The very productive limestone aquifers of Tertiary and Quaternary age in the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern States contain a water-table circulation system where aquifers are at or near the land surface; the Tertiary limestone unit is a homoclinal artesian system confined beneath younger beds in coastal areas.
The Tertiary limestone has a total thickness of several thousand feet and ranges in age from Paleocene to Pliocene. The part of the limestone that represents a hydrologic unit, as much as 1000 feet thick, ranges in age from middle Eocene to middle Miocene. That unit is the principal artesian aquifer in Florida and southeastern Georgia. It is also an aquifer, but of lesser importance, in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alabama. In southeastern Florida the Quaternary limestone forms a shallow, although highly productive, aquifer.
In general, the Tertiary formations dip gently toward the coast, except where the regional dip is interrupted by folds such as the Cape Fear arch, the Ocala uplift, and the Chattahoochee anticline, or by faults such as those on the Ocala uplift.
A piezometric map showing the head of water in the principal artesian aquifer in Florida and southeastern Georgia reveals chief areas of recharge where limestone crops out in interstream areas and where sinkholes breach overlying beds; it reveals principal discharge areas in certain stream valleys, springs, and offshore.
Lateral movement of the water in the limestone is generally controlled by the hydraulic gradient to the nearest discharge area. The movement may be either controlled by or independent of faults and folds; it may be along joints for short distances. Solution by downward movement of water in the zone of aeration to the water table has formed vertical tubular openings or shafts. Lateral movement of the water from areas of recharge to areas of discharge has formed caves and other solution channels, chiefly in the upper part of the zone of saturation. Since they were formed, some caves have been drowned, and others have been exposed in the zone of aeration as the water rose and fell, chiefly in Pleistocene time. The principal aquifer in Florida probably has caves and solution channels comparable in size and extent to those of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky; however, only a small percentage of these are above the water table at the present time.
In a large part of the region the most noticeable change in chemical quality of the water in the limestone resulting from circulation of water is the freshening accompanying removal of salty water from the aquifer.
Changes in sea level during Pleistocene time have raised and lowered the water table; thus the position of the upper part of the zone of saturation, in which conditions were most favorable for solution and for the formation of cavities, has changed repeatedly. At the lowest stand of the Pleistocene sea, it is conceivable that the water level in part of the limestone in north-central Florida was a few hundred feet lower than at present. The present pattern of solution openings probably was developed in Pleistocene time.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Hydrology of limestone terranes in the coastal plain of the Southeastern United States|
|Series title||Special Paper of the Geological Society of America|
|Publisher||Geological Society of America|
|Other Geospatial||Southeastern United States|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|