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Evolution of long-term land subsidence near Mexico City:

Review, field investigations, and predictive simulations


Dalia Ortiz-Zamora
1
and Adrian Ortega-Guerrero
2
Received 28 August 2008; revised 29 September 2009; accepted 9 October 2009; published 28 January 2010.
[1] Aquitard consolidation in the Chalco Plain is the most recent of a series of major land
subsidence problems near Mexico City caused by leaky-aquifer pumping and involving a
complex distribution of basalt flows within a lacustrine sequence. This study first
conducted a ground magnetic survey combined with lithologic logs to map the extension
of basalts. Then it assessed the evolution of ground surface elevations and updated
hydraulic heads in the aquifer and aquitard in order to verify the accuracy of previous
simulations and develop new predictions on land subsidence employing a one-
dimensional, nonlinear, groundwater flow-consolidation model. Results show the presence
of shallow basalts that extend from Sierra Santa Catarina into the Chalco Plain, causing a
differential consolidation that controls both the distribution of large-scale fractures in the
aquitard and the shape of a new lake. Cumulative land subsidence in the center of the
Chalco Plain reached 13 m in 2006, thus closely matching previous numerical estimations.
Since 1985, the ground surface decline has continued at a rate of 0.40 m/yr, while the
potentiometric surface decline in the aquifer proceeds at an average rate of 1.5 m/yr,
indicating that the flow system has not yet reached steady-state conditions. Numerical
predictions show that under current pumping rates, where the aquitard is 300 m, total land
subsidence will reach 19 m by the year 2020; while where the aquitard is 140 m thick,
total land subsidence will reach 12 m, and increase the risk of flooding and aquitard
fracturing for nearby urban centers.
Citation: Ortiz-Zamora, D., and A. Ortega-Guerrero (2010), Evolution of long-term land subsidence near Mexico City: Review, field
investigations, and predictive simulations, Water Resour. Res., 46, W01513, doi:10.1029/2008WR007398.
1. Introduction
[2] Land subsidence in the Chalco Basin represents the
most recent of a series of major problems of this type near
Mexico City (Figure 1). The metropolitan area of Mexico
City, home to some 20 million people, depends mainly on
groundwater for urban and industrial uses. Much of that
groundwater is obtained from a regional alluvial-pyroclastic
aquifer that underlies a thick lacustrine aquitard, one com-
posed of highly compressible, fine-grained, very porous
(60%90%), organically rich Quaternary lacustrine sedi-
ments, interbedded with thin horizontal volcanic sand
layers, some of which are referred to as capas duras
(hard layers). Groundwater extraction from the regional
alluvial-pyroclastic aquifer beneath and beyond the aquitard
began in the 19th century and became extensive in the
1930s [Hiriart and Marsal, 1969]. Heavy pumping in the
core of the city caused depressurization and consolidation of
the aquitard [Carrillo, 1947], thus giving rise to large-scale
land subsidence in downtown Mexico City over several
decades, and to severe problems of large-scale fracturing
that affects building foundations, urban infrastructure, trans-
portation systems, and sewer drainage systems, among other
elements [Gayol, 1925; Cuevas, 1936; Zeevaert, 1953;
Marsal and Mazari, 1959; Marsal, 1969; Juarez-Badillo,
1961; Aguilar et al., 2006).
[3] In order to reduce damage to downtown Mexico City,
most production wells were canceled and new well fields
were constructed in surrounding areas, resulting in the
partial transfer of land subsidence to these new areas. One
of the most recently built well fields was located in the
Chalco Basin (Figure 1), which is one of the six ancient
connected shallow lakes that once existed in the Basin of
Mexico. Containing a total of 14 wells, the Santa Catarina
field was drilled in the middle of the Chalco Plain in the
early 1980s (Figures 2a and 2b). Groundwater pumping
from these wells has triggered some of the most rapid land
subsidence experienced near Mexico City, causing a cumu-
lative land subsidence of 8 m in 1991, at an annual rate of
0.40 m [Ortega et al., 1999], rate that apparently continues
today.
[4] Large-scale fractures in the Chalco Plain have also
developed as a consequence of aquifer pumping [Ortega,
1993; Vargas, 1995; Ramirez, 1995; Zawadski, 1996].
Whether other large-scale fractures exist in the Chalco Plain
is important for their hydraulic implications in the ground-
water flow and solute transport controls in the lacustrine
aquitard to the underlying aquifer.
[5] The hydrogeological features of the Chalco Basin are
described in Ortega et al. [1993] with an emphasis on the
lacustrine aquitard. The authors documented the history of
1
Academia de Geociencias, Universidad Autonoma de la Ciudad de
Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico.
2
Centro de Geociencias, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico,
Campus Juriquilla, Queretaro, Mexico.
Copyright 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.
0043-1397/10/2008WR007398$09.00
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WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, VOL. 46, W01513, doi:10.1029/2008WR007398, 2010
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subsidence in relation with information on piezometric
conditions in the aquitard and the underlying aquifer, and
presented the first detailed hydraulic heads and salinity
profiles for the aquitard, on the basis of the instrumentation
of piezometer nests at different locations in the Chalco
Plain. On the basis of historical data collection, soil me-
chanics determinations, field instrumentation, numerical
analysis, and the sensitivity of the physical data, Ortega
et al. [1999] assessed the validity of simplifying assump-
tions that significantly enhance the efficiency of calibration
and predictive analysis. Those authors presented numerical
predictions for the evolution of the transient land subsidence
to the year 2010, which showed that the cumulative subsi-
dence in the center of the Chalco Plain would reach 15 m.
[6] Several different, new aspects of the evolution of land
subsidence in the Chalco Plain are considered in the present
study, including the following: (1) stratigraphic controls on
the differential consolidation of the lacustrine sequence and
on the development and shape of a new lake in the middle
of the lacustrine plain; (2) controls on the development of
large-scale fractures on the lacustrine plain; (3) the evolu-
tion of land subsidence and hydraulic heads in the aquifer
and aquitard between 1991 and 2006; (4) review and
evaluation of the accuracy of numerical predictions on the
consolidation carried out by Ortega et al. [1999] from 1991
to 2010; (5) new predictive modeling of land subsidence
based on recent hydraulic data at the existing monitoring
sites in the aquitard and compilation of hydraulic head data
from the Santa Catarina Well Field; and (6) implications for
flooding and aquitard fracturing in the nearby highly
populated areas.
