To meet water-supply needs in central Florida for 2020, the St. Johns River is being considered as a source of water supply to augment ground water from the Floridan aquifer system. Current (2004) information on streamflow and water-quality characteristics of the St. Johns River in east-central Florida is needed by water resources planners to assess the feasibility of using the river as an alternate source of water supply and to design water treatment facilities. To address this need, streamflow and water quality of the 90-mile-long middle reach of the St. Johns River, Florida, from downstream of Lake Poinsett to near DeLand, were characterized by using retrospective (1991-99) and recently collected data (2000-02). Streamflow characteristics were determined by using data from water years 1933-2000. Water-quality characteristics were described using data from 1991-99 at 15 sites on the St. Johns River and 1 site each near the mouths of the Econlockhatchee and Wekiva Rivers. Data were augmented with biweekly water-quality data and continuous physical properties data at four St. Johns River sites and quarterly data from sites on the Wekiva River, Blackwater Creek, and downstream of Blue Springs from 2000-02. Water-quality constituents described were limited to information on physical properties, major ions and other inorganic constituents, nutrients, organic carbon, suspended solids, and phytoplankton chlorophyll-a. The occurrence of antibiotics, human prescription and nonprescription drugs, pesticides, and a suite of organic constituents, which may indicate domestic or industrial waste, were described at two St. Johns River sites using limited data collected in water years 2002-03. The occurrence of these same constituents in water from a pilot water treatment facility on Lake Monroe also was described using data from one sampling event conducted in March 2003.
Dissolved oxygen concentration and water pH values in the St. Johns River were significantly lower during high-flow conditions than during low-flow conditions. Low dissolved oxygen concentrations may have resulted from the input of water from marsh areas or the subsequent decomposition of organic matter transported to the river during high-flow events. Low water pH values during high-flow conditions likely resulted from the increased dissolved organic carbon concentrations in the river.
Concentrations of total dissolved solids and other inorganic constituents in the St. Johns River were inversely related with streamflow. Most major ion concentrations, total dissolved solids concentrations, and specific conductance values varied substantially at the Christmas, Sanford, and DeLand sites during low-flow periods in 2000-01 probably reflecting wind and tidal effects.
Sulfide concentrations as high as 6 milligrams per liter (mg/L) were measured in the St. Johns River during high-flow periods. Increased sulfide concentrations likely resulted from the decomposition of organic matter or the reduction of sulfate. Bromide concentrations as high as 17 mg/L were measured at the most upstream site on the St. Johns River during 2000-02. Temporal variations in bromide were characterized by sharp peaks in concentration during low-flow periods. Peaks in bromide concentrations tended to coincide with peaks in chloride concentrations because the likely source of both constituents is ground water affected by relict seawater.
Median dissolved organic carbon concentrations ranged from 15 to 26 mg/L during 2000-02, and concentrations as high as 42 mg/L were measured. Water color values and dissolved organic carbon concentrations generally were significantly greater during high-flow conditions than during low-flow conditions. Specific ultraviolet light absorbance data indicated the organic carbon during high-flow events was more aromatic in composition and likely originated from terrestrially derived sources compared to organic carbon in the river during other times of the year.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Streamflow and water-quality characteristics at selected sites of the St. Johns River in central Florida, 1933 to 2002