Natural Hazards

, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp 1363–1376 | Cite as

Groundwater overexploitation and soil subsidence monitoring on Recife plain (Brazil)

  • Rejane Maria Rodrigues de Luna
  • Silvio Jacks dos Anjos Garnés
  • Jaime Joaquim da Silva Pereira Cabral
  • Sylvana Melo dos Santos
Original Paper


The city of Recife, in the northeast of Brazil, is formed by a coastal plain, which is surrounded by several hills, the Atlantic ocean and a number of rivers that cross the city. The plain was formed by fluviomarine sediment, which was produced by marine transgressions and regressions. Its hydrogeological characteristics and geographical position, located slightly above sea level, lead to water-related problems, such as coastal erosion and frequent flooding. In the last 50 years, an increase in the exploitation of groundwater has caused a lowering of the piezometric surface (up to 100 m at certain points). In porous sedimentary aquifers, pumping fluid decreases pore pressure and reduces the support provided by the overlying layers of soil. This reduction in pressure is caused by the lowering of the piezometric surface and leads to soil deformation, usually called subsidence. As a result of the excessive exploitation of groundwater in Recife, and the consequent decrease in groundwater levels, soil subsidence has become a great concern and requires careful investigation. Geodesic methods of monitoring and quantifying the vertical deformation of soil, caused by the removal of groundwater, have been used around the world. The present study describes a method of assessing the occurrence of soil subsidence in an area where excessive exploitation of groundwater has taken place. High-precision geometric leveling was used to quantify the phenomenon and to perform comparative analysis of altitude values from the year 1958 with more recent altitude values (from 2012 and 2015). The experiments confirmed a difference of 3.86 cm for one of the reference levels, located within the subsidence monitoring area. Thus, the leveling analysis provided estimates of a vertical displacement of approximately 0.68 mm/year in this area.


Overexploitation of groundwater Geometric leveling Subsidence Potentiometric surface 



The authors would like to thank Funding Authority for Studies and Projects (Portuguese: Financiadora de Estudos e ProjetosFINEP) of Ministry of Science and Technology; National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development (Portuguese: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e TecnológicoCNPq); and Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (Portuguese: Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível SuperiorCAPES) for providing the financial resources for the field activities; LAGEO (Laboratory of Geodesy) of UFPE, for the provision of the equipment needed to perform the field activities; Water Resources Group (Portuguese: Grupo de Recursos Hídricos—GRH) of UFPE and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Portuguese: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e EstatísticaIBGE), for the provision of data. The first author would also like to thank the Federal Institute of Education, Science, and Technology of Pernambuco (Portuguese: Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia de PernambucoIFPE) for permission to participate in this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rejane Maria Rodrigues de Luna
    • 1
  • Silvio Jacks dos Anjos Garnés
    • 2
  • Jaime Joaquim da Silva Pereira Cabral
    • 1
  • Sylvana Melo dos Santos
    • 3
  1. 1.Postgraduate Course in Civil Engineering, Federal University of PernambucoRecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Cartographic Engineering, Federal University of PernambucoRecifeBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Federal University of PernambucoRecifeBrazil

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