More than 86 historically active faults with an aggregate length of 150 miles have been identified within and adjacent to the Houston, Texas, metropolitan area. Although scarps of these faults grow gradually and without causing damaging earthquakes, historical fault offset has cost millions of dollars in damage to houses and other buildings, utilities, and highways that were built on or across the faults. The historical fault activity results from renewed movement along preexisting faults and appears to be caused principally by withdrawal of ground water for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses in the Houston area. Approximately one-half of the area's water supply is obtained from local ground water. Monitoring by the US Geological Survey of heights of fault scarps indicates that many of the scarps have recently stopped increasing in height. The area where faulting has ceased coincides with the area where ground-water pumping was cut back in the mid-1970s to slow the damage caused by land subsidence along Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. Thus, it appears that efforts to halt land subsidence in the coastal area have provided the additional benefit of arresting damaging surface faulting. -from Authors
Additional Publication Details
Faulting arrested by control of ground-water withdrawal in Houston, Texas.