During 1997, the Dougherty County Health Department sampled more than 700 wells completed in the Upper Floridan aquifer in Dougherty County, Georgia, and determined that nitrate as nitrogen (hereinafter called nitrate) concentrations were above 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) in 12 percent of the wells. Ten mg/L is the Georgia primary drinking-water standard. The ground-water flow system is complex and poorly understood in this predominantly agricultural area. Therefore, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) - in cooperation with Albany Water, Gas and Light Commission - conducted a study to better define ground-water flow and water quality in the Upper Florida aquifer in the southwestern Albany area, Georgia.
Ground-water levels were measured in the southwestern Albany area, Georgia, during May 1998 and March 1999 (spring), and October 1998 and September 1999 (fall). Groundwater levels measured in 75 wells open only to the Upper Floridan aquifer were used to construct potentiometric-surface maps for those four time periods. These maps show that ground water generally flows from northwest to southeast at gradients ranging from about 2 to greater than 10 feet per mile. During spring and fall 1998, ground-water levels were high and mounding of the potentiometric surface occurred in the central part of the study area, indicating a local recharge area. Water levels declined from December through February, and by March 1999 the mound in the potentiometric surface had dissipated.
Of the 75 wells in the potentiometric network, 24 were selected for a water-quality network. These 24 wells and 1 spring were sampled during fall 1998 and spring 1999. Samples were analyzed for major chemical constituents, selected minor constituents, selected nutrients, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Water-quality field measurements - such as water temperature, pH, specific conductance (SC), and dissolved oxygen (DO) - were taken at each well. During August 2000, a ground-water sample was collected and analyzed for selected sewage tracers. During March 2001, water samples from selected wells were analyzed for nitrogen and oxygen isotopes. Age-dating analysis using CFCs yield apparent groundwater ages that range from modern to greater than 50 years.
The chemistry of ground water in the Upper Floridan aquifer varies widely throughout the southwestern Albany area, Georgia, and in general represents the chemistry commonly found in recharge areas. From fall 1998 through spring 1999, median values of pH, SC, and DO concentration were 7.6 standard units, 266 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius (uS/cm), and 5.6 mg/L, respectively. The SC is highest (350 - 400 uS/cm) where mounding of the potentiometric surface exists. Specific DO concentrations indicate an area of anoxic ground water in the north-central part of the study area.
Water samples indicate that ground water in the study area is dominated by calcium and bicarbonate ions, which is consistent with the limestone lithology of the aquifer. About 25 percent of the samples contained sodium and chloride at ratios similar to those in rainfall, indicating a close proximity to recharge areas. The remaining water samples, however, had sodiumchloride ratios less than 0.90, the ratio in Tift County, Georgia, rainfall samples. These low sodium-chloride ratios are consistent with chloride enrichment. Minor constituent and nutrient concentrations typically are below laboratory reporting limits; however, the maximum nitrate concentration measured during the study period was 12.2 mg/L, and the median concentration for the study period was 3.0 mg/L. Samples collected during 1999 had a higher median nitrate concentration than the 1998 samples. Regression analysis indicated that nitrate concentrations are related exponentially to chloride concentrations.
Four distinct groups of ground-water-quality samples, plus four unique samples, were identified using cluster analysis. Water-quality groups I and
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USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water flow and water quality in the Upper Floridan aquifer, southwestern Albany area, Georgia, 1998-2001