Modeling of earth fissures caused by land subsidence due to groundwater withdrawal
- Amec Foster Wheeler, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Abstract. Land subsidence and earth fissures are phenomena related to groundwater withdrawal in a sedimentary basin. If the rock basement or basin lithology is irregular, both vertical and horizontal displacements can be induced due to differential settlement and tensile stresses appearing in the soil mass. If the differential settlement is of sufficient magnitude, earth fissuring can occur within tensile zones. The magnitudes of compaction and fissure geometry are closely related to the thickness and skeletal compressibility of fine-grained sediments within the aquifer system. Land subsidence and earth fissuring were modeled by employing a two-dimensional (2-D) coupled seepage and stress-strain finite element analysis. The basin bedrock geometry, lithological variation, measurements of surface displacements, and changes in hydraulic head were the critical input parameter for the subsidence modeling. Simulation results indicate that strain had exceeded the approximate threshold for fissure formation of 0.02 to 0.06 % in the area of the identified fissures. The numerical model was used to predict future subsidence and potential earth fissures for flood control structures within the metro Phoenix area.