Characterization and modeling of land subsidence due to groundwater withdrawals from the confined aquifers of the Virginia Coastal Plain

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Measurement and analysis of aquifer-system compaction have been used to characterize aquifer and confining unit properties when other techniques such as flow modeling have been ineffective at adequately quantifying storage properties or matching historical water levels in environments experiencing land subsidence. In the southeastern Coastal Plain of Virginia, high-sensitivity borehole pipe extensometers were used to measure 24.2 mm of total compaction at Franklin from 1979 to 1995 (an average of 1.5 mm/yr) and 50.2 mm of total compaction at Suffolk from 1982 to 1995 (an average of 3.7 mm/yr). Analysis of the extensometer data reveals that the small rates of aquifer-system compaction appear to be correlated with withdrawals of water from confined aquifers. One-dimensional vertical compaction modeling indicates that the measured compaction is the result of nonrecoverable hydrodynamic consolidation of the fine-grained confining units and interbeds as well as recoverable compaction and expansion of coarse-grained aquifer units. The modeling results also provide useful information about specific storage and vertical hydraulic conductivity of individual hydrogeologic units. The results of this study enhance the understanding of the complex Coastal Plain aquifer system and will be useful in future modeling and management of ground water in this region.

land subsidence, groundwater withdrawals, compaction