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Shallow‑subsidence vulnerability in the city of New Orleans, southern USA
S. van Asselen
Publication type | artikel (tijdschrift)
Land subsidence in the city of New Orleans (USA) and its surroundings increases flood risk, and may cause damage to
buildings and infrastructure and loss of protective coastal wetlands. To make New Orleans more resilient to future flooding, a new approach for groundwater and subsidence management is needed. As a first step in developing such an approach, high-quality and high-resolution subsurface and groundwater information was collected and synthesized to better understand and quantify shallow land subsidence in New Orleans. Based on the collected field data, it was found that especially the low-lying areas north and south of the Metairie-Gentilly (MG) Ridge are most vulnerable to further subsidence; north of the MG Ridge, subsidence is mainly caused by peat oxidation and south of the MG Ridge mainly by peat compaction. At present, peat has compacted ~31% on average, with a range of 9–62%, leaving significant potential for further subsidence due to peat compaction. Phreatic groundwater levels drop to ~150 cm below surface levels during dry periods and increase to ~50 cm below surface during wet periods, on average. Present phreatic groundwater levels are mostly controlled by leaking subsurface pipes. Shallow groundwater in the northern part of New Orleans is threatened by salinization resulting from a reversal of groundwater flow following past subsidence, which may increase in the future due to sea-level rise and continued subsidence. The hydrogeologic information provided here is needed to effectively design tailor-made measures to limit urban flooding and continued subsidence in the city of New Orleans.