The hydraulic connection between the Peace River and the underlying aquifers along the length of the Peace River from Bartow to Arcadia was assessed to evaluate flow exchanges between these hydrologic systems. Methods included an evaluation of hydrologic and geologic records and seismic-reflection profiles, seepage investigations, and thermal infrared imagery interpretation. Along the upper Peace River, a progressive long-term decline in streamflow has occurred since 1931 due to a lowering of the potentiometric surface of the Upper Floridan aquifer by as much as 60 feet because of intensive ground-water withdrawals for phosphate mining and agriculture. Another effect from lowering the potentiometric surface has been the cessation of flow at several springs located near and within the Peace River channel, including Kissengen Spring, that once averaged a flow of about 19 million gallons a day. The lowering of ground-water head resulted in flow reversals at locations where streamflow enters sinkholes along the streambed and floodplain.
Hydrogeologic conditions along the Peace River vary from Bartow to Arcadia. Three distinctive hydrogeologic areas along the Peace River were delineated: (1) the upper Peace River near Bartow, where ground-water recharge occurs; (2) the middle Peace River near Bowling Green, where reversals of hydraulic gradients occur; and (3) the lower Peace River near Arcadia, where ground-water discharge occurs.
Seismic-reflection data were used to identify geologic features that could serve as potential conduits for surface-water and ground-water exchange. Depending on the hydrologic regime, this exchange could be recharge of surface water into the aquifer system or discharge of ground water into the stream channel. Geologic features that would provide pathways for water movement were identified in the seismic record; they varied from buried irregular surfaces to large-scale subsidence flexures and vertical fractures or enlarged solution conduits. Generally, the upper Peace River is characterized by a shallow, buried irregular top of rock, numerous observed sinkholes, and subsidence depressions. The downward head gradient provides potential for the Peace River to lose water to the ground-water system. Along the middle Peace River area, head gradients alternate between downward and upward, creating both recharging and discharging ground-water conditions. Seismic records show that buried, laterally continuous reflectors in the lower Peace River pinch out in the middle Peace River streambed. Small springs have been observed along the streambed where these units pinch out. This area corresponds to the region where highest ground-water seepage volumes were measured during this study. Further south, along the lower Peace River, upward head gradients provide conditions for ground-water discharge into the Peace River. Generally, confinement between the surficial aquifer and the confined ground-water systems in this area is better than to the north. However, localized avenues for surface-water and ground-water interactions may exist along discontinuities observed in seismic reflectors associated with large-scale flexures or subsidence features.
Ground-water seepage gains or losses along the Peace River were quantified by making three seepage runs during periods of: (1) low base flow, (2) high base flow, and (3) high flow. Low and high base-flow seepage runs were performed along a 74-mile length of the Peace River, between Bartow and Nocatee. Maximum losses of 17.3 cubic feet per second (11.2 million gallons per day) were measured along a 3.2-mile reach of the upper Peace River. The high-flow seepage run was conducted to quantify losses in the Peace River channel and floodplain between Bartow and Fort Meade. Seepage losses calculated during high-flow along a 7.2-mile reach of the Peace River, from the Clear Springs Mine bridge to the Mobil Mine bridge, were approximately 10 percent of the river flow, or 118 c