OFR 95-736

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Phelps, G. G., and Schiffer, Donna, 1995, Geohydrology And Potential For Upward Movement Of Saline Water In The Cocoa Well Field, East Orange County, Florida: Open-File Report 95-736.


The Floridan aquifer system, an approximately 2,000-foot thick sequence of Eocene-age limestone and dolomite, is the main source of water supply in central Florida. Hydraulic conductivity is different in strata of different lithology and is the basis for separating the aquifer system into the Upper Floridan aquifer, a middle semi-confining unit, and the Lower Floridan aquifer. The coastal city of Cocoa withdraws about 26 million gallons of water per day from the Upper Floridan aquifer from a well field in east Orange County, about 25 miles inland. About 60 million gallons per day are withdrawn from the Upper Floridan aquifer and 56 million gallons per day from the Lower Floridan aquifer in the Orlando area, about 15 miles west of the Cocoa well field.

Wells drilled in the Cocoa well field from 1955-61 yielded water with chloride concentrations ranging from 25-55 milligrams per liter. Soon after the wells were put in service, chloride concentrations increased; therefore, new wells were drilled further inland. Chloride concentrations in water from many of the new wells also have increased. Possible sources of saline water are lateral movement of relict seawater in the Upper Floridan aquifer from the east, regional upconing of saline water from the Lower Floridan aquifer or underlying older rocks, or localized upward movement of saline water through fractures. Several test wells were drilled to provide information about chloride concentration changes with depth and to monitor changes with time, including a multi-zone well drilled in 1965 (well C) and two wells drilled in the 1990's (wells R and S). Chloride concentrations have increased in the zone pumped by the supply wells (the upper 500 feet of the aquifer) and in the 1,351 to 1,357-foot deep zone of well C, but not in the two intervening zones. This indicates that the source of saline water is located laterally, rather than vertically, from the pumped zone in the area of well C.

The potential for upward movement of saline water depends on the direction of the vertical hydraulic gradient and on the vertical hydraulic conductivity of the aquifer. A series of aquifer tests was run in 1993-94 and existing water-level and water-quality data were analyzed to evaluate the potential for upward movement of saline water in the well field. The transmissivity of the upper 500 feet of the aquifer is about 100,000 feet squared per day (the horizontal hydraulic conductivity is about 200 feet per day) and the storage coefficient is about 2x10-4. Horizontal hydraulic conductivities determined from slug tests of the three deepest zones of well C ranged from 20-50 feet per day. Vertical hydraulic conductivities probably do not exceed 0.05 feet per day.

The vertical hydraulic gradient is determined by comparing water levels in the various zones, but because of density differences, unadjusted water levels in the deepest zone investigated cannot be directly compared to water levels in the overlying freshwater zones. The difference between environmental-water heads (adjusted for density differences) in the saline-water zone of well C and the overlying freshwater zone were calculated from measured water levels for the period 1966 to 1994. During most of this time period, the gradient was downward, indicating that saline water did not move upward.

Upconing of saline water probably is not taking place in the center and western part of the well field, based on the low vertical hydraulic conductivity values estimated for the middle semi-confining unit, the generally downward vertical hydraulic gradient, and the constant chloride concentrations in the intermediate zones of well C. However, there is no information about the extent of the zone of low vertical hydraulic conductivity or about the direction of the vertical hydraulic gradient in the eastern part of the well field. Thus, increased chloride concentrations in supply wells in the eastern part of the well field could be caused either by lateral movement of saline water from the east, or by upward movement from the Lower Floridan aquifer if the low conductivity zone is thin or breached by fractures, or by a combination of both lateral and vertical movement.

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