Abstract

Data from the last 20 yr for sinkhole occurrences in west-central Florida are used in conjunction with population and housing data, including house prices, to assess the risk of a house being affected by a sinkhole, together with the likely economic loss. The top five relocation cities in each of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties are investigated in detail to determine the relative risk as well as the absolute risk. Because of the massive urbanization occurring in these areas, which are characterized by karst topography, the sinkhole risk is increasing because of the excessive demand for water and the subsequent overpumping of groundwater. Pinellas County is better placed in this regard than Hillsborough or Pasco counties because of its lower karst component. The city with the highest likelihood of risk is Tampa, probably because of its massive urbanization over the last 20 yr. Coastal cities most at risk from sinkhole effects on housing are New Port Richey and Hudson, but they are a very distant second and third compared to Tampa. Economic damage risks to housing are estimated to be about $5 million/yr for Tampa and are probably going to increase in the near future if the current trends of population increase and demands on the aquifer system's water are to continue.

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