a large swath of Texas — home to close to one-quarter of its population — is looking for water supplies anywhere but beneath its surface. A century of intense groundwater pumping in the fast-growing Houston metropolitan area has collapsed the layers of the Gulf Coast Aquifer, causing the land above to sink. The only solution is to stop pumping, a strategy that some areas are resisting. The geological phenomenon, unique to this part of Texas because of the makeup of the aquifer’s clay layers, is known as subsidence. Areas in and around Houston have sunk as much as 10 feet in 100 years, causing neighborhoods to flood, cracking pavements and even moving geologic faults that could lead to infrastructure damage. “It’s an upfront and personal issue when you’re on the coast and you see land loss,” said Mike Turco, who heads the subsidence districts responsible for addressing the problem in Harris, Galveston and Fort Bend Counties. “You have oil barracks that are out in Galveston Bay now.”These days environmentalists are focused on climate change, but fresh water shortages are an equally urgent issue. We simply can't keep pumping more water out of the ground indefinitely. We could easily cut our usage by quite a bit if we stopped growing cotton and green grass lawns in the desert. But all such moves run up against the refusal of many Americans to believe that limits are anything more than a liberal plot.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Houston is Sinking
Despite persistent drought, writes Neena Satija,