The pumping of groundwater by major industries, including electric power plants and petrochemical facilities, may be causing soils to sink more quickly in the New Orleans area, and could pose a threat to levees and other flood control structures, including the Bonnet Carre Spillway, a new study concludes.
Scientists with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Louisiana State University used a special kind of radar to measure the ground levels in 2009 and 2012, and the amount the ground sank during that time. The results in the article published recently in the "Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth" indicate some of the fastest subsidence, or sinking, rates seem to be in areas where groundwater is being pumped.
Lead author Cathleen Jones of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory pointed out that she and her colleagues did not measure the rates of groundwater withdrawal as part of their research, but just where subsidence is occurring.
She said additional research is needed to directly link groundwater pumping to the subsidence rates. However, the paper makes clear that some of the fastest sinking during the study's three-year view was occurring near groundwater wells used by industry.
The use of the special radar technique to measure the rate of sinking over a wide area should add to what has been a conflicting set of information about subsidence rates, the paper said. In the past, subsidence has largely been measured at specific points over time, and what's happening at those locations may be very different from locations a mile or just a few blocks away.
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