Surface-water and ground-water flow are coupled in the central Everglades, although the remoteness of this system has hindered many previous attempts to quantify interactions between surface water and ground water. We modeled flow through a 43,000 ha basin in the central Everglades called Water Conservation Area 2A. The purpose of the model was to quantify recharge and discharge in the basin's vast interior areas. The presence and distribution of tritium in ground water was the principal constraint on the modeling, based on measurements in 25 research wells ranging in depth from 2 to 37 m. In addition to average characteristics of surface-water flow, the model parameters included depth of the layer of 'interactive' ground water that is actively exchanged with surface water, average residence time of interactive ground water, and the associated recharge and discharge fluxes across the wetland ground surface. Results indicated that only a relatively thin (8 m) layer of the 60 m deep surfical aquifer actively exchanges surface water and ground water on a decadal timescale. The calculated storage depth of interactive ground water was 3.1 m after adjustment for the porosity of peat and sandy limestone. Modeling of the tritium data yielded an average residence time of 90 years in interactive ground water, with associated recharge and discharge fluxes equal to 0.01 cm d -1. 3H/3He isotopic ratio measurements (which correct for effects of vertical mixing in the aquifer with deeper, tritium-dead water) were available from several wells, and these indicated an average residence time of 25 years, suggesting that residence time was overestimated using tritium measurements alone. Indeed, both residence time and storage depth would be expected to be overestimated due to vertical mixing. The estimate of recharge and discharge (0.01 cm d-1) that resulted from tritium modeling therefore is still considered reliable, because the ratio of residence time and storage depth (used to calculated recharge and discharge) is much less sensitive to vertical mixing compared with residence time alone. We conclude that a small but potentially significant component of flow through the Everglades is recharged to the aquifer and stored there for years to decades before discharged back to surface water. Long-term storage of water and solutes in the ground-water system beneath the wetlands has implications for restoration of Everglades water quality.
Additional publication details
Modeling decadal timescale interactions between surface water and ground water in the central Everglades, Florida, USA