WRIR 00-4134

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Choquette, A.F., and Sepulveda, A.A., 2000, Design of a shallow ground-water network to monitor agricultural chemicals, Lake Wales Ridge, Central Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4134, 35 p.

Executive Summary

Extensive agricultural land use and dynamic hydraulic connections between the land surface and ground-water resources render many of Florida's aquifers vulnerable to chemical contamination. In these areas, there is a need to monitor shallow ground water for agricultural chemicals to evaluate potential migration of the chemicals to the subsurface and to deeper aquifers, and to assess the effects of agricultural practices on ground-water quality. Historically, efforts to monitor water-table aquifers have been minimal compared with monitoring deeper aquifers used for municipal drinking-water supply. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has proposed the establishment of long-term, water-quality networks to monitor shallow ground water in agricultural areas of Florida. These networks will bridge the current information gap between local-scale short-duration field studies, which are required for pesticide licensing, and statewide monitoring of deeper ground-water resources. Laboratory (experimental) and short-term field evaluations of the transport of agricultural chemicals to the subsurface contain some degree of uncertainty due to widespread variations in environmental conditions. The proposed regional-scale shallow ground-water networks will serve as "early warning" networks to avoid contamination of ground-water resources.

The objectives of these shallow ground-water networks are to provide information for early detection of pesticides and nitrate in the subsurface, and for evaluating temporal trends in concentrations in relation to changes in land use and agricultural practices. Information on trends is important to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, State agencies, and agricultural managers, and is an integral part of Florida's Pesticide Management Plan, which evaluates the effectiveness of implementing "best management practices" to minimize environmental impacts.

Lake Wales Ridge in Polk and Highlands Counties has been identified by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a pilot study area for implementing a regional shallow ground-water network. Information gained from designing the Lake Wales Ridge Network will be used to develop plans as similar networks are considered for other areas of Florida. Lake Wales Ridge is heavily utilized for citrus production, but the well-drained, clean sands underlying the region, coupled with a hydraulic connection with deeper karst formations, render the area extremely vulnerable to the transport and migration of agricultural chemicals within the subsurface.

The network design for Lake Wales Ridge was developed on the basis of the objectives of monitoring, factors affecting aquifer vulnerability, probability (statistical) sampling theory, and specifications regarding well construction, sampling, and laboratory analysis. The network will provide estimates of regional pesticide and nitrate concentrations in targeted ground water, monitor for trends over time, and will provide baseline, regional-scale information. The areas targeted for sampling were citrus groves located on soils classified as vulnerable to leaching of agricultural chemicals, and ground water in close proximity to the water table. The duration of monitoring is planned to be long term. Chemicals targeted for monitoring include selected nutrients, trace elements, and pesticides used for citrus management. Standardization of field sampling and laboratory methods, and construction of a computerized data-base repository will be important for long-term utility of the data.

The proposed network design consists of existing and newly drilled wells. Existing wells were evaluated as candidates for the network based on location and well-construction specifications for water-quality monitoring. Using probability selection techniques, new well locations were selected in areas that lacked adequate existing wells. Implementation of the network will occur in phases. Quarterly sampling of 13 Phase I wells commenced in April 1999. An additional 11 Phase II wells were added to the network in April 2000. Proposed locations have been identified for 8 Phase III wells.

Future topics for study include a regional water-quality analysis, a network design evaluation, and consideration of local-scale studies needed to support regional monitoring efforts. An analysis of historical water-quality data for Lake Wales Ridge, including Phase I wells, is needed for the purpose of examining trends, providing a preliminary description of spatial and short-term variability in water quality, and evaluating the proposed network design for cost effectively meeting program objectives. Local-scale, process-oriented studies are needed to provide important information for evaluating regional water-quality data. Coordination between individuals conducting such local-scale studies and those interpreting regional sampling results will be considered as a component of the network design, and will require coordination between multiple agencies.