[7] Thus, this research focuses on two main objectives,
one related to field measurements, the other to numerical
analysis. The first considers a detailed ground magnetic
survey combined with information from lithologic logs,
core holes, and the depth of piezometer refusals to map
the extension of shallow basalt flows interbedded within the
lacustrine sequence, as well as the mapping of large-scale
fractures in the Chalco Plain and their possible origin in the
consolidation phenomena. For the second objective, the
study conducts detail ground surface elevation surveys
within an area of 20 km
2
, and updates the hydraulic head
in the aquitard at different monitoring sites to assess a
means of verifying the comprehensive protocol for the
review and evaluation of land subsidence involving highly
compressible aquitards and numerical predictions for the
Chalco Basin, as proposed by Ortega et al. [1999]. Com-
pilation of hydraulic heads in the aquifer was obtained from
the Water System of Mexico City (SACM). The development
of new predictions for land subsidence employing a coupled,
one-dimensional, nonlinear, numerical, groundwater flow-
consolidation model for different scenarios of drawdown
evolution in the production aquifer is also contemplated in
this last objective. Finally, these predictions would make it
possible to delimit the urban zones with the highest potential
for flooding and fracturing as a means of preventing the loss
of human lives and providing the basis for improved control
of urban growth and territorial planning.
2. Historical Context of Land Subsidence
in Mexico City
[8] Groundwater extraction from the regional granular
aquifer underneath the lacustrine aquitard in the core of
Mexico City began in the 1840s and became extensive in
the 1930s and 1950s as population increased [Hiriart and
Marsal, 1969]. Gayol [1925], from the Drainage and
Sanitation Project for Mexico City, observed topographic
variations of the sewer drains located in the lacustrine plain.
Cuevas [1936] reported in the geotechnical literature that
land subsidence could be related to groundwater extraction.
The fact that groundwater withdrawals from the regional
aquifer was causing land subsidence, because of depressur-
ization of the lacustrine aquitard, was studied in the geo-
technical context by Carrillo [1947]. Since this early work,
many additional research and technical studies have been
conducted with respect to the land subsidence problem.
[9] The Hydrologic Commission of the Valley of Mexico
Basin (Comision Hidrologica de la Cuenca del Valle de
Mexico (CHCVM)) responsible then for the water resources
in the Basin of Mexico reported an average land subsidence
of 4.56 m in the core of Mexico City, by comparing
topographic data between 1891 and 1952 [Marsal and
Sainz, 1956] and commenced a systematic network and
monitoring of more that 300 multilevel piezometers and
benchmarks at different locations within the lacustrine
plains. These data were published in Soil Mechanics Bulle-
tins between 1953 and 1970 by the CHCVM and later on by
the Valley of Mexico Water Commission (Comision de
Aguas del Valle de Mexico (CAVM)). The nest of piezom-
eters were installed in the thin sandy layers within the
lacustrine sequence and measured the pore water pressure
variations between near ground surface and 100 m depth,
providing an invaluable historical record of the transient
hydraulic response of the aquitard, some of which may still
function today.
[10] Simultaneously with the installation of multilevel
piezometers and benchmarks, an extensive investigation
into the geomechanical properties of the lacustrine deposits
was conducted during the 1950s, where extremely high
Figure 1. Location of the study area in the Basin of
Mexico, distribution of the lacustrine areas, and the Metro-
politan Mexico City. The location of Downtown Mexico City
(DMC) is also shown.
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W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE W01513
volumetric water contents, porosity, and compressibility of
the clay-rich sediments [Marsal and Mazari, 1959], in
addition to changes in pore pressure distribution [Zeevaert,
1953], explained the magnitude of the subsidence problem.
[11] Further theoretical insight into the hydraulic aquifer-
aquitard interactions using the integrodifferential equation
approach was provided by Herrera and Figueroa [1969],
Herrera and Rodarte [1973], and later simulated by
Herrera et al. [1982]. The nonlinearity of the hydraulic
parameters in the Mexico City aquitard during consolida-
tion was suggested by Cruickshank [1985], and further
investigated through field instrumentations and develop-
ment of a coupled one-dimensional model by Rudolph and
Frind [1991]. Rivera et al. [1991] carried out a regional
analysis of land subsidence in Mexico City.
Figure 2. (a) The Chalco clay plain showing the thickness of the lacustrine aquitard and the location of
the 14 wells of the Santa Catarina Well Field. The boundaries of the Chalco plain are also shown.
(b) Hydrogeological cross section showing the distribution of the basalt units interlayered within the
lacustrine sequence and the location of the main production aquifer.
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE
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[12] Land subsidence and development of different scale
fractures in the aquitard are associated [Carrillo, 1947;
Marsal and Mazari, 1959]. Studies related to the occur-
rence of fractures in the Mexico City aquitard are those by
Auvinet [1981], De Cserna et al. [1987], Arias [1989], and
Lugo-Hupb et al. [1991], among many others; while the
theoretical models of fracture formation highlights the con-
tributions by Juarez-Badillo [1961, 1975], Juarez-Badillo
and Figueroa [1984], Figueroa [1987, 1989], Alberro and
Hernandez [1990], and Juarez-Luna et al. [2002]; coupled
groundwater flow and soil mechanics equations were applied
to a practical situation near Mexico City by Aguilar et al.
[2006].
[13] At present, the National Water Commission (Com-
ision Nacional del Agua (CNA)) is the federal agency
responsible for the water administration in the country,
included Mexico City. In 2003 came into operation a
decentralized public institution, the Water System of
Mexico City (SACM) by merging the then Directorate of
General Construction and Hydraulic Operation (DGCOH)
and the Mexico City Water Commission (CADF). Both
CNA and SACM have the responsibility of collecting,
maintaining, and interpreting the basic hydraulic data and
land subsidence in the Mexico City area, with the partic-
ipation of engineering professional organizations in the
areas of soil mechanics, hydraulics, geology, and geophys-
ics, among consultant companies and research groups at
universities.
3. Evolution of Groundwater Pumping and Land
Subsidence in the Chalco Basin
[14] Three distinct periods of groundwater extraction can
be identified in the Chalco Basin [Ortega et al., 1993]. The
first period corresponds to groundwater extraction from the
unconfined granular aquifer in the early 1940s through
some 150 wells for local municipal and agricultural use,
at a rate of about 1.3 m
3
/s. The second period corresponds
to the first exports of drinking water to Mexico City, from
the early 1960s to the late 1970s, where the extraction of
groundwater from basaltic aquifers in the foothills of the
Sierra Chichinautzin and Sierra Santa Catarina on the
periphery of the Chalco Plain caused existing springs to
disappear. Groundwater extraction in this period was esti-
mated at 5 m
3
/s. The third period involves the exploitation
of the semiconfined aquifer located in the Chalco Plain,
beneath a thick sequence of lacustrine sediments. Fourteen
wells, with depths of up to 400 m in the Santa Catarina Well
Field and four wells at Xico were drilled in the mid-1980s
to meet the increasing demand for water in metropolitan
Mexico City. Total groundwater extraction in the late 1980s
was on the order of 7.758 m
3
/s [Huizar, 1989].
