Monitoring Land Subsidence in Arizona Due to Excessive Groundwater Withdrawal Using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) Data
Abstract:Land subsidence due to excess groundwater overdraft has been an ongoing problem in south-central and southern Arizona since the1940’s. The first earth fissure attributed to excessive groundwater withdrawal was discovered in 1946 near Picacho, Arizona. In some areas of the State, groundwater declines of more than 400 feet have resulted in extensive earth fissuring and widespread land subsidence; land subsidence of more than 19 feet has been documented near Phoenix and Eloy.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has been monitoring land subsidence throughout Arizona since 1997 using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) Data and Global Navigation Satellite System Data. The ADWR InSAR program has proven to be a critical resource in monitoring land subsidence throughout Arizona, resulting in the identification of more than twenty-five individual land subsidence features that cover an area of more than 1,200 square miles. The majority of these land subsidence features are a direct result of groundwater declines attributed to groundwater overdraft.
Using InSAR data in conjunction with both automated and manual groundwater level datasets, ADWR is able to monitor active land subsidence areas as well as identify other areas that may require additional InSAR monitoring. InSAR data have also proven to be extremely useful in monitoring land surface uplift associated with rising groundwater levels near groundwater recharge facilities. InSAR data can show the impact of the recharged groundwater as the area of uplift extends down gradient from the recharge facility.
Some highlights of recent InSAR results include the identification of a new land subsidence feature in the eastern portion of Metropolitan Phoenix where groundwater levels have recently declined; the identification of changes to a floodplain that may be exacerbating recent flooding; seasonal land subsidence and uplift related to seasonal groundwater demands; and the identification of uplift related to groundwater recharge facilities.
The declining groundwater levels in Arizona are both a challenge for future groundwater availability but also for mitigating land subsidence. ADWR’s InSAR program will continue to be a critical tool for monitoring land subsidence due to excessive groundwater withdrawal.