WRIR 94-4132

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Spechler, R.M., 1995, Estimated Discharge and Chemical-Constituent Loading from the Upper Floridan Aquifer to the Lower St. Johns River, Northeastern Florida, 1990-91: Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4132, 32 p.


The lower St. Johns River, a 101-mile long segment of the St. Johns River, begins at the confluence of the Ocklawaha River and ends where the river discharges into the Atlantic Ocean at Mayport. The St. Johns River is affected by tides as far upstream as Lake George, 106 miles from the mouth. Saltwater from the ocean advances inland during each incoming tide and recedes during each outgoing tide. The chemical quality of the lower St. Johns River is highly variable primarily because of the inflow of saltwater from the ocean, and in some areas, from the discharge of mineralized ground water.

Three hydrogeologic units are present in the study area: the surficial aquifer system, the intermediate confining unit, and the Floridan aquifer system. The surficial aquifer system overlies the intermediate confining unit and consists of deposits containing sand, clay, shell, and some limestone and dolomite. The intermediate confining unit underlies all of the study area and retards the vertical movement of water between the surficial aquifer system and the Floridan aquifer system. The intermediate confining unit consists of beds of relatively low permeability sediments that vary in thickness and areal extent and can be breached by sinkholes, fractures, and other openings. The Floridan aquifer system primarily consists of limestone and dolomite.

The quality of water in the Upper Floridan aquifer varies throughout the study area. Dissolved solids in water range from about 100 to more than 5,000 milligrams per liter. Chloride and sulfate concentrations in water from the Upper Floridan aquifer range from about 4 to 3,700 milligrams per liter and from 1 to 1,300 milligrams per liter, respectively.

The rate of leakage through the intermediate confining unit is controlled by the leakance coefficient of the intermediate confining unit and by the head difference between the Upper Floridan aquifer and the surficial aquifer system. The total ground-water discharge from the Upper Floridan aquifer to the St. Johns River within the lower St. Johns River drainage basin, based on the potentiometric surface of the Upper Floridan aquifer in September 1990, was estimated to be 86 cubic feet per second. Total estimated ground-water discharge to the lower St. Johns River in September 1991, when heads in the Upper Floridan aquifer averaged about 4 feet higher than in 1990, was 133 cubic feet per second.

The load of dissolved-solids that discharged from the Upper Floridan aquifer into the lower St. Johns River on the basis of September 1990 heads is estimated to be 47,000 tons per year. Estimated chloride and sulfate loads are 18,000 and 9,500 tons per year, respectively. Dissolved-solids, chloride, and sulfate loads discharging into the lower St. Johns River are estimated to be 81,000, 39,000, and 15,000 tons per year, respectively, on the basis of September 1991 heads.