Compaction of Aquifer at Different Depths: Observations from a Vertical GPS Array in the Coastal Center of the University of Houston, Texas

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Dongje Lee, Timothy Kearns, Linqiang Yang and Guoquan Wang, University of Houston, Houston, TX, United States
Houston and the surrounding Harris County have experienced the detrimental effects of subsidence even prior to World War II, to the extent that the land along Galveston Bay had sunk as much as 20 feet since 1906. One dramatic example is the Brownwood subdivision, a coastal community in Baytown where continuous flooding due to subsidence forced the area to be deemed unlivable and consequently abandoned. Thus, Houston’s changes in groundwater and compaction of its aquifers are of relatively high concern to those in the public (infrastructure), private (oil & gas), and international (Port of Houston Authority) sectors. One of the key questions related to the subsidence issue in Houston area is what are the contributions of sediments at different depths, and what particularly is the contribution from shallow sediments? To address these questions, University of Houston has installed a vertical GPS array in the UH Coastal Center in March 2014. The GPS array includes four permanent GPS stations with the antenna pole foundations anchored at different depths below ground surface (-10 m, -7m, -4m, 0 m). A special, double-pipe GPS antenna monument was designed for GPS stations with the array. This project was funded by an NSF grant and a UH internal grant. Five groundwater wells with the depths ranging from 2 m to 100 m below the ground surface were also installed at the UH Coastal Center site. This study will investigate continuous GPS and groundwater level measurements (March-November, 2014) at the UHCC site. It is expected that the GPS array will provide total information on subsidence as well as compaction of aquifers within different depth ranges (0 to -4m, -4 to -7 m, -7 to -10m, and below -10 m). Correlation of land subsidence and groundwater fluctuation will also be investigated.