The Floridan aquifer system of southern Florida is composed chiefly of carbonate rocks that range in age from early Miocene to Paleocene. The top of the aquifer system in southern Florida generally is at depths ranging from 500 to 1,000 feet, and the average thickness is about 3,000 feet. It is divided into three general hydrogeologic units: (1) the Upper Floridan aquifer, (2) the middle confining unit, and (3) the Lower Floridan aquifer. The Upper Floridan aquifer contains brackish ground water, and the Lower Floridan aquifer contains salty ground water that compares chemically to modern seawater. Zones of high permeability are present in the Upper and Lower Floridan aquifers. A thick, cavernous dolostone in the Lower Floridan aquifer, called the Boulder Zone, is one of the most permeable carbonate units in the world (transmissivity of about 2.5 x 107 feet squared per day). Ground-water movement in the Upper Floridan aquifer is generally southward from the area of highest head in central Florida, eastward to the Straits of Florida, and westward to the Gulf of Mexico.
Distributions of natural isotopes of carbon and uranium generally confirm hydraulic gradients in the Lower Floridan aquifer. Groundwater movement in the Lower Floridan aquifer is inland from the Straits of Florida. The concentration gradients of the carbon and uranium isotopes indicate that the source of cold saltwater in the Lower Floridan aquifer is seawater that has entered through the karat features on the submarine Miami Terrace near Fort Lauderdale. The relative ages of the saltwater suggest that the rate of inland movement is related in part to rising sea level during the Holocene transgression. Isotope, temperature, and salinity anomalies in waters from the Upper Floridan aquifer of southern Florida suggest upwelling of saltwater from the Lower Floridan aquifer. The results of the study support the hypothesis of circulating relatively modern seawater and cast doubt on the theory that the saltwater in the Floridan aquifer system probably is connate or unflushed seawater from high stands of sea level.
The principal use of the Floridan aquifer system in southern Florida is for subsurface storage of liquid waste. The Boulder Zone of the Lower Floridan aquifer is extensively used as a receptacle for injected treated municipal wastewater, oil field brine, and, to a lesser extent, industrial wastewater. Pilot studies indicate a potential for cyclic storage of freshwater in the Upper Floridan aquifer in southern Florida.