WRIR 99-4213

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Reese, R.S., and Cunningham, K.J., 2000, Hydrogeology of the Gray Limestone Aquifer in Southern Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 99-4213, 244 p.


Results from 35 new test coreholes and aquifer-test, water-level, and water-quality data were combined with existing hydrogeologic data to define the extent, thickness, hydraulic properties, and degree of confinement of the gray limestone aquifer in southern Florida. This aquifer, previously known to be present only in southeastern Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties) below, and to the west of, the Biscayne aquifer, extends over most of central-south Florida, including eastern and central Collier County and southern Hendry County; it is the same as the lower Tamiami aquifer to the north, and it becomes the water-table aquifer and the upper limestone part of the lower Tamiami aquifer to the west. The aquifer generally is composed of gray, shelly, lightly to moderately cemented limestone with abundant shell fragments or carbonate sand, abundant skeletal moldic porosity, and minor quartz sand.

The gray limestone aquifer comprises the Ochopee Limestone of the Tamiami Formation, and, in some areas, the uppermost permeable part of an unnamed formation principally composed of quartz sand. Underlying the unnamed formation is the Peace River Formation of the upper Hawthorn Group, the top of which is the base of the surficial aquifer system. Overlying the aquifer and providing confinement in much of the area is the Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation. The thickness of the aquifer is comparatively uniform, generally ranging from 30 to 100 feet. The unnamed formation part of the aquifer is up to 20 feet thick. The Ochopee Limestone accumulated in a carbonate ramp depositional system and contains a heterozoan carbonate-particle association. The principal rock types of the aquifer are pelecypod lime rudstones and floatstones and permeable quartz sands and sandstones. The pore types are mainly intergrain and separate vug (skeletal-moldic) pore spaces. The rock fabric and associated primary and secondary pore spaces combine to form a dual diffuse-carbonate and conduit flow system capable of producing high values of hydraulic conductivity.

Transmissivity values of the aquifer are commonly greater than 50,000 feet squared per day to the west of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Hydraulic conductivity ranges from about 200 to 12,000 feet per day and generally increases from east to west; an east-to-west shallowing of the depositional profile of the Ochopee Limestone carbonate ramp contributes to this spatial trend. The aquifer contains two areas of high transmissivity, both of which trend northwest-southeast. One area extends through southern Hendry County. The other area extends through eastern Collier County, with a transmissivity as high as 300,000 feet squared per day; in this area, the aquifer is structurally high, the top of the aquifer is close to land surface, and it is unconfined to semiconfined. The confinement of the aquifer is good to the north and east in parts of southern Hendry, Palm Beach, Collier, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties. In these areas, the upper confining unit approaches or is greater than 50 feet thick, and vertical leakance is less than 1.0 x 10-3 l/day.

In most of the study area, the specific conductance in water from the gray limestone aquifer is 1,500 microsiemens per centimeter or less (chloride concentration of about 250 milligrams per liter or less). Areas where specific conductance is greater than 3,000 microsiemens per centimeter are found where there is a low horizontal-head gradient and the upper confining unit is greater than 50 feet thick. An area with specific conductance less than 1,500 microsiemens per centimeter extends from southern Hendry County to the southeast into western Broward County and coincides with an area of high transmissivity. However, much of this area has good confinement. The potentiometric gradient also is to the southeast in much of the area, and this area of low specific conductance is probably caused by a relatively rapid downgradient movement of fresh ground water that has been recharged in Hendry County.

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