[15] Figure 2a shows the location of the Santa Catarina
Well Field and indicates the thickness of the lacustrine
sediments overlying the main granular aquifer, which
ranges from only a few meters at the edges of the lacustrine
plain to a maximum of 300 m in the middle, with an average
of about 100 m. Quaternary volcanic activity was contem-
poraneous to lacustrine sedimentation as can be appreciated
in the cross section of Figure 2b, where basaltic rocks are
seen interbedded within the clayey sediments. The location
of the granular aquifer and the position of the wells are also
indicated. Well P14 apparently presented construction prob-
lems and was canceled in the early 2000s.
[16] Land subsidence in the Chalco Plain has thus been
continuous from the early 1960s to the present. Average
land subsidence rates during the 1960s and 1970s were on
the order of 0.100.15 m/yr, indicating the effects of the
potentiometric level decline in the semiconfined aquifer due
to the exploitation of the granular unconfined and basaltic
aquifers in the periphery of the Chalco Plain. Land subsi-
dence in the middle of the plain reached 2 m between 1984
and 1989 (Figure 3a), and in 1991 cumulative land subsi-
dence reached 8 m, indicating that the land subsidence rate
of 0.40 m/yr has continued since the beginning of oper-
ations at the Santa Catarina wells [Ortega et al., 1999] and
perhaps up to the present.
[17] Meteoric and sewage waters are accumulating in the
topographic depressions where maximum subsidence
occurs, a development that will be referred to in this study
as the New Chalco Lake. Figures 3b and 3c show the
evolution of ponded water in the middle of the Chalco Plain
in 1988 and 1991, respectively. In 2006, the extension of
this ponded water covered nearly 1000 ha and developed
the shape of an inverted letter C or a waxing crescent moon
[Ortiz and Ortega, 2007].
[18] Instrumentation of one regional large-scale fracture
where the aquitard is 54 m thick, located near well P2 of the
Santa Catarina well field, to study groundwater and solute
transport were conducted during the 1990s [Ortega, 1993;
Vargas, 1995; Ramirez, 1995; Zawadski, 1996]. Those
studies concluded that the depth of active groundwater flow
occurred in the upper 25 m.
[19] Aquitard consolidation has been the main mecha-
nism for land subsidence in the Chalco Basin, because of
the potentiometric surface decline in the semiconfined
aquifer at a nearly constant rate of 1.5 m/yr since operations
at the Santa Catarina wells began in 1984. The nonlinear
transient response of the aquitard to aquifer pumping from
the Santa Catarina wells has been observed through the
hydraulic head response at different piezometer locations in
the Chalco Plain since 1989 [Ortega et al., 1999].
[20] On the basis of groundwater extraction records in the
Chalco Basin between 1991 and 2006, a sustained depletion
of the potentiometric surface in the granular aquifer has
been observed, causing the transient hydraulic response of
the aquitard and an additional amount of surface settlement.
These processes are reviewed and updated in this study.
4. Methods and Materials
4.1. Ground Magnetic Survey
[21] Ground magnetic surveys combined magnetometer
measurements with the differential Global Positioning Sys-
tem (GPS). The magnetic method works by mapping
variations in the Earths magnetic field at the study area.
The magnetic method of exploring the subsurface was used
to map the distribution of shallow basalts interbedded
within the contemporaneous lacustrine sequence, which
contains varying amounts of magnetically susceptible min-
erals. The magnetic method is relatively easy to perform and
inexpensive, as it requires little data processing or manip-
ulation. The technique was complemented with core hole
data, lithologic logs, and information from the depth of
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W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE W01513
refusal during piezometer installation. The magnetic survey
was carried out in the spring of 2004 covering an area of
about 10 km
2
.
[22] Two proton-precession magnetometers were used:
first, a base station recording magnetometer Geometrics
1
(G858AX) with a precision of 0.1 nT, that measures the
erratic, diurnal variations of the Earths magnetic field every
5 min; and, second, a Scintrex
1
cesium magnetometer
(SMARG-4) with a precision of 0.01 nT that measured
the Earths total magnetic field; that is, the sum of the
anomalous fields and the earths background field, includ-
ing diurnal variations. To determine the anomalous field,
the background field is subtracted from the total field. The
anomalous field includes the remnant magnetization of the
basalt, which permits its identification either as a magnetic
high or low in the total field of magnetic data [Telford et
al., 1990]. Various studies in other areas have successfully
determined the presence and extension of covered basalt
flows [see, among others, Zvi Ben et al., 1980; Stamatakos
et al., 1997].
[23] The magnetic field intensities of buried magnetized
objects produce different anomaly patterns. Because of the
dipolar nature of magnetic fields, a single magnetized body
will produce both positive and negative anomalies. The
shape of the anomaly depends on the magnetic inclination
(I) of the place where the body is located. For example, in
the case of a magnetized sphere located underground along
a north-south profile, the magnetic north pole (I = 90) is the
maximum peak of the anomaly directly over the sphere; at
other inclinations it is offset toward the south as far as the
magnetic equator (I = 0), where the minimum is centered
over the sphere. Thus, the body is not always directly under
the maximum or minimum anomaly. Because of the erratic
and complex character of magnetic maps, interpretation is
often only qualitative [Telford et al., 1990].
4.2. Surveys of Ground Surface Elevation
[24] Global Positioning System (GPS) in combination
with a Total Station were used to make a detailed topo-
graphic elevation survey within 20 km
2
of the study area.
Points for topographic control were obtained through two
GPS systems, one a double frequency model (L1, L2)
THALES
1
(Zmax), the other a single frequency type (L1)
ASTEC
1
(Promark 2). The coordinates were linked to the
active National Geodesic Grid controlled by the National
Institute for Statistics and Geography (INEGI). Using these
two GPS points as a reference, a detailed ground topo-
graphic survey was conducted with a LEICA
1
TPS400
Series Total Station.
4.3. Large-Scale Aquitard Fractures
[25] Two-dimensional mapping of large-scale fractures
was carried out in the Chalco Plain in combination with a
GPS. Large-scale fractures are easily identified in the field
through changes in vegetation, topography, soil moisture,
and the vertical displacement of the ground surface. Frac-
tured areas are also well known to farmers and ranchers
because of the risk they represent to tractors and cows that
occasionally fall into them. This field research was con-
ducted in 2002, with the final goal of interpreting the origin
of those large-scale fractures based on the hydrogeological
evolution of the Chalco Basin and, more specifically, the
evolution of land subsidence and the distribution of basalt
layers within the lacustrine sequence.
