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Contaminated Groundwater Case Study



Florida has 13 million residents and is the fourth most populous state (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1991). Like several other sunbelt states, Florida's population is growing steadily, at about 1,000 persons per day, and is estimated to reach 17 million by the year 2000. Tourism is the biggest industry in Florida, attracting nearly 40 million visitors each year. Ground water is the source of drinking water for about 95 percent of Florida's population; total withdrawals amount to about 1.5 billion gallons per day. An additional 3 billion gallons of ground water per day are pumped to meet the needs of agriculture—a $5 billion per year industry, second only to tourism in the state. Of the 50 states, Florida ranks eighth in withdrawal of fresh ground water for all purposes, second for public supply, first for rural domestic and livestock use, third for industrial/commercial use, and ninth for irrigation withdrawals.

Most areas in Florida have abundant ground water of good quality, but the major aquifers are vulnerable to contamination from a variety of land use activities. Overpumping of ground water to meet the growing demands of the urban centers, which accounts for about 80 percent of the state's population, contributes to salt water intrusion in coastal areas. This overpumping is considered the most significant problem for degradation of ground water quality in the state. Other major sources of ground water contaminants include: (1) pesticides and fertilizers (about 2 million tons/year) used in agriculture, (2) about 2 million on-site septic tanks, (3) more than 20,000 recharge wells used for disposing of stormwater, treated domestic wastewater, and cooling water, (4) nearly 6,000 surface impoundments, averaging one per 30 square kilometers, and (5) phosphate mining activities that are estimated to disturb about 3,000 hectares each year.

The Hydrogeologic Setting

The entire state is in the Coastal Plain physiographic province, which has generally low relief. Much of the state is underlain by the Floridan aquifer system, largely a limestone and dolomite aquifer that is found in both confined and unconfined conditions. The Floridan is overlain through most of the state by an intermediate aquifer system, consisting of predominantly clays and sands, and a surficial aquifer system, consisting of predominantly sands, limestone, and dolomite. The Floridan is one of the most productive aquifers in the world and is the most important source of drinking water for Florida residents. The Biscayne, an unconfined, shallow, limestone aquifer located in southeast Florida, is the most intensively used

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