Land subsidence in the southwestern Mojave Desert, California, 1992–2009

Fact Sheet 2017-3053
By:  and 



Groundwater has been the primary source of domestic, agricultural, and municipal water supplies in the southwestern Mojave Desert, California, since the early 1900s. Increased demands on water supplies have caused groundwater-level declines of more than 100 feet (ft) in some areas of this desert between the 1950s and the 1990s (Stamos and others, 2001; Sneed and others, 2003). These water-level declines have caused the aquifer system to compact, resulting in land subsidence. Differential land subsidence (subsidence occurring at different rates across the landscape) can alter surface drainage routes and damage surface and subsurface infrastructure. For example, fissuring across State Route 247 at Lucerne Lake has required repairs as has pipeline infrastructure near Troy Lake.

Land subsidence within the Mojave River and Morongo Groundwater Basins of the southwestern Mojave Desert has been evaluated using InSAR, ground-based measurements, geology, and analyses of water levels between 1992 and 2009 (years in which InSAR data were collected). The results of the analyses were published in three USGS reports— Sneed and others (2003), Stamos and others (2007), and Solt and Sneed (2014). Results from the latter two reports were integrated with results from other USGS/ MWA cooperative groundwater studies into the broader scoped USGS Mojave Groundwater Resources Web site ( mojave/). This fact sheet combines the detailed analyses from the three subsidence reports, distills them into a longer-term context, and provides an assessment of options for future monitoring.

Suggested Citation

Brandt, Justin, and Sneed, Michelle, 2017, Land subsidence in the southwestern Mojave Desert, California, 1992–2009: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2017-3053, 6 p.,

ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Introduction and Background
  • InSAR Reveals Localized Subsidence near Dry Lakebeds
  • El Mirage Lake
  • Harper Lake
  • Troy Lake
  • Coyote Lake
  • Lucerne Lake
  • What Caused the Localized Subsidence?
  • Putting It All Together
  • Future Monitoring
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Land subsidence in the southwestern Mojave Desert, California, 1992–2009
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2017-3053
DOI 10.3133/fs20173053
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 6 p.
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Mojave Desert
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details