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Welcome to the Subsidence District...

Mike TurcoWe have some critical responsibilities here at the Subsidence District...

The Harris-Galveston Subsidence District is a special purpose district created by the Texas Legislature in 1975. The District was created to provide for the regulation of groundwater withdrawal throughout Harris and Galveston counties for the purpose of preventing land subsidence, which leads to increased flooding. The District’s enabling legislation is found in Chapter 8801 of the Special Districts Code.

We achieve our goals through a combination of efforts. Of great importance is controlling subsidence by managing how we use our groundwater resources. This is accomplished through the careful regulation of groundwater withdrawals, working in collaboration with surface water suppliers. And just as significant – short-term and long-term – is the teaching and implementation of water conservation throughout our communities, neighborhoods, businesses, and households…all the way down to the youngest family members.

We are frequently asked, "What, exactly, is subsidence and how are groundwater resources managed? And how do we successfully teach our water users to conserve?"

Let’s start with subsidence. Webster’s defines it as “to sink, to fall to the bottom; to settle.” Well, that’s exactly what some of the land in our area has been doing since the 1920’s. Prior to World War II, areas with significant industrial and petrochemical development, such as Baytown and Texas City, experienced significant, localized subsidence. This trend continued during and after World War II, when rapid industrial and municipal growth began to create broad, regional patterns of subsidence, raising serious concerns over flooding.

In fact, in the critical areas along Galveston Bay, the land surface has sunk as much as 10 feet since 1906! Experts have been studying the subsidence phenomena for almost 100 years, and with each hurricane we have weathered, we’ve seen subsidence and flooding problems worsen.

One dramatic example of this was in the Brownwood subdivision, a coastal community of Baytown where almost continual flooding due to subsidence caused the area to eventually be abandoned.

In 1975, as a result of area residents and local governments becoming increasingly alarmed by the continued impact of subsidence on economic growth and quality of life in the region, the Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District was created by the 64th Texas Legislature as an underground water conservation district. Our main role at that time was to provide for the regulation of the withdrawal of groundwater to control subsidence. The challenge had begun. In that first year, we diligently gathered information on the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers. We analyzed planning information to learn more about water usage and water supply within our boundaries, and we began implementing regulatory procedures that led to our first groundwater regulatory plan.

Through the years, the management of our groundwater resources has involved significant coordination with regional ground and surface water suppliers; ongoing interaction with other state and local regulatory bodies; analysis of accurate and up to date predictions on water usage; the enforcement of real disincentives to those who rely too heavily on groundwater; and an unwavering commitment to practicing and promoting water conservation.

As we look to the future, we realize that stewardship of our most precious natural resource will become even more important. We will continue to expand our efforts through collaboration with our partners and outreach through education and programs that underscore important conservation messages in the community.

We invite you to learn more about subsidence and how we monitor it. If you’re an educator, find out how to deliver key conservation messages to youngsters, and, for groundwater users and those in the water industry, use this site for convenient access to reports and interactive forms. It’s all at your fingertips – we hope you enjoy it!