Hydrology of Polk County, Florida

Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5320

Prepared in cooperation with Polk County Board of County Commissioners, South Florida Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and St. Johns River Water Management District



Local water managers usually rely on information produced at the State and regional scale to make water-resource management decisions. Current assessments of hydrologic and water-quality conditions in Polk County, Florida, commonly end at the boundaries of two water management districts (South Florida Water Management District and the Southwest Florida Water Management District), which makes it difficult for managers to determine conditions throughout the county. The last comprehensive water-resources assessment of Polk County was published almost 40 years ago. To address the need for current countywide information, the U.S. Geological Survey began a 3?-year study in 2002 to update information about hydrologic and water-quality conditions in Polk County and identify changes that have occurred. Ground-water use in Polk County has decreased substantially since 1965. In 1965, total ground-water withdrawals in the county were about 350 million gallons per day. In 2002, withdrawals totaled about 285 million gallons per day, of which nearly 95 percent was from the Floridan aquifer system. Water-conservation practices mainly related to the phosphate-mining industry as well as the decrease in the number of mines in operation in Polk County have reduced total water use by about 65 million gallons per day since 1965. Polk County is underlain by three principal hydrogeologic units. The uppermost water-bearing unit is the surficial aquifer system, which is unconfined and composed primarily of clastic deposits. The surficial aquifer system is underlain by the intermediate confining unit, which grades into the intermediate aquifer system and consists of up to two water-bearing zones composed of interbedded clastic and carbonate rocks. The lowermost hydrogeologic unit is the Floridan aquifer system. The Floridan aquifer system, a thick sequence of permeable limestone and dolostone, consists of the Upper Floridan aquifer, a middle semiconfining unit, a middle confining unit, and the Lower Floridan aquifer. The Upper Floridan aquifer provides most of the water required to meet demand in Polk County. Data from about 300 geophysical and geologic logs were used to construct hydrogeologic maps showing the tops and thicknesses of the aquifers and confining units within Polk County. Thickness of the surficial aquifer system ranges from several feet thick or less in the extreme northwestern part of the county and along parts of the Peace River south of Bartow to more than 200 feet along the southern part of the Lake Wales Ridge in eastern Polk County. Thickness of the intermediate aquifer system/intermediate confining unit is highly variable throughout the county because of past erosional processes and sinkhole formation. Thickness of the unit ranges from less than 25 feet in the extreme northwestern part of the county to more than 300 feet in southwestern Polk County. The altitude of the top of the Upper Floridan aquifer in the county ranges from about 50 feet above National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29) in the northwestern part to more than 250 feet below NGVD 29 in the southern part. Water levels in the Upper Floridan aquifer fluctuate seasonally, increasing during the wet season (June through September) and decreasing during the rest of the year. Water levels in the Upper Floridan aquifer also can change from year to year, depending on such factors as pumpage and climatic variations. In the southwestern part of the county, fluctuations in water use related to phosphate mining have had a major impact on ground-water levels. Hydrographs of selected wells in southwestern Polk County show a general decline in water levels that ended in the mid-1970s. This water-level decline coincides with an increase in water use associated with phosphate mining. A substantial increase in water levels that began in the mid-1970s coincides with a period of decreasing water use in the county. Despite reductions in water use since 1970, howev

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrology of Polk County, Florida
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s):
Florida Integrated Science Center
viii, 114 p.