Articles | Volume 372
12 Nov 2015
 | 12 Nov 2015

Inverse modeling using PS-InSAR for improved calibration of hydraulic parameters and prediction of future subsidence for Las Vegas Valley, USA

T. J. Burbey and M. Zhang

Abstract. Las Vegas Valley has had a long history of surface deformation due to groundwater pumping that began in the early 20th century. After nearly 80 years of pumping, PS-InSAR interferograms have revealed detailed and complex spatial patterns of subsidence in the Las Vegas Valley area that do not coincide with major pumping regions. High spatial and temporal resolution subsidence observations from InSAR and hydraulic head data were used to inversely calibrate transmissivities (T), elastic and inelastic skeletal storage coefficients (Ske and Skv) of the developed-zone aquifer and conductance (CR) of the basin-fill faults for the entire Las Vegas basin. The results indicate that the subsidence observations from PS-InSAR are extremely beneficial for accurately quantifying hydraulic parameters, and the model calibration results are far more accurate than when using only water-levels as observations, and just a few random subsidence observations. Future predictions of land subsidence to year 2030 were made on the basis of existing pumping patterns and rates. Simulation results suggests that subsidence will continue in northwest subsidence bowl area, which is expected to undergo an additional 11.3 cm of subsidence. Even mitigation measures that include artificial recharge and reduced pumping do not significantly reduce the compaction in the northwest subsidence bowl. This is due to the slow draining of thick confining units in the region. However, a small amount of uplift of 0.4 cm is expected in the North and Central bowl areas over the next 20 years.

Short summary
Land subsidence due to long-term pumping in Las Vegas Valley has been a problem for more than 40 years. A new groundwater flow and deformation model was built to accompany new radar and water-level data. Results show that although rising water levels have resulted in uplift in some areas, the Northwest region will continue to subside for the foreseeable future in spite of these mitigation measures.