U.S. Geological Survey Subsidence Interest Group conference, Edwards Air Force Base, Antelope Valley, California, November 18-19, 1992; Abstracts and summary

Open-File Report 94-532
Edited by: Keith R. PrinceDevin L. Galloway, and Stanley A. Leake



Land subsidence, the loss of surface elevation as a result of the removal of subsurface support, affects every state in the United States. More than 17,000 mi2 of land in the United States has been lowered by the various processes that produce land subsidence with annual costs from resulting flooding and structural damage that exceed $125 million. It is estimated that an additional $400 million is spent nationwide in attempts to control subsidence.   Common causes of land subsidence include the removal of oil, gas, and water from underground reservoirs; dissolution of limestone aquifers (sinkholes); underground mining activities; drainage of organic soils; and hydrocompaction (the initial wetting of dry soils). Overdrafting of aquifers is the major cause of areally extensive land subsidence, and as ground-water pumping increases, land subsidence also will increase. Land subsidence and its effects on engineering structures have been recognized for centuries, but it was not until this century that the processes that produce land subsidence were identified and understood. In 1928, while working with field data from a test of the Dakota Sandstone aquifer, O.E. Meinzer of the U.S. Geological Survey recognized the compressibility of aquifers. Around the same time, Karl Terzaghi, a soil scientist working at Harvard University, developed the one-dimensional consolidation theory that provided a quantitative means of predicting soil compaction resulting from the drainage of compressible soils. Thus, with the recognition of the compressibility of aquifers (Meinzer), and the development of a quantitative means of predicting soil compaction as a consequence of the reduction of intergranular pore pressure (Terzaghi), the theory of aquifer-system compaction was formed. With the widespread availability of electric power in rural areas, and the advent of the deep turbine pump, ground-water withdrawals increased dramatically throughout the country in the 1940's and 1950's. Along with this unprecedented increase in pumpage, substantial amounts of land subsidence were observed in several areas of the United States, most notably in Arizona, California, and Texas. Beginning in 1955, under the direction of Joseph Poland, the Geological Survey began the "Mechanics of Aquifers Project," which focused largely on the processes that resulted in land subsidence due to the withdrawal of ground water. This research team gained international renown as they advanced the scientific understanding of aquifer mechanics and land-subsidence theory. The results of field studies by members of this research group not only verified the validity of the application of Terzaghi's consolidation theory to compressible aquifers, but they also provided definitions, methods of quantification, and confirmation of the interrelation among hydraulic head declines, aquifer-system compaction, and land subsidence. In addition to conducting pioneering research, this group also formed a "center of expertise," providing a focal point within the Geological Survey for the dissemination of technology and scientific understanding in aquifer mechanics. However, when the "Mechanics of Aquifers Project" was phased out in 1984, the focal point for technology transfer no longer existed. Interest among various state and local agencies in land subsidence has persisted, and the Geological Survey has continued to participate in a broad spectrum of cooperative and Federally funded projects in aquifer mechanics and land subsidence. These projects are designed to identify and monitor areas with the potential for land subsidence, to conduct basic research in the processes that control land subsidence and the development of earth fissures, as well as to develop new quantitative tools to predict aquifer-system deformation. In 1989 an ad hoc "Aquifer Mechanics and Subsidence Interest Group" (referred to herein as the "Subsidence Interest Group") was formed

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title U.S. Geological Survey Subsidence Interest Group conference, Edwards Air Force Base, Antelope Valley, California, November 18-19, 1992; Abstracts and summary
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 94-532
DOI 10.3133/ofr94532
Year Published 1995
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center
Description v, 84 p.
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Antelope Valley
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details