Ground water is the principle source of water supply in Lee County, Florida where an estimated 30,000 wells have been drilled since 1990. These wells ranges in depth from about 10 to 1,240 feet and tap the water table aquifer or one or more of the artesian water-bearing units or zones in the Tamiami Formation, the upper part of the Hawthorn Formation, the lower part of the Hawthorn Formation and the Tampa Limestone and the Suwannee Limestone. Before 1968, nearly all wells were constructed with galvanized or black iron pipe. Many of these wells are sources of saline-water intrusion into freshwater-bearing zones.
The water-bearing zones in the lower part of the Hawthorn Formation, Tampa Limestone, and Suwannee Limestone are artesian-they have higher water levels and usually contain water with a higher concentration of dissolved solids than do the aquifers occurring at shallower depths. The water from these deeper aquifers generally range in dissolved solids concentration from about 1,500 to 2,400 mg/L, and in chloride from about 500 to 1,00 mg/L. A maximum chloride concentration of 15,200 mg/L has been determined. Few of the 3,00 wells estimated to have been drilled to these zones contain sufficient casing to prevent upward flow into overlaying water-bearing zones. Because of water-level differentials, upward movement and lateral intrusion of saline water occurs principally into the upper part of the Hawthorn Formation where the chloride concentrations in water unaffected by saline-water intrusion ranges from about 80 to 150 mg/L. Where intrusion from deep artesian zones has occurred, the chloride concentration in water from the upper part of the Hawthorn Formation ranges from about 300 to more than 2,100 mg/L
Surface discharges of the saline water from wells tapping the lower part of the Hawthorn Formation and the Suwannee Limestone also had affected the water-table aquifer which normally contains water with 10 to 50 mg/L of chloride. In one area, the chloride concentration in water from the water table aquifer ranged from 200 to 590 mg/L as a result of intrusion.
In areas adjacent to tidal-water bodies, the water table aquifer contains water that is very saline, Where the wells in such areas have been constructed with metal casings, the metal corrodes when exposed to the saline water, and many ultimately develop holes. This permits saline water to leak into the well where the water level in the well is lower than the water table. The intrusion of saline water from the water-table aquifer into the upper part of the Hawthorn Formation is a major problem in parts of Cape Coral. Withdrawal of water from the upper part of the Hawthorn Formation has caused water levels to decline below the lowest annual position of the water table, so that downward leakage is perennial. In some coastal areas, wells that tap the upper part of the Hawthorn Formation contain water whose chloride concentration is as much as 9,500 mg/L.
Upward leakage of saline water from the deep artesian aquifers and downward leakage of saline water from the water-table aquifer can be prevented by proper well construction.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Saline-water intrusion related to well construction in Lee County, Florida