WRIR 98-4091

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Knochenmus, L.A., and Bowman, Geronia, 1998, Transmissivity and water quality of water-producing zones in the intermediate aquifer system, Sarasota County, Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4091, 27 p.


The intermediate aquifer system is an important water source in Sarasota County, Florida, because the quality of water in it is usually better than that in the underlying Upper Floridan aquifer. The intermediate aquifer system consists of a group of up to three water-producing zones separated by less-permeable units that restrict the vertical movement of ground water between zones. The diverse lithology, that makes up the intermediate aquifer system, reflects the variety of depositional environments that occurred during the late Oligocene and Miocene epochs. Slight changes in the depositional environment resulted in aquifer heterogeneity, creating both localized connection between water-producing zones and abrupt culmination of water-producing zones that are not well documented. Aquifer heterogeneity results in vertical and areal variability in hydraulic and water-quality properties.

The uppermost water-producing zone is designated producing zone 1 but is not extensively used because of its limited production capability and limited areal extent. The second water-producing zone is designated producing zone 2, and most of the domestic- and irrigation-supply wells in the area are open to this zone. Additionally, producing zone 2 is utilized for public supply in southern coastal areas of Sarasota County. Producing zone 3 is the lowermost and most productive water-producing zone in the intermediate aquifer system. Public-supply well fields serving the cities of Sarasota and Venice, as well as the Plantation and Mabry Carlton Reserve well fields, utilize producing zone 3.

Heads within the intermediate aquifer system generally increase with aquifer depth. However, localized head-gradient reversals occur in the study area, coinciding with sites of intense ground-water withdrawals. Heads in producing zones 1, 2, and 3 range from 1 to 23, 0.2 to 34, and 7 to 42 feet above sea level, respectively. Generally, an upward head gradient exists between producing zones 3 and 2. However, an upward head gradient between producing zones 2 and 1 does not consistently occur throughout Sarasota County, probably the result of greater ground-water withdrawals from producing zone 2 than from producing zone 1.

The transmissivity of the intermediate aquifer system is spatially variable. Specific-capacity data from selected wells penetrating producing zones 2 and 3, were used to estimate transmissivity. Estimated transmissivity values for producing zones 2 and 3 range from about 100 to 26,000 feet squared per day and from about 1,300 to 6,200 feet squared per day, respectively. Because the capacity of specific water-producing zones is highly variable from site to site, estimating the performance of a specific water-producing zone as a water resource is difficult.

Water samples collected during the study were analyzed for major-ion concentrations. Generally, bicarbonate type water from rock interaction occurs in northern Sarasota County; enriched calcium-magnesium-sulfate type water from deeper aquifers occurs in central Sarasota County; and sodium-chloride type water from saltwater mixing occurs in southern Sarasota County. In some areas of northern Sarasota County, the major-ion concentrations in water are lower in producing zone 2 than in producing zone 1. Major-ion concentrations in water are higher in producing zone 3 throughout the study area.

A major objective of the study was to evaluate hydraulic and water-quality data to determine distinctions that could be used to characterize a particular producing zone. However, data indicate that both hydraulic and water-quality properties are highly variable within and between zones, and are more related to the degree of connection between and areal extent of water-producing zones than to aquifer depth and distance from the coast.

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