WRIR 01-4084

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Cunningham, K.J., Locker, S.D., Hine, A.C., Bukry, David, Barron, J.A., and Guertin, L.A., 2001, Surface-Geophysical Characterization of Ground-Water Systems of the Caloosahatchee River Basin, Southern Florida: Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4084, 76 p.


The Caloosahatchee River Basin, located in southwestern Florida, includes about 1,200 square miles of land. The Caloosahatchee River receives water from Lake Okeechobee, runoff from the watershed, and seepage from the underlying ground-water systems; the river loses water through drainage to the Gulf of Mexico and withdrawals for public-water supply and agricultural and natural needs. Water-use demands in the Caloosahatchee River Basin have increased dramatically, and the Caloosahatchee could be further stressed if river water is used to accommodate restoration of the Everglades. Water managers and planners need to know how much water will be used within the river basin and how much water is contributed by Lake Okeechobee, runoff, and ground water.

In this study, marine seismic-reflection and ground-penetrating radar techniques were used as a means to evaluate the potential for flow between the river and ground-water systems. Seven test coreholes were drilled to calibrate lithostratigraphic units, their stratal geometries, and estimated hydraulic conductivities to surface-geophysical profiles.

A continuous marine seismic-reflection survey was conducted over the entire length of the Caloosahatchee River and extending into San Carlos Bay. Lithostratigraphic units that intersect the river bottom and their characteristic stratal geometries were identified. Results show that subhorizontal reflections assigned to the Tamiami Formation intersect the river bottom between Moore Haven and about 9 miles westward. Oblique and sigmoidal progradational reflections assigned to the upper Peace River Formation probably crop out at the floor of the river in the Ortona area between the western side of Lake Hicpochee and La Belle. These reflections image a regional-scale progradational deltaic depositional system containing quartz sands with low to moderate estimated hydraulic conductivities. In an approximate 6-mile length of the river between La Belle and Franklin Lock, deeper karstic collapse structures are postulated. These structures influence the geometries of parallel reflections that intersect the river channel. Here, reflections assigned to the Buckingham Limestone Member of the Tamiami Formation (a confining unit) and reflections assigned to the clastic zone of the sandstone aquifer likely crop out at the river bottom. Beneath these shallow reflections, relatively higher amplitude parallel reflections of the carbonate zone of the sandstone aquifer are well displayed in the seismic-reflection profiles. In San Carlos Bay, oblique progradational reflections assigned to the upper Peace River Formation are shown beneath the bay. Almost everywhere beneath the river, a diffuse ground-water flow system is in contact with the channel bottom.

Ground-penetrating radar profiles of an area about 2 miles north of the depositional axis of the deltaic depositional system in the Ortona area show that progradational clinoforms imaged on seismic reflection profiles in the Caloosahatchee River are present within about 17 feet of the ground surface. Ground-penetrating radar profiles show southward dipping, oblique progradational reflections assigned to the upper Peace River Formation that are terminated at their tops by a toplapping or erosional discontinuity. These clinoformal reflections image clean quartz sand that is probably characterized by moderate hydraulic conductivity. This sand could be mapped using ground-penetrating radar methods.