The Fight to Keep Houston From Sinking

by Glenn W. Spencer, (M.ASCE), Civ. Engr.; Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Tex.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1977, Vol. 47, Issue 9, Pg. 69-71

Document Type: Feature article


Land subsidence has reached critical stages in several areas of the Houston-Galveston Bay region of the upper Texas Gulf Coast. Damages already incurred include the abandonment of a subdivision and the periodic inundation of coastal areas. The principal cause of the problem, which has taken place within the past 40 years, is excessive groundwater withdrawal. The region within which there was subsidence of more than 1 ft was then (in 1973) approximately 60-miles in diameter; estimated groundwater withdrawal in 1973 was 517 mgd. Solution: bring in surface water from a distance, thus making it unnecessary to tap the aquifer. It was apparent to members of the Houston Branch of ASCE's Texas Section that effective legislation was needed for a regional approach to combating the withdrawal of excessive amounts of groundwater. A public affairs committee was set up to support such legislation. A bill creating the Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District was passed by the Texas Legislature in 1975 only three months after the Houston Branch resolution was issued.

Subject Headings: Land subsidence | Groundwater | Legislation | Bays | Gulfs | Floods | Surface water | Aquifers | Texas | United States

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