The coastal springs in Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus Counties, Florida consist of three first-order magnitude springs and numerous smaller springs, which are points of substantial ground-water discharge from the Upper Floridan aquifer. Spring flow is proportional to the water-level altitude in the aquifer and is affected primarily by the magnitude and timing of rainfall. Ground-water levels in 206 Upper Floridan aquifer wells, and surface-water stage, flow, and specific conductance of water from springs at 10 gaging stations were measured to define the hydrologic variability (temporally and spatially) in the Coastal Springs Ground-Water Basin and adjacent parts of Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus Counties. Rainfall at 46 stations and ground-water withdrawals for three counties, were used to calculate water budgets, to evaluate long-term changes in hydrologic conditions, and to evaluate relations among the hydrologic components.
Predictive equations to estimate daily spring flow were developed for eight gaging stations using regression techniques. Regression techniques included ordinary least squares and multiple linear regression techniques. The predictive equations indicate that ground-water levels in the Upper Floridan aquifer are directly related to spring flow. At tidally affected gaging stations, spring flow is inversely related to spring-pool altitude. The springs have similar seasonal flow patterns throughout the area.
Water-budget analysis provided insight into the relative importance of the hydrologic components expected to influence spring flow. Four water budgets were constructed for small ground-water basins that form the Coastal Springs Ground-Water Basin. Rainfall averaged 55 inches per year and was the only source of inflow to the Basin. The pathways for outflow were evapotranspiration (34 inches per year), runoff by spring flow (8 inches per year), ground-water outflow from upward leakage (11 inches per year), and ground-water withdrawal (2 inches per year). Recharge (rainfall minus evapotranspiration) to the Upper Floridan aquifer consists of vertical leakage through the surficial deposits. Discharge is primarily through springs and diffuse upward leakage that maintains the extensive swamps along the Gulf of Mexico. The ground-water basins had slightly different partitioning of hydrologic components, reflecting variation among the regions.
Trends in hydrologic data were identified using nonparametric statistical techniques to infer long-term changes in hydrologic conditions, and yielded mixed results. No trend in rainfall was detected during the past century. No trend in spring flow was detected in 1931-98. Although monotonic trends were not detected, rainfall patterns are naturally variable from month to month and year to year; this variability is reflected in ground-water levels and spring flows. A decreasing trend in ground-water levels was detected in the Weeki Wachee well (1966-98), but the trend was statistically weak. At current ground-water withdrawal rates, there is no discernible affect on ground-water levels and spring flows. Sporadic data records, lack of continuous data, and inconsistent periods of record among the hydrologic components impeded analysis of long-term changes to the hydrologic system and interrelations among components. The ongoing collection of hydrologic data from index sites could provide much needed information to assess the hydrologic factors affecting the quantity and quality of spring flow in the Coastal Springs Ground-Water Basin.