Apparently Houston is sinking, and there’s an app you can use to track it

Count Houston among a growing list of coastal-area cities that are slowly starting to sink. That’s not exactly news to scientists, developers and many residents in the large metropolis to our east, but a new app will help the rest of us keep track of where the sinking has been happening over time. Not to mention — keep the phenomenon top of mind.

The U.S. Geological Survey launched a new web platform this week, according to the Houston Chronicle, that will allow anyone to explore 40 years’ worth of Houston-area data on what is known as subsidence, or a sinking of the ground, the result of a decline in groundwater levels.

Data in the web portal covers 1977 to 2016 and thankfully shows some good news: that groundwater levels have recovered substantially since the government stepped in to try and stop the decline. In 1977, for instance, places around the Houston Ship Channel saw the aquifer plunge to nearly 300 feet below sea level; since then, it’s risen to about 100 feet below.

That’s vital information for city planners. The subsidence “has become a major factor guiding the development of Houston in recent decades,” according to the Houston Chronicle article. It was the result of too much demand, not enough supply: Houston’s residents tapping into the once-plentiful water below ground, more quickly than it could be replenished. 

The new web portal also tracks soil compaction. To explore the somewhat alarming phenomenon happening to our Texas neighbor, check out the U.S. Geological Survey’s site here.


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