4.4. Evolution of the Hydraulic Head in the Aquifer
and Aquitard
[26] Information on the depth to static water levels was
obtained from agencies of the Mexico City government
(DDF). The National Water Commission (CNA) and former
DGCOH (Mexico City Operating Water System) and actual
Figure 3. (a) Estimates of cumulative land subsidence in the Chalco Plain between 1984 and 1989 and
further development of the New Chalco Lake (modified from Ortega et al. [1993]). Ponded water in
(b) 1988 and (c) 1991. The boundary of the New Chalco Lake in 2006 is included in the three figures to
show its evolution.
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE
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W01513
Water System for Mexico City (Sistema de Aguas de la
Ciudad de Mexico (SACM) keep periodic measurements of
the well systems and maintain information on the Santa
Catarina Well System.
[27] Two existing nests of piezometers (NP2 and NP3)
installed in the aquitard in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in
collaboration with the University of Waterloo, Canada, were
used to periodically measure hydraulic heads [Ortega et al.,
1993, 1999]. The NP2 piezometer site is located adjacent to
core hole CH2 and to the deep well cluster installed by the
DDF in the 1990s, at a site where the thickness of the
aquitard is 140 m. It originally contained seven drive points
from a near ground surface to a total depth of 45 m that
were combined with five deeper DDF wells, thus providing
the deepest and most complete vertical profile. The NP3 site
is located in the middle of the Chalco Plain at the thickest
point of the aquitard (300 m) and contains ten piezometers
between near ground surface and a maximum depth of 85 m.
Some of the piezometers had been destroyed due to agri-
cultural practices and urban growth.
4.5. Numerical Modeling Approach
4.5.1. Justification for 1-D Modeling Analysis
[28] One-dimensional modeling is supported by different
assumptions concerning the one-dimensional vertical flow
in the aquitard of a semiconfined system. These assump-
tions are valid for both the analysis of hydraulic head
transients and the simulation of subsidence phenomena
resulting from the consolidation process, where horizontal
heterogeneity has little influence on the flow and subsidence
phenomena due to the prevalence of the vertical flow
component in the aquitard [see, among others, Neuman
and Witherspoon, 1969; Gambolati and Freeze, 1973;
Helm, 1976; Neuman et al., 1982; Rudolph and Frind,
1991; Dassargues et al., 1993]. Where the nature of the
pressure disturbance generated by groundwater extraction
from the aquifer tends to be very broad in its lateral
extension, with the exception of the area immediately
adjacent to the pumping center, there is a very gentle lateral
gradient away from the well. The main ramification of this
is that a fairly uniform pressure wave propagates through
the aquitard and only very minor lateral gradients are
induced in it. Under these conditions, therefore, the consol-
idation process is almost completely one dimensional,
which contrasts sharply with the consolidation process
associated with the dissipation of excess pore pressure
under a point surface load such as a building, which is
generally treated as a fully 3-D analysis [Craig, 1987].
4.5.2. Description of the Numerical Model
[29] Numerical modeling of the transient hydraulic
response and consolidation of the lacustrine aquitard in
the Chalco Plain was conducted by using a coupled, one-
dimensional, groundwater flow-nonlinear deformation, fine
element model [Rudolph and Frind, 1991]. The 1-D
groundwater flow equation that solves for the hydraulic
head (h
0
) distribution within an aquitard in terms of the
stress-dependent parameters of hydraulic conductivity (K
0
)
and specific storage (Ss
0
) is
@
@z
K
0
e
@h
0
@z

Ss
0
e; s
e

@h
0
@t
: 1
This model [Rudolph and Frind, 1991] incorporates
empirical expressions that relate K
0
(L/T) and Ss
0
to the
soil mechanics parameters void ratio (e) and effective stress
(s
e
) (M/LT
2
) as
des
e
C
c
log
s
eo
ds
e
ds
eo

: 2
Equation (2) represents the change in void ratio (de) as a
function of a change in effective stress (ds
e
); C
c
is the
compression index obtained from the slope of the linear
portion of the e-log s
e
plot, and s
eo
is the effective stress
under current hydraulic head conditions prior to the
subsequent pore pressure change:
Ss
0
e; s
e

rgC
c
log
s
eo
ds
e
se
o

ds
e
1:0 e
o

: 3
Equation (3) provides an expression for Ss
0
in terms of void
ratio and total stress:
dK
0
e Ko
0
e10
de=m
1: 4
Equation (4) relates the change in hydraulic conductivity of
the aquitard (K
0
) to variations in void ratio (e); where K
0
o
is
the initial hydraulic conductivity and (m) represents the
slope of the e-log K
0
plot [Lambe and Whitman, 1969].
[30] The complete boundary value problem involving (1)
and the system shown in Figure 4 will require the following
initial and boundary conditions:
h
0
z; 0 0 5
Figure 4. One-dimensional finite element discretization
(modified from Rudolph and Frind [1991]).
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W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE W01513
h
0
0; t h
B
6
h
0
b
0
; t h
T
; 7
where the bottom boundary h
0
(0, t) is represented by the
transient evolution of the hydraulic head in the aquifer (h
B
)
(L).
[31] The numerical formulation for equation (1) uses a
standard finite element scheme with Galerkins method of
weighted residuals to approximate the spatial derivative,
combined with a Crank-Nicholson finite difference scheme
in time [Rudolph and Frind, 1991]. The flow domain is
discretized in a one-dimensional finite element grid
(Figure 4). The transient numerical solution of (1) requires
specifying the initial and boundary conditions and the
distribution of K
0
(e) and Ss
0
(e, s
e
) that corresponds to the
initial stress field in the flow domain. Therefore, the initial
effective stress and void ratio distribution must be deter-
mined [Rudolph and Frind, 1991].
[32] From the initial s
e
(z) and e (z) along with values of
Cc, the slope (m) of the e-log K
0
plot and an initial value of
K
0
considered representative of the porous medium near
ground surface under low overburden loads, the initial
distribution of Ss
0
(e, s
e
) and K
0
(e) through the soil column
can be determined using equations (3) and (4).
[33] As consolidation proceeds because of the deforma-
tion of the porous medium, the length of the flow domain is
modified during the solution procedure. In the numerical
solution, the deformation is directly proportional to varia-
tions in the void ratio through this equation:
DL
e
L
e
De=1 e
o
; 8
where DL
e
is the change in the length of a given element of
the porous medium; L
e
and e
o
are the total length and
average void ratio of that element prior to the hydraulic
head change, and De is the change in the void ratio between
the element that results from the imposed head change
[Rudolph and Frind, 1991]. This equation also makes it
possible to calculate the change in the length of the soil
column as consolidation proceeds. The nodal spacing is
then modified to account for the change in domain length at
each time step.
