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Simulated effects of Lower Floridan aquifer pumping on the Upper Floridan aquifer at Pooler, Chatham County, Georgia

January 23, 2013

A revised regional groundwater-flow model was used to assess the potential effects on the Upper Floridan aquifer (UFA) of pumping the Lower Floridan aquifer (LFA) from a new well (35Q069) located at the City of Pooler in coastal Georgia near Savannah. The spatial resolution of the original regional, steady-state, groundwater-flow model was increased to incorporate detailed hydrogeologic information resulting from field investigations at Pooler and existing wells in the area. Simulation results using the U.S. Geological Survey finite-difference code MODFLOW indicated that long-term pumping at a rate of 780 gallons per minute (gal/min) from the LFA well 35Q069 would cause a maximum drawdown of about 2.52 feet (ft) in the UFA (scenario A). This maximum drawdown in the UFA was greater than the observed draw-down of 0.9 ft in the 72-hour aquifer test, but this is expected because the steady-state simulated drawdown represents long-term pumping conditions. Model results for scenario A indicate that drawdown in the UFA exceeded 1 ft over a 163-square-mile (mi2) area. Induced vertical leakage from the UFA provided about 98 percent of the water to the LFA; the area within 1 mile of the pumped well contributed about 81 percent of the water pumped. Simulated pumping changed regional water-budget components slightly and redistributed flow among model layers, namely increasing downward leakage in all layers, decreasing upward leakage in all layers above the LFA, increasing inflow to and decreasing outflow from lateral specified-head boundaries in the UA and LFA, and increasing the volume of induced recharge from the general head boundary to outcrop units. An additional two groundwater-pumping scenarios were run to establish that a linear relation exists between pumping rates of the LFA well 35Q069 (varied from 390 to 1,042 gal/min) and amount of drawdown in the UFA and LFA. Three groundwater-pumping scenarios were run to evaluate the amount of UFA pumping (128 to 340 gal/min) that would produce maximum drawdown in the UFA equivalent to that induced by pumping the LFA well 35Q069 at rates specified in scenarios A, B, and C (390 to 1,042 gal/min). Scenarios in which the LFA well 35Q069 was pumped produced a larger drawdown area in the UFA than scenarios in which the UFA well was pumped to offset the maximum UFA drawdown simulated by scenarios A, B, and C. Three additional groundwater-pumping scenarios were run to evaluate the combination of pumping reductions at existing Pooler UFA public-supply wells with the addition of pumping from the new LFA well. For each scenario, LFA well 35Q069 was pumped at different rates, and pumping at existing Pooler supply wells, located about 3.7 miles northward, was reduced according to UFA drawdown offsets (128 to 340 gal/min) established by scenarios D, E, and F. Decreases in the magnitude and areal extent of drawdown in the UFA in response to pumping the LFA well were realized for scenarios that simulated drawdown offsets (reductions) for the existing UFA wells at Pooler when compared with the magnitude and extent of drawdown resulting from scenarios that did not simulate drawdown offsets for the existing UFA wells at Pooler (scenarios A, B, and C). The revised model was evaluated for sensitivity by altering horizontal and vertical hydraulic conductivity in layers 5 through 7 (Floridan aquifer system) for newly established hydraulic-property zones by factors of 0.1, 0.5, 2.0, and 10.0. Results of the sensitivity analysis indicate that horizontal and vertical hydraulic conductivity of the UFA and LFA are the most important parameters in model simulations. The least sensitive parameters were the horizontal and vertical hydraulic conductivity of the Lower Floridan confining unit; changes to these parameters had little effect on simulated leakage and groundwater levels. The revised model reasonably depicts changes in groundwater levels resulting from pumping the LFA at Pooler at a rate of 780 gal/min. However, results are limited by the same model assumptions and design as the original model and placement of boundaries and type of boundary used exert the greatest control on overall groundwater flow and interaquifer leakage in the system. Simulation results have improved regional characterization of the Floridan aquifer system, which could be used by State officials in evaluating requests for groundwater withdrawal from the LFA.