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Scientific Investigations Map 3097

In cooperation with the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District

Estimated Land-Surface Subsidence in Harris County, Texas, 1915–17 to 2001

By Mark C. Kasmarek, Robert K. Gabrysch¹, and Michaela R. Johnson

¹ U.S. Geological Survey, retired.

Thumbnail of and link to SIM 3097 Sheet 1 PDF (8 MB)

Land-surface subsidence, or land subsidence, in Harris County, Texas, which encompasses much of the Houston area, has been occurring for decades. Land subsidence has increased the frequency and extent of flooding, damaged buildings and transportation infrastructure, and caused adverse environmental effects. The primary cause of land subsidence in the Houston area is withdrawal of groundwater, although extraction of oil and gas also has contributed. Throughout most of the 20th century, groundwater was the primary source of municipal, agricultural, and industrial water supply for Harris County. Currently (2009) a transition to surface water as the primary source of supply, guided by a groundwater regulatory plan developed by the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District (2001), is in effect. The aquifers in Harris County contain an abundant amount of potable groundwater, but they also contain layers of clay. Groundwater withdrawals caused compaction of the clay layers, which in turn resulted in the widespread, substantial land-surface subsidence that has occurred in the Houston area.

Revised February 8, 2010

First posted December 31, 2009

For additional information contact:

Director, Texas Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
1505 Ferguson Lane
Austin, TX 78754-4501

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Kasmarek, M.C., Gabrysch, R.K., and Johnson, M.R., 2009, Estimated land-surface subsidence in Harris County, Texas, 1915–17 to 2001: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3097, 2 sheets.




Historical Groundwater Withdrawals and Land-Surface Subsidence

Mechanisms of Land-Surface Subsidence

Historical 1915–17 Topographic Maps

2001 Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) Data

Map Showing Estimated Land-Surface Subsidence in Harris County, 1915–17 to 2001


Selected References

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