WRIR 96-4030

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Metz, P.A., and Brendle, D.L., 1996, The Potential for Water-Quality Degradation of Interconnected Aquifers in West-Central Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4030, 54 p.


Thousands of deep artesian wells were drilled into the Upper Floridan aquifer in west-central Florida prior to well-drilling regulations adopted in the 1970's. The wells were usually completed with a short length of casing through the unconsolidated sediments and were left open to multiple aquifers containing water of varying quality. These open boreholes serve as a potential source of water-quality degradation within the aquifers when vertical internal borehole flow is induced by hydraulic-head differences. This potential for water-quality degradation exists in west-central Florida where both the intermediate aquifer system and Upper Floridan aquifer exist.

Measurements of caliper, temperature, gamma, fluid conductivity, and flow were obtained in 87 wells throughout west-central Florida to determine the occurrence of interaquifer borehole flow between the intermediate aquifer system and the Upper Floridan aquifer. Flow measurements were made using an impeller flowmeter, a heat-pulse flowmeter, and a video camera with an impeller flowmeter attachment. Of the 87 wells measured with the impeller flowmeter, 17 had internal flow which ranged from 10 to 300 gallons per minute. A heat-pulse flowmeter was used in 19 wells in which flow was not detected using the impeller flowmeter. Of these 19 wells, 18 had internal flow which ranged from 0.3 to 10 gallons per minute. Additionally, water-quality samples were collected from specific contributing zones in wells that had internal flow.

Analysis of geophysical and water-quality data indicates degradation of water quality has occurred from mineralized ground water flowing upward from the Upper Floridan aquifer into the intermediate aquifer system through both uncased boreholes and corroded black-iron well casings. In areas where there is a downward component of flow, data indicate that potable water from the intermediate aquifer system is artificially recharging the Upper Floridan aquifer through open boreholes.

A geographical area was defined where there is a potential for water-quality degradation due to improperly cased wells. This area was delineated based on where there is an upward component of ground-water flow and where there is an occurrence of poor-quality water. The delineated area includes parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, De Soto, and Hardee Counties.

To prevent further contamination of the aquifers, the Southwest Florida Water Management District began the Quality of Water Improvement Program in 1974 to restore hydrologic conditions altered by improperly constructed wells or deteriorating casings. As of May 1994, more than 3,000 wells have been inspected and approximately 1,350 have been plugged. To minimize interaquifer contamination, existing wells, especially ones with black-iron casing, should be inspected and, if necessary, repaired with new casing or plugged.

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