The major-ion and selected trace-metal chemistry of the Biscayne aquifer was characterized as part of the Florida Ground-Water Quality Monitoring Network Program, a multiagency cooperative effort concerned with delineating baseline water quality for major aquifer systems in the State. The Biscayne aquifer is unconfined and serves as the sole source of drinking water for more than 3 million people in southeast Florida. The Biscayne aquifer consists of highly permeable interbedded limestone and sandstone of Pleistocene and Pliocene age underlying most of Dade and Broward Counties and parts of Palm Beach and Monroe Counties. The high permeability is largely caused by extensive carbonate dissolution.
Water sampled from 189 wells tapping the Biscayne aquifer was predominantly a calcium bicarbonate type with some mixed types occurring in coastal areas and near major canals. Major - ion is areally uniform throughout the aquifer. According to nonparametric statistical tests of major ions and dissolved solids, the concentrations of calcium, sodium, bicarbonate, and dissolved solids increased significantly with well depth ( 0.05 significance level ), probably a result of less circulation at depth. Potassium and nitrate concentrations decreased significantly with depth. Although the source of recharge to the aquifer varies seasonally, there was no statistical difference in the concentration of major ions in pared water samples from 27 shallow wells collected during wet and dry seasons.
Median concentrations for barium, chromium, copper, lead, and manganese were below maximum or secondary maximum contaminant levels set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The median iron concentration only slightly exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant level. The concentration of barium was significantly related (0.05 significance level) to calcium and bicarbonate concentration. No distinct areal pattern or vertical distribution of the selected trace metals was evident in water from the Biscayne aquifer. Sources for trace metals found in water from the Biscayne aquifer may include local contamination, well-construction techniques, canal - aquifer interactions, and natural occurrence in area soils and rock.