Land Subsidence in California

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Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth's surface due to subsurface movement of earth materials. The main cause of subsidence in California is groundwater pumping. The effects of subsidence include damage to buildings and infrastructure, increased flood risk in low-lying areas, and lasting damage to groundwater aquifers and aquatic ecosystems.

Areas of Subsidence

Areas of Subsidence

Explore an interactive USGS map to learn more about areas in California affected by subsidence.

Explore Subsidence

Drought Indicators

Drought Indicators

Drought indicators in the Central Valley include declining groundwater levels and associated land subsidence as measured and estimated via multiple techniques.

Explore Drought Data

Measuring Land Subsidence

Measuring Land Subsidence

Land-surface elevations, and elevation changes, are measured with a variety of land- and space-based scientific techniques.

See the Methods

News

Date published: March 16, 2017

Extensometer Hunters: Searching for Long-Lost Technologies in San Joaquin Valley

San Joaquin Valley: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the U.S. Geological Survey. Its weeklong mission: to explore strange new locations, to seek out abandoned scientific technologies, to boldly go where no scientist has gone before (at least in a few decades).

Publications

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Year Published: 2018

Land subsidence along the California Aqueduct in west-central San Joaquin Valley, California, 2003–10

Extensive groundwater withdrawal from the unconsolidated deposits in the San Joaquin Valley caused widespread aquifer-system compaction and resultant land subsidence from 1926 to 1970—locally exceeding 8.5 meters. The importation of surface water beginning in the early 1950s through the Delta-Mendota Canal and in the early 1970s through the...

Sneed, Michelle; Brandt, Justin T.; Solt, Michael
Sneed, M., Brandt, J.T., and Solt, M., 2018, Land subsidence along the California Aqueduct in west-central San Joaquin Valley, California, 2003–10: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5144, 67 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185144.

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Year Published: 2018

Geohydrology, geochemistry, and numerical simulation of groundwater flow and land subsidence in the Bicycle Basin, Fort Irwin National Training Center, California

Groundwater pumping from Bicycle Groundwater Basin (referred to as Bicycle Basin) in the Fort Irwin National Training Center, California, began in 1967. From 1967 to December 2010, about 46,000 acre-feet of water had been pumped from the basin and transported to the Irwin Basin. During this time, not only did water levels in the basin decline by...

Densmore, Jill N.; Woolfenden, Linda R.; Rewis, Diane L.; Martin, Peter M.; Sneed, Michelle; Ellett, Kevin M.; Solt, Michael; Miller, David M.
Densmore, J.N., Woolfenden L.R., Rewis, D.L., Martin, P.M., Sneed, M., Ellett, K.M., Solt, M., and Miller, D.M., 2018, Geohydrology, geochemistry, and numerical simulation of groundwater flow and land subsidence in the Bicycle Basin, Fort Irwin National Training Center, California: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5067, 176 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185067.

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Year Published: 2017

Water-resources and land-surface deformation evaluation studies at Fort Irwin National Training Center, Mojave Desert, California

The U.S. Army Fort Irwin National Training Center (NTC), in the Mojave Desert, obtains all of its potable water supply from three groundwater basins (Irwin, Langford, and Bicycle) within the NTC boundaries (fig. 1; California Department of Water Resources, 2003). Because of increasing water demands at the NTC, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in...

Densmore, Jill; Dishart, Justine E.; Miller, David M.; Buesch, David C.; Ball, Lyndsay B.; Bedrosian, Paul A.; Woolfenden, Linda R.; Cromwell, Geoffrey; Burgess, Matthew K.; Nawikas, Joseph; O'Leary, David; Kjos, Adam; Sneed, Michelle; Brandt, Justin T.
Densmore, J.N., J.E. Dishart, D.M. Miller, D.C. Buesch, and others, 2017, Water-resources and land-surface deformation evaluation studies at Fort Irwin National Training Center, Mojave Desert, California, in: Reynolds, R.E., ed., ECSZ does it--Revisiting the Eastern California Shear Zone, Desert Symposium, 31st annual, Zzyzx, Calif. , April 2017, Field Guide and Proceedings: California State University Desert Studies Center, p. 290-298, accessed at http://nsm.fullerton.edu/dsc/images/DSCdocs/DSProceedings/2017%20ECSZ%20does%20it.pdf.