Water from a brackish-water zone (1,050-1,350 ft) has concentrations as high as 2,150 milligrams per liter chloride, and concentrations are suspected to be higher than 3,000 milligrams per liter chloride. This brackish water has been identified as the source of the water that contaminates the upper and lower fresh-water-bearing zones of the principal artesian aquifer. The confining unit separating the fresh and brackish water seems to contain breaks that act as vertical conduits for the movement of brackish water into the fresh-water zones of the aquifer. Faults are suspected to be responsible for the breaks in the confining unit. The rate of upward movement of brackish water seems to be a function of the rate of water-level decline in the aquifer.
There are two main areas of brackish-water intrusion. One area is near Bay and Prince Streets, and the other area is near Reynolds and Q Streets. Successive maps showing chloride ion concentration trace the movement of the chloride front northward in the Bay Street area at the rate of about 350 feet per year toward the center of pumping. An average of about 400 gallons per minute of water containing 2,000 milligrams per liter chloride invaded the upper water-bearing zone between December 1962 and December 1966. A like amount may have entered the lower water-bearing zone. Maximum chloride concentration in the upper water-bearing zone is 1,540 milligrams per liter in the Bay Street area and 640 milligrams per liter in the Reynolds Street area.
In a few areas, where individual wells have been drilled deep enough to penetrate the confining unit over the brackish-water zone, the well furnishes a conduit for brackish water to recharge the fresh-water aquifer. Plugging the lower part of these wells usually reduces the chloride concentration of the water.
The chloride concentration of water in the principal artesian aquifer can probably be reduced by use of interceptor wells, relief wells, or well-field spacing. Interceptor wells would prevent laterally moving brackish water from contaminating a well field. A relief well would tap and withdraw poor quality water from only the brackish-water zone to lower the head in that zone and decrease the rate of leakage into the fresh-water aquifer. Wider spacing of wells would prevent the development of a deep cone of depression and the steeper hydraulic gradients that accompany it. The brackish water pumped by the interceptor or relief wells could be used for industry, aquaculture, recreation, or for other processes in which the chloride content is not critical.