Northwest Volusia County, in east-central Florida, is a 262-square-mile area including the southern part of the Crescent City Ridge and the northern tip of the DeLand Ridge. The hydrogeologic units in the area include the Floridan aquifer, which is made up of parts of the Lake City Limestone, the Avon Park Limestone, and the Ocala Limestone, all of Eocene age; the confining bed, which is composed of clays of Miocene or Pliocene age; and the surficial aquifer, which is made up of Pleistocene and Holocene sands.
Ornamental fern growing is a $12 million per year industry in northwest Volusia County. Fern culture requires a large amount of good-quality water for irrigation, and more significantly, a large water withdrawal rate for freeze protection during winter months. The source of most water used is the Floridan aquifer. The large irrigation withdrawals, especially in winter months when spray irrigation is used for freeze protection of ferns, introduce problems such as the potential for saltwater intrusion, the temporary loss of water in domestic wells caused by large potentiometric drawdown, and increased sinkhole activity.
The water budget of the surficial layer consists of 55 inches per year rainfall, 39 inches per year evapotranspiration, 13 inches per year runoff, and a net downward leakage of 3 inches per year.
Average ground-water irrigational withdrawal is 8.1 million gallons per day, while the peak withdrawal rate is 300 million gallons per day during freeze-protection pumpage. The average irrigation well depth exceeds 300 feet.
Transmissivities of the Floridan aquifer range from 4,500 to 160,000 feet squared per day. Highest transmissivities are in the DeLeon Springs area and the lowest are in the east Pierson area. Storage coefficients range from 0.0003 to 0.0013.
The water budget of the Floridan aquifer under present conditions of withdrawal consists of 108 cubic feet per second recharge, 2 cubic feet per second horizontal ground-water inflow, 34 cubic feet per second direct discharge, 40 cubic feet per second upward leakage, 22 cubic feet per second horizontal outflow, and 14 cubic feet per second pumpage.
The Floridan aquifer contains good-quality water in most of the study area, but also contains brackish water underneath the stressed zones and in the upper zones along the western and southern limits of the area. The altitude of the fresh- saltwater interface varies in the area from 1,500 to 300 feet below sea level.
Areal drawdowns in the fern-growing areas of Pierson are 5 feet during growth irrigation periods and 20 to 30 feet during freeze-protection withdrawals. The drawdown in the Pierson area at the end of one intense period of pumpage exceeded 30 feet over a 4.4-square-mile area. A significant amount of the withdrawn water was replaced by leakage during the pumping period. Drawdowns in some pumping wells in northeast Pierson exceed 90 feet during freeze-protection withdrawals.
No long-term residual drawdown has occurred. The predominant effect of pumpage on the water budget of the Floridan aquifer has been an increase in recharge. Sinkhole activity has been increased by the temporary increase in load on the aquifer's skeletal structure during intense lowering of the potentiometric surface. There is no evidence of saltwater intrusion, but a monitoring network for future early detection is suggested.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrology of the Floridan Aquifer in Northwest Volusia County, Florida