Results of research co-funded by NASA and SMU and conducted at the Southern Methodist University Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences are presented in a recent article entitled "Identify and Monitor Growth Faulting Using InSAR over Northern Greater Houston, Texas, USA."
The article, published on June 25, 2019, in the peer-reviewed journal Remote Sensing, confirms that excessive groundwater production in Montgomery County, including in the Jasper aquifer, is resulting in water-level declines, subsidence, and fault movement. The article also discusses the serious property damages being caused by groundwater-decline-induced fault movement, not just in The Woodlands, but as far north as the Conroe Aquatics Center north of downtown Conroe.
Key quotes from the authors related to the connection between excessive groundwater pumping and subsidence and fault movement:
"The newly discovered fault activation appears to be related to excessive groundwater exploitation from the Jasper aquifer in Montgomery County. The continuous mining of groundwater from the Jasper aquifer formed new water-level decline cones over Montgomery County, corroborating the intensity of new fractures." (p. 1)
"Our study seems to validate that subsidence and related shallow subsurface fault activities in northern [Greater Houston] relates to mining of aquifers." (p. 17)
"Faulting activities were in connection with the spatial distribution and density of water-level decline and ground subsidence." (p. 16)
"Finally, we reviewed and assessed vast quantities of information on the features and origins of faulting of [Greater Houston], their obvious affiliation with growth faulting, subsidence by fluids withdrawal, as well as the salt tectonics. Our study found that newly identified fault traces/fractures related to the spatial-temporal variation of the groundwater withdrawal and the associated subsidence over this region. So the newly discovered fault activation appears to be related to the stress associated with fluid pressure reductions caused by excessive water extraction from Montgomery County aquifers." (pp. 17-18)
Key quotes from the authors related to the damages caused by fault movement:
"Growth faulting has influenced a wide variety of geological conditions in [Greater Houston], and is known to have impacted and damaged buildings, highways, wells, and pipelines." (p. 4)
". . . the potential risks of active faults are still high, with potential to cost millions of dollars in property and infrastructure." (p. 3)
"Hundreds of paved roads and homes in the Houston area are being offset by faults and require frequent maintenance." (p. 1)
"Damage to a swimming pool at the Conroe Aquatics Center, which is located on the InSAR-mapped fault line, was reported early in 2018, indicating the activation of Conroe Fault." (p. 12) (Fault line-damaged Conroe water park to open for one last summer)
The complete report can be found at the following public site.
Qu, F.; Lu, Z.; Kim, J.-W.; Zheng, W. Identify and Monitor Growth Faulting Using InSAR over Northern Greater Houston, Texas, USA. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1498.
Funding provided by NASA Surface and Interior Program [NNX16AL10G] and Shuler-Foscue Endowment at Southern Methodist University.
The results of this SMU report further corroborate recent findings published by the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District in May of 2018 concluding that the Jasper aquifer is compressible (subject to groundwater-decline-induced subsidence) and that the potential for subsidence increases in the northern portions of the Jasper where it is being used for freshwater supply. See "Subsidence Risk Assessment and Regulatory Considerations for the Brackish Jasper Aquifer," May 2018, INTERA Geoscience and Engineering Solutions. (Subsidence risk assessment and regulatory considerations for the brackish Jasper Aquifer)