A sinkhole is a hole in the ground that is a result of the ground collapsing into itself.  A sinkhole can be a slow gradual process that occurs over time or it can happen overnight. There are a few different causes of these natural phenomena. In Florida, many of the natural lakes around the state are a result of a sinkhole. Read on to learn about the various causes of sinkholes.

So What Causes Sinkholes?

Sinkholes are a result of a natural process or through an artificial process.

Natural Sinkhole

A natural sinkhole is forms from erosion. When there is a gradual removal of bedrock through the drainage of water or a lowering of the underground water table, then naturally forming sinkhole forms.  This occurs since the underground earth that supports the ground is diminished to the point that is succumbing to the pressure of holding up the ground surface and as a result, it collapses into itself.  Natural sinkholes are common in areas where the below surface is made up of soluble rocks such as limestone.  Florida, in particular, is susceptible to naturally occurring sinkholes.

Artificial Sinkhole

An artificial sinkhole is a result of human activity. Although technically not a sinkhole, the results are usually the same.  Examples of an artificial sinkhole are when the water levels in an aquifer drop excessively due to mass pumping for private and commercial wells.  This is a major concern in Florida where private wells are in common use.

Are Sinkholes Preventable?

Unfortunately, there is not much to prevent a naturally occurring sinkhole from forming at this time.  Naturally forming sinkholes, like earthquakes or hurricanes, are a calculated risk a person takes when choosing their homestead.  Since naturally occurring sinkholes are gradual, there are some warning signs you can look out for:

  • Cracks in the foundation of buildings
  • Cracks forming in the ground
  • A gradual depression in the ground
  • Doors and windows failing to open or close properly

On the other hand, it is possible to prevent artificial sinkholes.  The main way to prevent artificial sinkholes is to conserve water usage through pumping thus ensuring the water levels in the aquifer remain high enough to support the ground above it.  This can be done by using only what is needed to meet a household water needs, limiting the times and number of days the water is used for land irrigation, using other means to collect water such as rain barrels or cisterns.  By ensuring that water conservation is practiced by the public throughout the year, we can prevent an artificial sinkhole from forming due to a drop in the water table.