Deformation of the aquifer system under groundwater level fluctuations and its implication for land subsidence control in the Tianjin coastal region

  • Jilong Yang
  • Guoliang Cao
  • Dongmei HanEmail author
  • Haifan Yuan
  • Yunzhuang Hu
  • Peixin Shi
  • Yongsheng Chen


This study demonstrates characteristics and mechanisms of deformation of an aquifer system in response to seasonal fluctuations of groundwater level when groundwater pumping has been strictly regulated after experiencing longtime land subsidence. Two boreholes with depth of 1226 m (G2 site) and 905 m (G3 site) were drilled at the Tianjin coastal region where severe land subsidence had occurred since the 1950s. Extensometer/piezometer groups installed at the G2 site illustrate synchronized variations of compaction and groundwater level since 2010 in the aquifer system between depth of 100–400 m which contributes most groundwater pumpage. Monitored land subsidence demonstrates that the shallow aquifer has become the main contributor to the land subsidence, and inelastic compaction still occurred in the aquifers where groundwater level has recovered. Pre-consolidation stresses show that clayey soils in depth < 100 m are under-consolidated, and deep clayey soils show the state of normal- to over-consolidation. The effects of the cyclic groundwater level oscillation on deformation were investigated using repeated loading and unloading tests. Void ratio changes in loading/unloading cycles illustrate that inelastic deformation rate decreases gradually and elastic deformation rate remains almost unchanged with increases of cyclic numbers. The deformation of soil samples from 100 to 400 m is mostly elastic for loading stress in the over-consolidation stress range. These findings suggest that groundwater dewatering in the shallow (depth < 100 m) aquifer will be the primary target to control land subsidence. Groundwater level fluctuations higher than pre-consolidation value in 100–400 m only lead to elastic and recoverable deformation even small residual permanent deformation may continue for a long time. The results improve the understanding of deformation in complex urban aquifers affected by groundwater level fluctuations and highlight the importance of city planning management for controlling land subsidence in coastal cities.


Tianjin coastal region Clayey soil Elastic/inelastic deformation Land subsidence 



This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2016YFE0102400) and the China Geological Survey Project (#121201006000182401 and #121201006000150009). We thank Changrong Zhao and Sufeng Zhang for sample collection and Tianjin Geological and Mineral Testing Center for assistance with sample testing. We also thank the reviewers for the constructive comments leading to a significant improvement of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jilong Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guoliang Cao
    • 3
  • Dongmei Han
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  • Haifan Yuan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yunzhuang Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peixin Shi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yongsheng Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Tianjin Centre, China Geological SurveyTianjinChina
  2. 2.CGS Key Laboratory of Muddy Coast Geo-environmentTianjinChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River BasinChina Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower ResearchBeijingChina
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Water Cycle & Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.College of Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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