C. Haneberg
William C. Haneberg
Haneberg Geoscience, 10208 39th Avenue SW, Seattle, Washington 98146, USA
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Robert A. Larson
Robert A. Larson
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Alhambra, California 91803, USA
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Geological Society of America
ISBN electronic:
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