Natural Hazards

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 259-288

First online:

Evaporite Dissolution Subsidence in the Historical City of Calatayud, Spain: Damage Appraisal and Prevention

  • Francisco GutiérrezAffiliated withEarth Sciences Department, University of Zaragoza
  • , Anthony H. CooperAffiliated withBritish Geological Survey

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Calatayud in NE Spain is an historically important city built on recent alluvial deposits underlain by gypsum and other soluble rocks. Since its foundation by the Muslims in 716 A.D., the city development has been strongly influenced by geohazards including flooding, subsidence and slope movements. Most of the flooding problems have been mitigated by diversion of the local drainage. However, dissolution of the evaporite bedrock in the urban areas continually causes subsidence and triggers rock-falls from the gypsum cliffs overlooking the city. Subsidence is also caused by the hydrocollapse of gypsiferous silt in the alluvial fan deposits. Building damage in the city was surveyed using a classification scheme developed originally to record damage in British coal mining areas. The Calatayud damage survey shows that the worst building subsidence is concentrated along the line of a buried channel that runs underneath the gypsiferous silt alluvial fan. Natural subsurface drainage causes the dissolution and subsidence, which is aggravated by leakage from water and sewage pipes. Some building damage has been exacerbated during reconstruction by incomplete piling leaving buildings partially unsupported. Mitigation measures include the control of water leakage by the installation of flexible service pipes. Careful construction techniques are needed for both conservation and new developments, especially when piled and minipiled foundations are used. Geomorphological mapping is cost-effective in helping to locate and avoid the zones of subsidence for future development.

subsidence dissolution evaporites gypsum damage assessment historical buildings flooding slope movements Spain