Evaluation of ground-water contribution to streamflow in coastal Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and South Carolina

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5265




Stream-aquifer relations in the coastal area of Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and South Carolina were evaluated as part of the Coastal Georgia Sound Science Initiative, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's strategy to protect the Upper Floridan aquifer from saltwater intrusion. Ground-water discharge to streams was estimated using three methods: hydrograph separation, drought-streamflow measurements, and linear-regression analysis of streamflow duration. Ground-water discharge during the drought years of 1954, 1981, and 2000 was analyzed for minimum ground-water contribution to streamflow. Hydrograph separation was used to estimate baseflow at eight streamflow gaging stations during the 31-year period 1971?2001. Six additional streamflow gaging stations were evaluated using linear-regression analysis of flow duration to determine mean annual baseflow. The study area centers on three major river systems ? the Salkehatchie?Savannah?Ogeechee, Altamaha?Satilla?St Marys, and Suwannee ? that interact with the underlying ground-water system to varying degrees, largely based on the degree of incision of the river into the aquifer and on the topography. Results presented in this report are being used to calibrate a regional ground-water flow model to evaluate ground-water flow and stream-aquifer relations of the Upper Floridan aquifer. Hydrograph separation indicated decreased baseflow to streams during drought periods as water levels declined in the aquifer. Average mean annual baseflow ranged from 39 to 74 percent of mean annual streamflow, with a mean contribution of 58 percent for the period 1971?2001. In a wet year (1997), baseflow composed from 33 to 70 percent of mean annual streamflow. Drought-streamflow analysis estimated baseflow contribution to streamflow ranged from 0 to 24 percent of mean annual streamflow. Linear-regression analysis of streamflow duration estimated the Q35 (flow that is equaled or exceeded 35 percent of the time) as the most reasonable estimate of baseflow. The Q35, when compared to mean annual streamflow, estimated a baseflow contribution ranging from 65 to 102 percent of streamflow. The Q35 estimate tends to overestimate baseflow as evidenced by the baseflow contribution greater than 100 percent. Ground-water contributions to streamflow are greatest during winter when evapotranspiration is low, and least during summer when evapotranspiration is high. Baseflow accounted for a larger percentage of streamflow at gaging stations in the Salkehatchie?Savannah?Ogeechee River Basin than in the other two basins. This difference is due largely to the availability of data, proximity to the Piedmont physiographic province where the major rivers originate and are by supplied ground water, and proximity to the upper Coastal Plain where there is greater topographic relief and interconnection between streams and aquifers.

Study Area

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USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of ground-water contribution to streamflow in coastal Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and South Carolina
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Scientific Investigations Report
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South Atlantic Water Science Center
50 p.
United States
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina