Groundwater Regulation in the Houston-Galveston Region to Control Subsidence – Balancing Total Water Demand, Available Alternative Water Supplies, and Groundwater Withdrawal

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Michael J Turco, Harris-Galveston Subsidence District, Friendswood, TX, United States
In 1975, as a result of area residents and local governments becoming increasingly alarmed by the continued impact of subsidence on economic growth and quality of life in the region, the Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District was created by the 64th Texas Legislature as an underground water conservation district. The primary mission of what is now the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District, is to provide for the regulation of the withdrawal of groundwater to control subsidence.

Subsidence has been a concern in the Houston, TX area throughout most of recent history. Since 1906, over 10 feet of subsidence has occurred, with a broad area of 6 feet of subsidence throughout most of the Houston Area.

Over its nearly forty years of existence, the District has developed substantial data sets providing the foundation for its regulatory plan. Annual water-level measurements, a network of deep extensometers, over 80 subsidence GPS monitors, and updated numerical and analytical models have been utilized. Periodically, the District utilizes U.S. Census data to predict the future magnitude and location of population and water demand. In 2013, all of these data sets were combined producing an updated regulatory plan outlining the timelines of conversion to alternative sources of water and defining the maximum percentage groundwater can contribute to a user’s total water demand.

The management of the groundwater resources within the District has involved significant coordination with regional ground and surface water suppliers; ongoing interaction with other state and local regulatory bodies; analysis of accurate and up to date predictions on water usage; the enforcement of real disincentives to those who rely too heavily on groundwater and a commitment to practicing and promoting water conservation.Water supplies in the region are projected to continue to be stressed in the future due to rapid population increases in the region. Future District efforts will be focused on maintaining the successes of the past while evaluating potential deeper groundwater resources and any potential subsidence resulting from future development.