[34] The flux across the aquitard boundaries is given by
q K
0
@h
@z
: 9
Equation (9) is evaluated at z = 0 and z = b
0
. The details of
the numerical model are discussed comprehensively by
Rudolph and Frind [1991].
4.5.3. Previous Calibration of Parameters and
Predictive Simulations
[35] A first stage of the numerical analysis was conducted
in the 1990s with the calibration of parameters and pre-
dictions on land subsidence up to the year 2010 [Ortega et
al., 1999]. For the numerical analysis conducted in this
study, the 1-D model was calibrated simultaneously to
observed hydraulic head profiles and historic changes in
land surface elevation using field-measured values of the
hydraulic parameters. The main calibration parameters
included the compression index (Cc) (equations (2) and
(3)) and the initial hydraulic conductivity value (K
0
o
) in the
upper 8 m of the domain (equation (4)). The best fit to the
subsidence data at the NP2 site was achieved with a K
0
o
value of 2.3 10
7
m/s, whereas at the NP3 site, K
0
o
=
5.0 10
7
m/s provided the closest match to the data.
Cc = 3 provided the best fit to the hydraulic head data in
the aquitard at site NP2. The distribution of K
0
values
calculated with (4) through the profile range between 2.3
10
7
m/s near ground surface and 1.1 10
8
m/s at the
aquitard-aquifer interface are comparable with other regional
and local studies of aquitard consolidation [Herrera et al.,
1982; Rivera et al., 1991; Rudolph et al., 1991].
[36] The calibrated model was then used to predict long-
term land subsidence and to assess potential pumping
strategies designed to minimize the magnitude of subsi-
dence [Ortega et al., 1999]. The simulated conditions at the
NP3 site for 1991 were then projected to 2010 for the
purpose of argumentation. It was assumed that the annual
rate of decline in the aquifer piezometric surface would
remain equal to the current rate over the entire time period
at this point in the aquitard (1.5 m/yr). This continued
decline in hydraulic head at the aquitard-aquifer interface
was applied to the lower boundary of the domain during the
projected simulation period. Under these conditions the rate
of land subsidence would continue at 0.40 m/yr, for a total
amount of subsidence of 15 m.
[37] New hydraulic data for the aquifer and aquitard, in
addition to the evolution of surface settlement, would permit
an evaluation of the accuracy of those simulations and a
verification of the comprehensive protocol for the evalua-
tion of land subsidence involving highly compressible
aquitards, as proposed by the former authors.
5. Results and Discussion
5.1. Ground Magnetic Survey
[38] Figures 5a to 5c show the results of the ground
magnetic survey in the study area. The magnetic survey was
carried out along more than 50 different lines on an East-
West orientation, perpendicular to both sides of the Santa
Catarina Well Field (SCWF); three additional lines were
slightly oriented toward North-South, the first along the
Canal General, the second along the SCWF access road,
and the third about 1.2 km west of the SCWF. Station
spacing was 50 m and occasionally smaller, whereas survey
line spacing is between 100 m and 250 m, depending on
conditions of accessibility (Figure 5a). More than 1200
stations were measured.
[39] Figure 5b shows the contour map of the anomalous
magnetic field in nanoteslas (nT) over the study area. The
dipolar nature of the magnetic field produces positive and
negative anomalies that provide the basis for a qualitative
interpretation to define trends associated with the presence
and distribution of the shallow basalts. Magnetic contours
range between 41,100 and 41,800 nT, with the higher values
generally above 41,500 nT prevailing toward the middle
and western parts of the study area (Figure 5b), where basalt
layers have been detected (Figures 2b and 5a). This trend
clearly indicates that the source of this basalt flow is the
NW portion of Sierra Santa Catarina. The ground magnetic
data also enhance the negative anomalies north of each one
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE
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W01513
of the larger amplitude positive anomalies, such as the case
of the basalt flow that crosses the SCWF at locations P7
P10 (Figure 5b). These pairs of positive and negative
magnetic anomalies, called dipolar anomalies, reinforce
the interpretation that observed anomalies produced by
basalt flows with strongly normal magnetizations.
[40] Information from the drill logs in the production
holes indicates that basaltic layers are present in the Santa
Catarina Well Field at well sites P1P3 and at P7P10
(Figures 2b and 5a). Depth of refusal during piezometer
installation at sites NP1 and VWP1 also indicates the
presence of shallow basalts at depths of 25 m and 56 m,
respectively. In contrast, detailed stratigraphic information
from continuously-cored exploration boreholes at sites
CH1, CH2 and CH3 and at depths between 80 and 140 m
(Figure 5a), and from drill logs in the Santa Catarina wells
at sites P4P6 and P11P14 (Figures 2b and 5a), indicate
the absence of basalts interbedded within the lacustrine
sediments at those sites.
[41] The magnetic anomaly observed along the main
Tlahuac-Chalco road is attributed to metallic pipes and
electric infrastructure, as the lithologic logs from well sites
P13 and P14 do not report the presence of basalts in the
lacustrine sequence (Figures 2a and 2b). Local positive or
negative anomalies can also be observed at the well sites
due to the associated infrastructure, particularly well
screens.
[42] Figure 5c shows an interpretation of the distribution
and depth to the shallow basalts in the study area based on
the above information. The depth to the basalts increases
from about 20 m near Sierra Santa Catarina to 80 m along
the four wells of the Santa Catarina Well Field, with a
thickness of 50 m, and a pinch out of 600 m after the
well field near the Canal General. The limits of the New
Chalco Lake follow the contours of the boundary of the
shallow basalt flow, whereas the eastern boundary of the
lake is controlled by the Canal General, from which water is
pumped toward the north of the Chalco Basin to prevent
flooding in the Valle de Chalco urban area.
5.2. Surveys of Ground Surface Elevation
[43] Different aspects of land subsidence in the study area
from 1960 to 2006 are presented in Figures 6 and 7a and 7b.
Plan views of the contours of cumulative land subsidence
are presented in Figure 6, where a topographic trend
developed as a consequence of the presence of basaltic
flows in the lacustrine sequence (Figure 5c). Land subsi-
dence values range from 0 m to 13 m. Nonsubsidence
occurred toward Sierra Santa Catarina, but from there
progressively increasing subsidence occurs toward the mid-
Figure 5. Magnetic survey: (a) Location of the survey stations showing nest of piezometers (NP), core
holes (CH), wells (P), and basalts at refusal or in lithologic column shown in solid black circles;
(b) contour of the anomalous magnetic field; and (c) distribution of the shallow basalt interbedded within
the lacustrine sequence. The depth to the basalt and control of the shape and growth of New Chalco Lake
are also seen.
8 of 15
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE W01513
dle of the Chalco Plain. The New Chalco Lake follows the
12 m contour. Maximum total subsidence of 13 m occurs at
the NP3 site and may extend toward the bottom of the lake
(Figure 6).
