Document Details

Land Subsidence from Groundwater Use in California

Michael Carpenter, James W. Borchers | April 5th, 2014

Historically, groundwater has been pumped as needed in many areas of the state, often with little regard for the deleterious effects of over pumping. Over pumping is not sustainable in the long-term and can lead to a number of adverse consequences, including water-quality degradation; increased energy costs for groundwater pumping; costs for well deepening or replacement; impacts to nearby rivers and streams; and land subsidence.

This report highlights the current and historical impacts of land subsidence in California due to groundwater pumping and makes recommendations for monitoring and assessment. The purpose of this report is to summarize knowledge about the extent and costs of subsidence so that this information can be part of a larger discussion on sustainable groundwater management in California.

This report confirms that land subsidence in California is not just an historical occurrence, but that it is an ongoing problem in many regions. The report presents key examples of significant historical subsidence and current active occurrences of subsidence, including the impacts and costs.

There is no comprehensive land subsidence monitoring program in California. The information in this report was compiled from individual regional or local studies, which usually were initiated after substantial subsidence impacts had occurred. The most comprehensive evaluation of land subsidence in California occurred between 1955 and 1970, to assist with the construction of the state and federal water projects. Funding for this program ended soon after completion of the state and federal water projects. The lack of comprehensive subsidence monitoring has had costly consequences for the state.


Groundwater Exchange, groundwater pumping impacts, subsidence

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