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Hydrogeologic and Hydraulic Characterization of the Surficial Aquifer System, and Origin of High Salinity Groundwater, Palm Beach County, Florida

December 17, 2009

Previous studies of the hydrogeology of the surficial aquifer system in Palm Beach County, Florida, have focused mostly on the eastern one-half to one-third of the county in the more densely populated coastal areas. These studies have not placed the hydrogeology in a framework in which stratigraphic units in this complex aquifer system are defined and correlated between wells. Interest in the surficial aquifer system has increased because of population growth, westward expansion of urbanized areas, and increased utilization of surface-water resources in the central and western areas of the county. In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the South Florida Water Management District, initiated an investigation to delineate the hydrogeologic framework of the surficial aquifer system in Palm Beach County, based on a lithostratigraphic framework, and to evaluate hydraulic properties and characteristics of units and permeable zones within this framework.

A lithostratigraphic framework was delineated by correlating markers between all wells with data available based primarily on borehole natural gamma-ray geophysical log signatures and secondarily, lithologic characteristics. These correlation markers approximately correspond to important lithostratigraphic unit boundaries. Using the markers as guides to their boundaries, the surficial aquifer system was divided into three main permeable zones or subaquifers, which are designated, from shallowest to deepest, zones 1, 2, and 3. Zone 1 is above the Tamiami Formation in the Anastasia and Fort Thompson Formations. Zone 2 primarily is in the upper part or Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation, and zone 3 is in the Ochopee Limestone Member of the Tamiami Formation or its correlative equivalent. Differences in the lithologic character exist between these three zones, and these differences commonly include differences in the nature of the pore space.

Zone 1 attains its greatest thickness (50 feet or more) and highest transmissivity in coastal areas. Zone 2, the most transmissive and extensive zone, is thickest (80 feet or more) and most transmissive in the inland eastern areas near Florida's Turnpike. In this area, zone 1 is absent, and the semiconfining unit above zone 2 extends to the land surface with a thickness commonly ranging from 50 to 100 feet. The thickness of zone 2 decreases to zero in most wells near the coast. Zone 3 attains its greatest thickness (100 feet or more) in the southwestern and south-central areas; zone 3 is equivalent to the gray limestone aquifer.

The distribution of transmissivity was mapped by zone; however, zones 2 and 3 were commonly combined in aquifer tests. Maximum transmissivities for zone 1, zones 2 and 3, and zone 3 were 90,000, 180,000, and 70,000 ft2/d (feet-squared per day), respectively. The northern extent of the area with transmissivity greater than 50,000 ft2/d for zones 2 and 3 in the inland northeastern area along Florida's Turnpike has not been defined based on available data and could extend 5 to 10 miles farther north than mapped. Based on the thickness of zone 2 and a limited number of aquifer tests, a large area of zone 2 with transmissivity greater than 10,000 ft2/d, and possibly as much as 30,000 ft2/d, extends to the west across Water Conservation Area 1 from the inland southeastern area into the south-central area and some of the southwestern area.

In contrast to the Biscayne aquifer present to the south of Palm Beach County, zones 2 and 3 are interpreted to be present principally in the Tamiami Formation and are commonly overlain by a thick semiconfining unit of moderate permeability. These zones have been referred to as the 'Turnpike' aquifer in the inland eastern areas of Palm Beach County, and the extent of greatest thickness and transmissivity follows, or is adjacent to, Florida's Turnpike. Where it is thick and transmissive, zone 1 may be considered equivalent to the Biscayne aquifer.


Publication Year 2009
Title Hydrogeologic and Hydraulic Characterization of the Surficial Aquifer System, and Origin of High Salinity Groundwater, Palm Beach County, Florida
DOI 10.3133/sir20095113
Authors Ronald S. Reese, Michael A. Wacker
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2009-5113
Index ID sir20095113
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Florida Water Science Center