[44] The evolution of land subsidence along the access
road near the Santa Catarina Well Field is shown in Figure 7a.
The initial reference elevation is the year 1960; land subsi-
dence effects in 1984 and 1991 are also presented, but there
is insufficient information to differentiate the local effects of
the shallow basalt flow in the stratigraphy of wells P7P10.
The detailed topographic profile measured in 2006 clearly
shows a lower cumulative land subsidence in areas where
the shallow basalts are present (P1P3 and P7P10), which
contrasts with areas of higher land subsidence where lacus-
trine sediments prevail (P5P6 and P11P14).
[45] A decline of the ground surface elevation at four of
the monitoring sites is shown in Figure 7b, based on data for
1985 and 1991 from Ortega et al. [1999]. The evolution of
the ground surface elevation as shown in the 2006 topo-
graphic survey is also presented there. The two monitoring
sites located where lacustrine sediments prevail, reached a
total land subsidence of 9 m at Site NP2, whereas site NP3
reached a total of 13 m. This amount of total consolidation
at the NP3 Site closely matches the numerical predictions
for 2006 proposed by Ortega et al. [1999] using data up to
1991, indicating that the comprehensive protocol for the
evaluation of land subsidence involving highly compress-
ible aquitards suggested by these authors is valid.
[46] These results show that the rate of land subsidence
continued at about 0.40 m/yr during the 19912006 period,
suggesting that the annual rate of decline in the aquifer
piezometric surface has continued at about 1.5 m/yr, as
confirmed below.
5.3. Large-Scale Aquitard Fractures
[47] Figure 8a shows the distribution of large-scale frac-
tures in the study area. As can be seen, one group of large-
scale fractures is located near the Santa Catarina Well Field,
within a 1 km fringe on both sides of the access road toward
the west of the well field with a quantity of 2 to 6 large-scale
fractures that are concentrated near wells P2, P5, and P8
P9. A second group of large-scale fractures, located toward
the eastern margin of the well field between wells P9P11
and the Canal General, presents more than 20 individual,
randomly oriented fractures. The third group is represented
by two series each with two large-scale fractures, located
2 km to the west of the well field near the Tlahuac-Santa
Catarina road. Large-scale fractures present lengths of 50
500 m, with apertures of 0.501 m and vertical displace-
ments between blocks on the order of 0.502 m.
[48] The main controls for fracture development are the
proximity of the Santa Catarina pumping wells (Figure 8a)
and the distribution of the shallow basalts (Figure 8b). Most
of the fractures seen in Figure 7b are located near the edges
of the basalt boundaries, particularly the first and second
groups described above, near the Santa Catarina wells;
while the third group is found in the basaltic flow where
the aquitard is 2040 m thick (Figures 8b and 5c). The
current extension of the flooded areas has covered several of
these large-scale fractures.
[49] The origin of the fractures near the edges of the
basalt flows can be attributed to differential compaction and
proximity to the Santa Catarina wells, where the maximum
stress related to drawdown cones of the potentiometric
surface occurs. The area of the Chalco Plain where the basalts
extend subsides at a rate between 0.00 and 0.10 m/yr, in
contrast to the higher rate of 0.250.40 m/yr where the
Figure 6. Plan view of the contours of cumulative land subsidence between 1960 and 2006. The
topographic trend follows the presence and distribution of the basaltic flows interbedded within the
lacustrine sequence defined on the basis of information from piezometers, core holes, lithologic logs, and
the magnetic survey.
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE
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W01513
basalts are not present in the lacustrine sequence. This
differential rate of compaction may progressively increase
the magnitude of the horizontal stress to the point where the
mechanical failure of the lacustrine sediments would occur.
In addition to differential compaction, the influence of large
magnitude seismicity (the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City)
on large-scale fracture generation has also been demonstrated
in the lacustrine aquitard to the north of Sierra Santa Catarina
[Aguilar et al., 2006].
[50] The existence of diverse families of large-scale
fractures in the Chalco Basin has different implications for
the behavior of groundwater flow and solute transport in the
aquitard. However, the accuracy of the numerical predic-
tions made between 1991 and 2006 indicates that the
influence of fracture flow on the Chalco Basin is not
significant where the aquitard thickness is above 100 m.
This is consistent with studies in a large-scale fracture near
well P2 where the depth of active groundwater flow was in
the upper 25 m of the lacustrine sequence, where the
aquitard is 56 mthick [Ortega, 1993; Vargas, 1995; Ramirez,
1995; Zawadski, 1996].
[51] Numerical predictions for the years 2020 and 2030
foresee additional subsidence in the Chalco Basin; there-
fore, it is to be expected that new large-scale fractures will
form and that existing ones may increase their activity.
Indicating that fracture flow will start to play an important
role in the consolidation process sometime into the future.
5.4. Evolution of Hydraulic Head in the Aquifer
and Aquitard
[52] Three main periods of hydraulic head evolution in
the semiconfined aquifer have been described previously by
Ortega et al. [1993]. The first period corresponds to the
assumption of hydrostatic conditions at the aquifer-aquitard
interface prior to the beginning of major groundwater
extraction in the 1950s. In the second period, from the
1950s to the early 1980s, groundwater was extracted from
the unconfined aquifer on the periphery of the Chalco Plain.
Static water levels in the aquifer were observed to be
between 17 m and 20 m below ground surface in 1982,
when the Santa Catarina wells were drilled, and an annual
decline in the aquifer piezometric surface of about 0.50 m is
estimated. The construction and operation of 14 wells in the
Santa Catarina System, between 1983 and 1991, correspond
to the third stage, during which the average decline of the
piezometric surface was about 1.5 m/yr.
[53] The evolution of static water levels at wells P3, P10,
and P13 of the Santa Catarina wells according to DDF data
is presented in Figure 9 for the 19852005 period. These
water levels were corrected from benchmark elevation data
for the year in which they were measured, because well
casings are cut periodically as they grow in association with
the subsidence process.
[54] A total hydraulic head decline of 25 m occurred in
this 20 year period, representing an additional head decline
of 18 m since 1991, and indicating that the flow system
continues under transient conditions. The average annual
decline in the aquifer piezometric surface has continued at a
rate of 1.5 m, and the general trend of annual decreases in
the aquifer piezometric surface in the three wells indicates
that the flow system has not yet reached steady-state
hydraulic conditions.
