The surficial aquifer system is the major source of freshwater for public water supply in Palm Beach County, Florida, yet many previous studies of the hydrogeology of this aquifer system have focused only on the eastern one-half to one-third of the county in the more densely populated coastal area (Land and others, 1973; Swayze and others, 1980; Swayze and Miller, 1984; Shine and others, 1989). Population growth in the county has resulted in the westward expansion of urbanized areas into agricultural areas and has created new demands on the water resources of the county. Additionally, interest in surface-water resources of central and western areas of the county has increased. In these areas, plans for additional surface-water storage reservoirs are being made under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan originally proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District (1999), and stormwater treatment areas have been constructed by the South Florida Water Management District. Surface-water and ground-water interactions in the Everglades are thought to be important to water budgets, water quality, and ecology (Harvey and others, 2002).
Most of the previous hydrogeologic and ground-water flow simulation studies of the surficial aquifer system have not utilized a hydrostratigraphic framework, in which stratigraphic or sequence stratigraphic units, such as those proposed in Cunningham and others (2001), are delineated in this stratigraphically complex aquifer system. A thick zone of secondary permeability mapped by Swayze and Miller (1984) was not subdivided and was identified as only being within the Anastasia Formation of Pleistocene age. Miller (1987) published 11 geologic sections of the surficial aquifer system, but did not delineate any named stratigraphic units in these sections. This limited interpretation has resulted, in part, from the complex facies changes within rocks and sediments of the surficial aquifer system and the seemingly indistinct and repetitious nature of the most common lithologies, which include sand, shell, sandstone, and limestone.
Model construction and layer definition in a simulation of ground-water flow within the surficial aquifer system of Palm Beach County utilized only the boundaries of one or two major hydrogeologic zones, such as the Biscayne aquifer and surficial aquifer system; otherwise layers were defined by average elevations rather than geologic structure or stratigraphy (Shine and others, 1989). Additionally, each major permeable zone layer in the model was assumed to have constant hydraulic conductivity with no allowance for the possibility of discrete (thin) flow zones within the zone.
The key to understanding the spatial distribution and hydraulic connectivity of permeable zones in the surficial aquifer system beneath Palm Beach County is the development of a stratigraphic framework based on a consistent method of county-wide correlation. Variability in hydraulic properties in the system needs to be linked to the stratigraphic units delineated in this framework, and proper delineation of the hydrostratigraphic framework should provide a better understanding and simulation of the ground-water flow system. In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the South Florida Water Management District, initiated an investigation to develop a hydrostratigraphic framework for the surficial aquifer system in Palm Beach County.