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What is "land subsidence" and why is it a problem?

Land subsidence is the gradual lowering of land-surface elevation. In the Houston-Galveston TX region, land subsidence is caused by compaction of fine-grained aquifer sediments (silts and clays) below the land surface due to groundwater withdrawals. Removing water from fine-grained aquifer sediments compresses the aquifer leaving less pore space available to store water resulting in the lowering (sinking or settling) of the land-surface.

Most compaction that occurs as a result of groundwater withdrawals is irreversible; even if groundwater levels rise, compacted sediments and the associated land-surface lowering would remain as-is.

Consequences of land subsidence in the Houston-Galveston Region

• Reduces the ability to store water in an aquifer.
• Partially or completely submerges land.
• Collapses water well casings.
• Disrupts collector drains and irrigation ditches.
• Alters the flow of creeks and bayous which may increase the frequency and severity of flooding.
• Damages roadways, bridges, building foundations, and other infrastructure.

What are the threats to the Ogallala Aquifer?

According to the High Plains Water District, Ogallala spans 174,000 square miles and underlies eight states: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

Generally, in the Texas Panhandle, the saturated thickness – or the distance from the top of the water table to the base of the aquifer – reaches up to a few hundred feet. However, the average is steadily dropping. In Castro County in 2022, the High Plains Water District reported Ogallala’s saturated thickness to be around 53 feet; in the last 10 years, Castro County has lost nearly 19 feet. Since 2021, the 16-county district has lost an average of -0.63 feet. As for where the water goes, over 90% of Ogallala’s supply is used for irrigated agriculture and livestock production, though it also contributes to municipal water systems and other industries.

What impact does aquifer depletion have on agriculture?

As noted by DHS, the High Plains accounts for a quarter of the nation’s agricultural production. With climate change already expected to continue reducing dry land yields for corn, sorghum, soy, and winter wheat, those reduced yields are expected to take even more significant hits as irrigated farming becomes less reliable. Decreased yields and increased year-to-year uncertainty could not only push more people away from the agriculture industry but raise costs and demand for produce.

What impact does aquifer depletion have on communities?

Alongside national and regional issues, communities dependent on Ogallala may also see the impacts of its end as closely as the faucets in their homes. As noted in the TWDB’s 2019 water use summary, around 19% of the groundwater in Texas is used for municipal purposes.

Across the High Plains, communities and individual homes are connected to Ogallala to provide for day-to-day plumbing. For instance, according to the most recent reports from the City of Amarillo, 36% of its water supply is made up of groundwater from the aquifer system.

As noted by the DHS, communities that will be impacted by the aquifer’s depletion first – such as those across the High Plains – face increasing expenses associated with falling groundwater levels. Those costs include lifting water from deeper underground, as well as those associated with extending or replacing failing groundwater wells. When those dry, and surface water sources are not consistently reliable, those costs could transfer to importing water or other supply methods.

• If spread across the U.S. the aquifer would cover all 50 states with 1.5 feet of water
• If drained, it would take more than 6,000 years to refill naturally
• More than 90 percent of the water pumped is used to irrigate crops
• $20 billion a year in food and fiber depend on the aquifer

What is an ultrasonic flow meter?

Ultrasonic flow meters are advanced devices used to measure the velocity of a fluid flow through a pipe using ultrasonic sound waves. By measuring the time difference between the sound waves traveling with and against the flow, these meters accurately determine the flow rate without any intrusion into the fluid path, making them ideal for various applications from water management to chemical processing.

Remote Monitor meters are custom-built to include a radio and cellular connection to facilitate real-time remote monitoring from the RM App. Each monitor has a battery life of 10 years and can send data even without a cellular data connection, making our meters useful whever your well may be located.