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.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Estimated Land-Surface Subsidence in Harris County, Texas, 1915-17 to 2001
Scientific Investigations Map
U.S. Geological Survey
Texas Water Science Center
2 Map Sheets: each 30 x 24 inches; Downloads Directory