[55] Figure 10 shows the average vertical profiles in the
aquitard for two of the monitoring locations in 2006. At
location NP2, basalt is not present in the layer that overlies
the granular aquifer and the lacustrine sediments are nearly
140 m thick. In the upper 50 m, hydrostatic conditions still
prevail in the aquitard, indicating little or no influence from
depressurization in the underlying aquifer (Figure 10a). It is
likely that these hydrostatic conditions represent the
hydraulic state that existed throughout the entire thickness
of the aquitard at this site prior to the commencement of
pumping from the regional aquifer system. Below 50 m,
progressively increasing downward flow gradients have
existed since 1991, indicating that pore pressures in the
bottom 100 m of the aquitard have decreased as a result of
aquifer pumping. The hydraulic head profile at the NP2 site
is clearly in a transient state. Pore pressures will continue
to decrease with time and this decline will propagate itself
vertically upward through the entire thickness of the
aquitard.
[56] Vertical hydraulic head profiles measured at site
NP3, where the aquitard is the thickest (300 m), indicate
that no changes in the neutral vertical gradients in the upper
85 m of the sequence (Figure 10b). This illustrates once
again that where the aquitard is relatively thick (>100 m) the
depressurization effects of pumping are not yet detectable
Figure 7. (a) Evolution of land subsidence along the Santa
Catarina Well Field and (b) decline in ground surface
elevation between 1960 and 2006 at four monitoring sites
(19851991 data by Ortega et al. [1999]).
10 of 15
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE W01513
throughout the entire unit, and that conditions similar to
those that prevailed prior to the commencement of pumping
persist in the upper portion of the aquitard.
[57] Hydraulic head data suggest that the aquifer-aquitard
system in the Chalco Basin is evolving hydraulically in a
very dynamic fashion, a condition that will likely continue
well into the future as long as heavy groundwater extraction
continues. Downward groundwater flow conditions current-
ly exist in the aquitard within 100 m of the aquifer-
aquitard interface and will continue to increase and expand
throughout the lacustrine plain.
5.5. Numerical Modeling
[58] Sites NP2 and NP3 were selected as the basis for
numerical predictions of long-term land subsidence. Site
NP3 was considered in previous predictions by Ortega et al.
[1999], while site NP2 was incorporated into the present
analysis.
5.5.1. Hydraulic and Soil Mechanics Parameters
[59] The hydraulic parameters required for the flow
simulations are the specific storage (Ss
0
) and hydraulic
conductivity of the aquitard (K
0
), while the geomechanical
parameters include the compression index (Cc). Specific
storage is a function of the void ratio (e) and Cc and varies
with the effective stress (s
e
). The most appropriate values
for Cc, m, and Ko
0
used in the simulations were those
obtained using the calibration parameters as conducted by
Ortega et al. [1999], where the compression index is
(Cc) = 3, the slope of the e-log K
0
plot (m) = 3, and the
initial value for calculating the vertical distribution of the
hydraulic conductivity (K
0
o
) near the ground surface is
K
0
o
= 2.3 10
7
m/s for site NP2, and K
0
o
= 5.0
10
7
m/s for site NP3. These parameters were considered
in the present analysis due to the significant agreement of
the predictive and observed subsidence described above. No
further sensibility analysis was required for the purpose of
this analysis.
[60] A simulation period of 46 years (19602006) was
selected to represent the point at which the hydraulic head at
the aquitard-aquifer interface likely began to decrease under
the clay plain as a result of groundwater pumping in 1960,
to the time when the most recent field data were collected in
2006.
5.5.2. Initial and Boundary Conditions
[61] An assumption based on historical data is that
hydrostatic conditions prevailed throughout the entire thick-
Figure 8. (a) Distribution of large-scale fractures in the study area, most located beside the Santa
Catarina Well Field. (b) Distribution of the shallow basalts and correspondence of large-scale fractures
near the basalts edges.
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE
11 of 15
W01513
ness of the aquitard in 1960, just before major exploitation
of the aquifer commenced. Initial hydraulic head data from
a multilevel piezometer station near NP3 by CAVM in the
late 1950s indicate that very gentle upward flow conditions
existed through the upper 100 m of the aquitard in the
central part of the Basin prior to the onset of heavy pumping
along the southern boundary in the early 1960s [Ortega et
al., 1993].
[62] Before the Santa Catarina wells went into full
operation, the hydraulic head in the aquifer had dropped
beneath the study site an average of 17 m from the
estimated initial hydrostatic conditions. In order to accom-
modate this change in head between 1960 and 1984, a
variable first-type boundary condition was specified at the
lower boundary of the domain (h
B
). The initial value was set
to represent hydrostatic conditions throughout the entire
domain. The lower boundary value (h
B
) was then decreased
evenly over time through a stepped process at a rate of
0.7 m/yr in order to produce the required 17 m decline in
hydraulic head at the aquifer-aquitard interface by 1984
[Ortega et al., 1999].
[63] Between 1984 and 1991, when the Santa Catarina
wells were in full production, data from the production
wells indicated an annual decline in an aquifer head of
1.5 m/yr near the NP2 and NP3 sites [Ortega et al., 1993], a
rate of head decline that continued until 2006. These rates of
decline were then assigned to the lower boundary conditions
(h
B
) up to 2006 at each location site. The upper boundary of
the domain (h
T
) was also specified as a first-type boundary
but was held constant and equal to the initial hydrostatic
conditions throughout the simulation period.
[64] The simulated conditions at the NP2 and NP3 sites
for 2006 were projected to 2010, 2020, and 2030 for
purposes of discussion. The assumption was that the annual
rate of decline in the aquifer piezometric surface of
1.5 m/yr would remain at the current level over the entire
period at this site in the aquitard. This continued decline in
hydraulic head at the aquifer-aquitard interface was applied
at the lower boundary of the domain for the projected
simulation period. Under these conditions, the estimated
total amount of subsidence at the NP2 site would be 12 m
by 2020, and 15 m by 2030, representing a land subsi-
dence rate of 0.25 m/yr; whereas at the NP3 site in the
center of the Chalco Plain, the estimated total amount of
subsidence would be 19 m by 2020, and 23 m by 2030,
representing an average annual land subsidence rate of
0.40 m (Figure 11). Significant subsidence would contin-
ue beyond the 2030 data projection due to the inevitable
increase in demand for water to supply the burgeoning
population of Mexico City and its metropolitan area that
will require the continued extensive exploitation of ground-
water resources in Chalco. However, if extraction rates were
to decrease under different scenarios of aquifer management
starting in 2010, then future land subsidence would occur at
a lower rate (Figure 11). It is difficult to foresee any drastic
reduction in the intensity of groundwater extraction in the
Chalco Basin because of the need to supply water to Mexico
City; therefore, only small reductions in drawdown in the
main production aquifer on the order of 25%50% may
occur.
Figure 9. Potentiometric surface decline in the semicon-
fined aquifer in the Chalco Basin, corrected from static
water level data and variation of ground surface elevation at
well sites P3, P10, and P13 of the Santa Catarina Well Field.
