Aquifer Mechanical Properties and Decelerated Compaction in Tucson, Arizona

Megan Marie Miller, Manoochehr Shirzaei, Donald Argus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In recent decades, high groundwater extraction rates, often coincident with periods of severe drought, result in the widespread decline of water levels. Overexploitation of aquifers also causes land subsidence, which poses a severe threat to infrastructure. Tucson, Arizona experiences land subsidence coupled with the depletion of groundwater, a critical water resource for the desert city. To understand the spatiotemporal evolution of land subsidence and its implications for aquifer properties, we examine long time series of surface deformation and head levels. Measurements at extensometer stations indicate rapid compaction of fine-grained material up to 8.5 mm/yr from 1990 to 2005, which results in permanent storage volume losses up to 4.1%. The analysis of densely populated sets of interferograms generated from Envisat and RadarSAT C band acquisitions yields multitemporal maps of surface deformation at unprecedented resolution. These maps reveal that subsidence significantly slows by the late 2000s, corresponding with the implementation of artificial recharge efforts. Subsequent to groundwater level recovery, we observe a brief 6.6 year interval of residual compaction, suggesting a high vertical hydraulic conductivity, which is then shown to be up to 9.8 × 10-4 m/d. We also estimate the average elastic and inelastic skeletal storage coefficients for the aquifer system to be 3.78 × 10-3 and 6.01 × 10-3, respectively. Interferometric synthetic aperture radar shows deformation nearly ceases by 2015, likely reducing hazards associated with Earth fissuring and infrastructure damage. This study highlights successful outcomes of water management and conservation plans that preserve existing groundwater reserves and increase artificial recharge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2017

Fingerprint

subsidence
aquifers
Subsidence
ground water
Aquifers
mechanical properties
Groundwater
mechanical property
compaction
Compaction
aquifer
artificial recharge
Mechanical properties
groundwater recharge
infrastructure
water table
groundwater
Radarsat
groundwater extraction
synthetic aperture radar

Keywords

  • Compaction
  • InSAR
  • Recharge
  • Storage
  • Subsidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Palaeontology

Cite this

Aquifer Mechanical Properties and Decelerated Compaction in Tucson, Arizona. / Miller, Megan Marie; Shirzaei, Manoochehr; Argus, Donald.

In: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "In recent decades, high groundwater extraction rates, often coincident with periods of severe drought, result in the widespread decline of water levels. Overexploitation of aquifers also causes land subsidence, which poses a severe threat to infrastructure. Tucson, Arizona experiences land subsidence coupled with the depletion of groundwater, a critical water resource for the desert city. To understand the spatiotemporal evolution of land subsidence and its implications for aquifer properties, we examine long time series of surface deformation and head levels. Measurements at extensometer stations indicate rapid compaction of fine-grained material up to 8.5 mm/yr from 1990 to 2005, which results in permanent storage volume losses up to 4.1{\%}. The analysis of densely populated sets of interferograms generated from Envisat and RadarSAT C band acquisitions yields multitemporal maps of surface deformation at unprecedented resolution. These maps reveal that subsidence significantly slows by the late 2000s, corresponding with the implementation of artificial recharge efforts. Subsequent to groundwater level recovery, we observe a brief 6.6 year interval of residual compaction, suggesting a high vertical hydraulic conductivity, which is then shown to be up to 9.8 × 10-4 m/d. We also estimate the average elastic and inelastic skeletal storage coefficients for the aquifer system to be 3.78 × 10-3 and 6.01 × 10-3, respectively. Interferometric synthetic aperture radar shows deformation nearly ceases by 2015, likely reducing hazards associated with Earth fissuring and infrastructure damage. This study highlights successful outcomes of water management and conservation plans that preserve existing groundwater reserves and increase artificial recharge.",
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