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Sources of groundwater and characteristics of surface-water recharge at Bell, White, and Suwannee Springs, Florida, 2012–13

December 21, 2016

Discharge from springs in Florida is sourced from aquifers, such as the Upper Floridan aquifer, which is overlain by an upper confining unit that locally can have properties of an aquifer. Water levels in aquifers are affected by several factors, such as precipitation, recharge, and groundwater withdrawals, which in turn can affect discharge from springs. Therefore, identifying groundwater sources and recharge characteristics can be important in assessing how these factors might affect flows and water levels in springs and can be informative in broader applications such as groundwater modeling. Recharge characteristics include the residence time of water at the surface, apparent age of recharge, and recharge water temperature.

The groundwater sources and recharge characteristics of three springs that discharge from the banks of the Suwannee River in northern Florida were assessed for this study: Bell Springs, White Springs, and Suwannee Springs. Sources of groundwater were also assessed for a 150-foot-deep well finished within the Upper Floridan aquifer, hereafter referred to as the UFA well. Water samples were collected for geochemical analyses in November 2012 and October 2013 from the three springs and the UFA well. Samples were analyzed for a suite of major ions, dissolved gases, and isotopes of sulfur, strontium, oxygen, and hydrogen. Daily means of water level and specific conductance at White Springs were continuously recorded from October 2012 through December 2013 by the Suwannee River Water Management District. Suwannee River stage at White Springs was computed on the basis of stage at a U.S. Geological Survey streamgage about 2.4 miles upstream. Water levels in two wells, located about 2.5 miles northwest and 13 miles southeast of White Springs, were also used in the analyses.

Major ion concentrations were used to differentiate water from the springs and Upper Floridan aquifer into three groups: Bell Springs, UFA well, and White and Suwannee Springs. When considered together, evidence from water-level, specific conductance, major-ion concentration, and isotope data indicated that groundwater at Bell Springs and the UFA well was a mixture of surface water and groundwater from the upper confining unit, and that groundwater at White and Suwannee Springs was a mixture of surface water, groundwater from the upper confining unit, and groundwater from the Upper Floridan aquifer. Higher concentrations of magnesium in groundwater samples at the UFA well than in samples at Bell Springs might indicate less mixing with surface water at the UFA well than at Bell Springs. Characteristics of surface-water recharge, such as residence time at the surface, apparent age, and recharge water temperature, were estimated on the basis of isotopic ratios, and dissolved concentrations of gases such as argon, tritium, and sulfur hexafluoride. Oxygen and deuterium isotopic ratios were consistent with rapid recharge by rainwater for samples collected in 2012, and longer residence time at the surface (ponding) for samples collected in 2013. Apparent ages of groundwater samples, computed on the basis of tritium activity and sulfur hexafluoride concentration, indicated groundwater recharge occurred after the late 1980s; however, the estimated apparent ages likely represent the average of ages of multiple sources. Recharge since the 1980s is consistent with groundwater from shallow sources, such as the upper confining unit and Upper Floridan aquifer. Recharge water temperature computed for the three springs and UFA well averaged 20.1 degrees Celsius, which is similar to the mean annual air temperature of 20.6 degrees Celsius at a nearby weather station for 1960–2014.

Publication Year 2016
Title Sources of groundwater and characteristics of surface-water recharge at Bell, White, and Suwannee Springs, Florida, 2012–13
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161190
Authors John F. Stamm, W. Scott McBride
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2016-1190
Index ID ofr20161190
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization FLWSC-Tampa