Groundwater Pumping Causing Land Subsidence in Southern Chesapeake Bay, USGS Study Says

On Dec. 9, U.S. Geological Survey Virginia Water Science Center and the agency’s Office of Groundwater released a study on the effects of groundwater withdrawals on land subsidence in the Southern Chesapeake Bay. The land surface is sinking due primarily to groundwater withdrawals, causing increased flooding and sea-level rise in the communities and coastal habitats of this region. The effect is resulting in greater vulnerability to coastal storms.

According to the report, “Land Subsidence and Relative Sea-Level Rise in the Southern Chesapeake Bay Region,” the Chesapeake Bay region has the highest rates of relative sea-level rise on the East Coast, ranging from 3.2 to 4.7 mm/yr (.13 in.–.19 in.) with 4.4 mm/yr (.17 in.) in Norfolk. Land subsidence is causing more than half of the observed relative sea-level rise in the southern Chesapeake Bay. The report suggests some recommended actions including decreasing groundwater withdrawal rates and moving groundwater pumping away from high-risk areas.

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