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Hydrogeology and simulation of ground-water flow and land-surface subsidence in the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers, Houston area, Texas

October 1, 2002

In November 1997, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Houston Utilities Planning Section and the City of Houston Department of Public Works & Engineering, began an investigation of the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers in the greater Houston area in Texas to better understand the hydrology, flow, and associated land-surface subsidence. The principal part of the investigation was a numerical finite-difference model (MODFLOW) developed to simulate ground-water flow and land-surface subsidence in an 18,100-square-mile area encompassing greater Houston.

The focus of the study was Harris and Galveston Counties, but other counties were included to achieve the appropriate boundary conditions. The model was vertically discretized into three 103-row by 109-column layers resulting in a total of 33,681 grid cells. Layer 1 represents the water table using a specified head, layer 2 represents the Chicot aquifer, and layer 3 represents the Evangeline aquifer.

Simulations were made under transient conditions for 31 ground-water-withdrawal (stress) periods spanning 1891–1996. The years 1977 and 1996 were chosen as potentiometric-surface calibration periods for the model. Simulated and measured potentiometric surfaces of the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers for 1977 match closely. Waterlevel measurements indicate that by 1977, large ground-water withdrawals in east-central and southeastern areas of Harris County had caused the potentiometric surfaces to decline as much as 250 feet below sea level in the Chicot aquifer and as much as 350 feet below sea level in the Evangeline aquifer. Simulated and measured potentiometric surfaces of the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers for 1996 also match closely. The large potentiometric-surface decline in 1977 in the southeastern Houston area showed significant recovery by 1996. The 1996 centers of potentiometric-surface decline are located much farther northwest. Potentiometric-surface declines of more than 200 feet below sea level in the Chicot aquifer and more than 350 feet below sea level in the Evangeline aquifer were measured in observation wells and simulated in the flow model.

Simulation of land-surface subsidence and water released from storage in the clay layers was accomplished using the Interbed-Storage Package of the MODFLOW model. Land-surface subsidence was calibrated by comparing simulated long-term (1891–1995) and short-term (1978–95) land-surface subsidence with published maps of land-surface subsidence for about the same period until acceptable matches were achieved.

Simulated 1996 Chicot aquifer flow rates indicate that a net flow of 562.5 cubic feet per second enters the Chicot aquifer in the outcrop area, and a net flow of 459.5 cubic feet per second passes through the Chicot aquifer into the Evangeline aquifer. The remaining 103.0 cubic feet per second of flow is withdrawn as pumpage, with a shortfall of about 84.9 cubic feet per second supplied to the wells from storage in sands and clays. Water simulated from storage in clays in the Chicot aquifer is about 19 percent of the total water withdrawn from the aquifer.

Simulated 1996 Evangeline aquifer flow rates indicate that a net flow of 14.8 cubic feet per second enters the Evangeline aquifer in the outcrop area, and a net flow of 459.5 cubic feet per second passes through the Chicot aquifer into the Evangeline aquifer for a total inflow of 474.3 cubic feet per second. A greater amount, 528.6 cubic feet per second, is withdrawn by wells; the shortfall of about 54.8 cubic feet per second is supplied from storage in sands and clays. Water simulated from storage in clays in the Evangeline aquifer is about 10 percent of the total water withdrawn from the aquifer.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2002
Title Hydrogeology and simulation of ground-water flow and land-surface subsidence in the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers, Houston area, Texas
DOI 10.3133/wri024022
Authors Mark C. Kasmarek, Eric W. Strom
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2002-4022
Index ID wri024022
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Texas Water Science Center

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