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Pumpage from the Upper Floridan aquifer in northwest Hillsborough County near Tampa, Florida, has induced downward leakage from the overlying surficial aquifer and lowered the water table in many areas. Leakage is highest where the confining layer separating the aquifers is breached, which is common beneath many of the lakes in the study area. Leakage of water to the Upper Floridan aquifer has lowered the water level in many lakes and drained many wetlands. Ground water from the Upper Floridan aquifer has been added (augmented) to some lakes in an effort to maintain lake levels, but the resulting lake-water chemistry and lake leakage patterns are substantially different from those of natural lakes. Changes in lake-water chemistry can cause changes in lake flora, fauna, and lake sediment composition, and large volumes of lake leakage are suspected to enhance the formation of sinkholes near the shoreline of augmented lakes.
The leakage rate of lake water through the surficial aquifer to the Upper Floridan aquifer was estimated in this study using ground-water-flow models developed for an augmented lake (Round Lake) and non-augmented lake (Halfmoon Lake). Flow models developed with MODFLOW were calibrated through nonlinear regression with UCODE to measured water levels and monthly net ground-water-flow rates from the lakes estimated from lake-water budgets. Monthly estimates of ground-water recharge were computed using an unsaturated flow model (LEACHM) that simulated daily changes in storage of water in the soil profile, thus estimating recharge as drainage to the water table.
Aquifer properties in the Round Lake model were estimated through transient-state simulations using two sets of monthly recharge rates computed during July 1996 to February 1999, which spanned both average conditions (July 1996 through October 1997), and an El Niņo event (November 1997 through September 1998) when the recharge rate doubled. Aquifer properties in the Halfmoon Lake model were estimated through steady-state simulations of average conditions in July 1996. Simulated hydrographs computed by the Round and Halfmoon Lake models closely matched measured water-level fluctuations, except during El Niņo, when the Halfmoon Lake model was unable to accurately reproduce water levels. Possibly, potential recharge during El Niņo was diverted through ground-water-flow outlets that were not represented in the Halfmoon Lake model, or a large part of the rainfall was diverted into runoff before it could become recharge.
Solute transport simulations with MT3D indicate that leakage of lake water extended 250 to 400 feet into the surficial aquifer around Round Lake, and from 75 to 150 feet around Halfmoon Lake before flowing to the underlying Upper Floridan aquifer. These results are in agreement with concentrations of stable isotopes of oxygen-18 (d18O) and deuterium (dD) in the surficial aquifer. Schedules of monthly augmentation rates to maintain constant stages in Round and Halfmoon Lakes were computed using an equation that accounted for changes in the Upper Floridan aquifer head and the deviation from the mean recharge rate. Resulting lake stages were nearly constant during the first half of the study, but increased above target lake stages during El Niņo; modifying the computation of augmentation rates to account for the higher recharge rate during El Niņo resulted in lake stages that were closer to the target lake stage.
Substantially more lake leakage flows to the Upper Floridan aquifer from Round Lake than from Halfmoon Lake, because the estimated vertical hydraulic conductivities of lake and confining layer sediments and breaches in the confining layer beneath Round Lake are much greater. Augmentation rates required to maintain the low guidance stages in Round Lake (53 feet) and Halfmoon Lake (42 feet) under average Upper Floridan aquifer heads are estimated as 33,850 cubic feet per day and 1,330 to 10,000 cubic feet per day, respectively. These rates equate to 26 inches per month of water applied to the entire surface of Round Lake and 0.34 to 2.5 inches per month of water applied to Halfmoon Lake.
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