Geologist: Parts of Houston Are Sinking

HOUSTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Scientists say 10 years’ worth of GPS data show parts of northwest Houston are sinking — and rapidly.

A University of Houston geologist says a large section of northwest Harris County, particularly the Jersey Village area, is sinking by as much as 2 inches a year, a university release said Tuesday.


Shuhab Khan, an associate professor of geology at UH, and his colleagues studied a decade’s worth of GPS data throughout the Houston area.

“A sprawling area of northwestern Harris County is gradually subsiding,” Khan said. “The area is roughly 30 kilometers by 30 kilometers, which is the equivalent of about 18 miles by 18 miles.”

The most likely reason for the sinking of Jersey Village is the withdrawal of water from deep beneath the surface, Khan said.

“While groundwater withdrawal has ceased in most of the Houston area, it continues in the northwestern part of the county that has seen a rapid growth in population,” he said.

The fate of another Houston-area community shows the potential danger in such subsidence.

When the Brownwood residential subdivision near Baytown was first developed in the 1930s, ground elevation was nearly 10 feet above sea level. Forty years later, the neighborhood stood just a foot and a half above sea level and was subject to frequent flooding.

In 1983, Hurricane Alicia destroyed the subdivision, and the area became the Baytown Nature Center.

The sinking of Brownwood was attributed to the massive groundwater withdrawal by the petrochemical plants along the Houston Ship Channel.

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