WRIR 02-4295

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Swancar, Amy, and Lee, T.M., 2003, Effects of Recharge, Upper Floridan Aquifer Heads, and Time Scale on Simulated Ground-Water Exchange with Lake Starr, a Seepage Lake in Central Florida: Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4295, 53 p.


Lake Starr and other lakes in the mantled karst terrain of Florida's Central Lake District are surrounded by a conductive surficial aquifer system that receives highly variable recharge from rainfall. In addition, downward leakage from these lakes varies as heads in the underlying Upper Floridan aquifer change seasonally and with pumpage. A saturated three-dimensional finite-difference ground-water flow model was used to simulate the effects of recharge, Upper Floridan aquifer heads, and model time scale on ground-water exchange with Lake Starr. The lake was simulated as an active part of the model using high hydraulic conductivity cells. Simulated ground-water flow was compared to net ground-water flow estimated from a rigorously derived water budget for the 2-year period August 1996-July 1998.

Calibrating saturated ground-water flow models with monthly stress periods to a monthly lake water budget will result in underpredicting gross inflow to, and leakage from, ridge lakes in Florida. Underprediction of ground-water inflow occurs because recharge stresses and ground-water flow responses during rainy periods are averaged over too long a time period using monthly stress periods. When inflow is underestimated during calibration, leakage also is underestimated because inflow and leakage are correlated if lake stage is maintained over the long term. Underpredicted leakage reduces the implied effect of ground-water withdrawals from the Upper Floridan aquifer on the lake.

Calibrating the weekly simulation required accounting for transient responses in the water table near the lake that generated the greater range of net ground-water flow values seen in the weekly water budget. Calibrating to the weekly lake water budget also required increasing the value of annual recharge in the nearshore region well above the initial estimate of 35 percent of the rainfall, and increasing the hydraulic conductivity of the deposits around and beneath the lake.

To simulate the total ground-water inflow to lakes, saturated-flow models of lake basins need to account for the potential effects of rapid and efficient recharge in the surficial aquifer system closest to the lake. In this part of the basin, the ability to accurately estimate recharge is crucial because the water table is shallowest and the response time between rainfall and recharge is shortest. Use of the one-dimensional LEACHM model to simulate the effects of the unsaturated zone on the timing and magnitude of recharge in the nearshore improved the simulation of peak values of ground-water inflow to Lake Starr. Results of weekly simulations suggest that weekly recharge can approach the majority of weekly rainfall on the nearshore part of the lake basin. However, even though a weekly simulation with higher recharge in the nearshore was able to reproduce the extremes of ground-water exchange with the lake more accurately, it was not consistently better at predicting net ground-water flow within the water budget error than a simulation with lower recharge. The more subtle effects of rainfall and recharge on ground-water inflow to the lake were more difficult to simulate. The use of variably saturated flow modeling, with time scales that are shorter than weekly and finer spatial discretization, is probably necessary to understand these processes. The basin-wide model of Lake Starr had difficulty simulating the full spectrum of ground-water inflows observed in the water budget because of insufficient information about recharge to ground water, and because of practical limits on spatial and temporal discretization in a model at this scale.

In contrast, the saturated flow model appeared to successfully simulate the effects of heads in the Upper Floridan aquifer on water levels and ground-water exchange with the lake at both weekly and monthly stress periods. Most of the variability in lake leakage can be explained by the average vertical head difference between the lake and a representative Upper Floridan aquifer well. Simulated lake leakage was correlated (r2 = 0.86) to the average head difference between the lake and a representative Upper Floridan aquifer well, suggesting that leakage was largely a linear function of this head difference.

The best estimate of weekly or monthly ground-water inflow can be derived using the water budget and simulated lake leakage. Ground-water inflow is calculated as a new residual to the water budget for Lake Starr after substituting the simulated values of lake leakage into the equation. Using this combined approach to calculate the ground-water inflow to Lake Starr gave gross inflow estimates of 15,689,000 and 20,778,000 cubic feet for the first and second years of the study, respectively (33 and 42 inches per year, respectively). Ground-water inflow was about 42 percent of the total inflow to the lake for the 2-year time period. Lake leakage was estimated to be 14,389,000 and 12,115,000 cubic feet per year for the first and second years, respectively (29 and 24 inches per year, respectively), and was 31 percent of the total outflow during the 2 years.

The linear regression between simulated lake leakage and average head difference between the lake and an index well provides a method for estimating leakage from Lake Starr beyond the modeled time period. Leakage estimates from the relation with head difference could be used along with a lake water budget to estimate ground-water inflow over any period that water budget and average head measurements in the index well are available.


Purpose and Scope
Hydrogeologic Setting
Water Budget Approach
Description of the Ground-Water Model
Hydrogeologic Units in the Model
Surficial Aquifer System
Intermediate Confining Unit
Upper Floridan Aquifer
Breaches in the Intermediate Confining Unit
Method Used to Simulate Lake Starr
Boundary Conditions for Steady-State Simulations
Lateral Boundaries
Upper Floridan Aquifer
Boundary Conditions for Transient Simulations
Upper Floridan Aquifer
Results of Steady-State Simulations
Results of Transient Simulations
Monthly Simulations
Weekly Simulations
Higher Recharge Weekly Simulation
Combined Approach for Estimating Ground-Water Inflow
Effects of Boundary Conditions and Time Scale on Ground-Water Exchange
Recharge Boundary
Upper Floridan Aquifer Boundary
Time Scale
Summary and Conclusions