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Hydrogeologic framework and salinity distribution of the Floridan aquifer system of Broward County, Florida

March 27, 2014

Concerns about water-level decline and seawater intrusion in the surficial Biscayne aquifer, currently the principal source of water supply to Broward County, prompted a study to refine the hydrogeologic framework of the underlying Floridan aquifer system to evaluate its potential as an alternative source of supply. This report presents cross sections that illustrate the stratigraphy and hydrogeology in eastern Broward County; maps of the upper surfaces and thicknesses of several geologic formations or units within the Floridan aquifer system; and maps of two of the potentially productive water-bearing zones within the system, the Upper Floridan aquifer and the Avon Park permeable zone.

An analysis of data on rock depositional textures, associated pore networks, and flow zones in the Floridan aquifer system shows that groundwater moves through the system in two ways. These data support a conceptual, dual-porosity model of the system wherein groundwater moves either as concentrated flow in discrete, thin bedding-plane vugs or zones of vuggy megaporosity, or as diffuse flow through rocks with primarily interparticle and moldic-particle porosity. Because considerable exchange of groundwater may occur between the zones of vuggy and matrix-dominated porosity, understanding the distribution of that porosity and flow zone types is important to evaluating the suitability of the several units within the Floridan aquifer system for managing the water through practices such as aquifer storage and recovery (ASR).

The salinity of the water in the Floridan aquifer system is highest in the central part of the study area, and lower toward the north and south. Although salinity generally increases with depth, in the western part of the study area a zone of relatively high saline water is perched above water of lower salinity in the underlying Avon Park permeable zone. Overall, the areas of highest salinity in the aquifer system coincide with those with the lowest estimated transmissivity, so that the occurrence of perched saline water in the system may be the consequence of incompletely flushed connate water or intruded seawater.

A seismic reflection profile along the Hillsboro Canal, at the northern edge of the study area, shows seven seismic-sag structures that are interpreted as downward deformation of overlying strata into collapsed deep cave systems. These structures may compromise the integrity of the confinement created by the underlying strata by allowing upconing of saline water from depth, which has implications for successful application of ASR and use of the Floridan aquifer system as an alternative water supply.