Figure 10. Average vertical profiles of relative hydraulic
heads measured in 2005 at monitoring sites (a) NP2 and
(b) NP3.
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W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE W01513
[65] Possible sources of error and uncertainty of the
predictions are associated with the lack of more detailed
information on the hydraulic response of the aquitard in the
range of 100 m300 m depth, as it only has information up
to 85 m. Similarly, mechanical parameters used in the NP3
site are estimated from NP2 site information and could have
significant variations, particularly because of its greater
thickness. Further work will consider to increasing the
number of sites with detailed mechanical properties of the
aquitard and deeper instrumentation toward the Chalco
Plain, in addition to detailed networks of topographic
observation points, some of them controlled by satellite
systems. Active groundwater flow fractures on consolida-
tion will start to play an important role in the future, and
therefore, should be comprehensively studied particularly
where the aquitard thickness is less than 100 m.
5.6. Risk of Flooding and Fracturing in Nearby Urban
Areas
[66] Figure 12 shows a plan view of urban development
in the Chalco Basin, where two main urban centers exist:
the Valle de Chalco in the State of Mexico and Tlahuac in
the Federal District of Mexico City. The Canal General
constitutes the physical boundary between those two areas.
The locations of the shallow basalt flow and the New
Chalco Lake are also shown in this figure. A population
of about 350,000 inhabitants exists in Valle de Chalco and
about 300,000 in Tlahuac.
[67] Based on the numerical predictions for regional land
subsidence, it is expected that the lake surface will continue
to grow by the year 2020, thus increasing the risk of
flooding and aquitard fracturing in the aforementioned
urban areas. For this reason, it is urgent to reduce the
danger and risk of these processes associated with the
subsidence phenomena.
[68] Design solution must center on evaluating the advis-
ability of increasing the amount and efficiency of the
surface hydraulic infrastructure in the future against the
option of relocating certain urban areas within the proposed
radius of about 2.5 km (Figure 12). Dynamic and integral
strategies for territorial planning must be considered in the
region, particularly in order to prevent disasters and reduce
or mitigate risks. They must involve an adequate balance
between the planning of conservation areas, environmental
improvement, and social and economic opportunities. De-
velopment of new lake areas would make it possible to
control urban growth, allow a new agricultural organization
based on chinampas (the ancient Aztec approach to food
production), and assure the preservation of natural areas to
protect migratory birds that travel between Mexico, the
United States, and Canada. Ecotourism could represent a
source of economic income for the poor, which represent a
high percentage of the population in both of these urban
areas.
6. Conclusions
[69] Basalt flows interbedded within the highly compress-
ible lacustrine sequence extend from the Sierra Santa
Catarina toward the lacustrine plain and intersect the Santa
Catarina Well Field at different locations, thus controlling
the cumulative subsidence in this part of the Chalco Plain,
while also controlling the shape and growth of the New
Chalco Lake. The lower index of land subsidence occurs in
the northern and western areas of the Chalco Plain near
Sierra Santa Catarina as far as the basalts extend, while the
largest decline occurs beyond the end of the basalt flow,
near Canal General in the middle of the lacustrine plain. In
addition, the basalt flows restrict the development of large-
scale fractures on the lacustrine plain. The depth to which
those fractures extend and their hydraulic behavior are not
yet known, but based on the accuracy of previous numerical
predictions and the evolution of land subsidence over a
15 year period (19912006), it can be estimated that those
fractures are not yet influencing the groundwater flow
regime at monitoring sites NP2 and NP3, where the mod-
eling analysis was focused and the aquitard thickness is
greater than 100 m.
[70] In 2006, cumulative land subsidence in the center of
the Chalco Plain reached 13 m at monitoring site NP3, thus
closely matching previous numerical estimations and con-
firming the comprehensive protocol for evaluating land
subsidence where highly compressible aquitards are in-
volved. There, vertical hydraulic head profiles measured
Figure 11. Numerical predictions of the transient evolu-
tion of total subsidence in the center of the Chalco Basin
near monitoring locations NP2 and NP3 to the year 2030
under different scenarios of drawdown reduction in the
main production aquifer starting in 2010.
W01513 ORTIZ-ZAMORA AND ORTEGA-GUERRERO: LONG-TERM LAND SUBSIDENCE
13 of 15
W01513
at different piezometer nest locations in the Chalco Plain
indicate that the groundwater flow conditions in the aquitard
are still of a transient character due to the hydraulic response
to the continuous piezometric level decline in the granular
aquifer at a rate of 1.5 m/yr. Both the transient ground-
water flow and the consolidation of the lacustrine aquitard
reveal that extensive exploitation of the regional aquifer
system has continued since the last report data from 1991.
[71] The predictive modeling of transient groundwater
flow and land subsidence was conducted at two locations in
the clay plain, one located where the aquitard thickness is
140 m (NP 2 Site) and the other in the middle of the clay
plain where thickness reaches 300 m (NP 3 Site). The
numerical simulations show that if the rate of continued
drawdown of 1.5 m/yr prevails over the 20062020
period, a maximum total of 19 m of subsidence would
occur in the central part of the plain at the NP3 site, and of
12 m at the NP2 site, thus progressively increasing the
risk of flooding to the urban areas of Valle de Chalco and
Tlahuac.
[72] Acknowledgments. We thank John Cherry and Dave Rudolph
from the University of Waterloo, Canada, CONACYT (Mexico) and
Mexico City Government (DDF) for their support in the early stages of
the research, and to Roberto Ortega of Geo Ingenier a Internacional S.A. de
C.V., for his support in the ground magnetic and topographic surveys. We
also thank the DGCOH and SACM for the information provided on
potentiometric surface and benchmark information from the Santa Catarina
Wells. The authors also wish to extend their appreciation to Eulalio Juarez-
Badillo and Marcos Mazari of the UNAM for their encouragement for this
work. Finally, we wish to gratefully acknowledge the comments and
suggestions of anonymous reviewers. Financial support for this project
was provided by UNAM and a doctorate scholarship for Dalia Ortiz from
CONACYT.
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Figure 12. Extension of the basalt flow interbedded within the lacustrine sequence, which controls the
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surface in 2006. Cumulative land subsidence by 2020 at the NP3 site will approach 19 m, and at the
NP2 site close to 12 m (urban background from Google).
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A. Ortega-Guerrero, Centro de Geociencias, Universidad Nacional


Autonoma de Mexico, Campus Juriquilla, Blvd. Juriquilla 3001, PC
76230 Queretaro, Mexico. (maog@servidor.unam.mx)
D. Ortiz-Zamora, Academia de Geociencias, Universidad Autonoma de
la Ciudad de Mexico, Campus Cuautepec, Ave. la Corona 320, 07160
Mexico City, Mexico. (daliaortiz@gmail.com)
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