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Evaluation of ground-water flow, saltwater contamination and alternative water sources

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    Science Initiative

    Picture of an offshore drilling platformThe Coastal Georgia Sound Science Initiative is a program of scientific and feasibility studies to support development of Georgia Environmental Protection Division's final strategy to protect the Upper Floridan aquifer from saltwater contamination.

    Go to lthe project description Project description
    Go to list of Coastal publications Coastal publications
    View Project Workplan (155 Kb Adobe PDF file Project workplan (155 Kb PDF file)

    USGS Announces First Real-Time Monitoring Wells in Coastal Georgia

    To provide information needed to help protect fresh ground-water resources in the Brunswick-Glynn County area, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) installed continuous ground-water-level monitors in five wells completed in the Upper Floridan aquifer. These wells are equipped with satellite telemetry to enable real time viewing of data on the World Wide WEB. These are the first wells to be equipped with real-time instrumentation in the 24-county coastal area of Georgia and will provide water managers with immediate data on changing ground-water-level and water-quality conditions. Funding for the wells was provided by the USGS and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division as part of the Coastal Sound Science Initiative, and by the City of Brunswick and Glynn County as part of the Cooperative Water Program with USGS. Additional instrumentation to be installed at the sites will monitor the specific conductance of ground water in the Upper Floridan aquifer, and provide a warning of saltwater contamination into freshwater zones. Data for these and other well sites can be accessed on the USGS Web page,

    Project description

    Rapid population growth in coastal Georgia, increased tourism, and sustained industrial activity have adversely affected coastal Georgia's water resources and limited the available water supply. The main source of water supply in the coastal area is the Upper Floridan aquifer, an extremely productive water source, which was first developed in the late 1800's, and has been used extensively in the area ever since. Pumpage from the aquifer has resulted in several problems including:
    • substantial water-level declines
    • migration of seawater into the aquifer at the northern end of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina;
    • contamination of the aquifer from underlying brine-filled strata at Brunswick, Georgia;
    • decreased ground-water inflow to springs, freshwater ponds, marshes, and wetlands, which could impact the balance of freshwater and saltwater in tidal rivers and estuaries;

    Saltwater contamination has constrained further development of the Upper Floridan aquifer in coastal Georgia and created fierce competing demands for the limited fresh water supply. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GaEPD) released an interim strategy in April 1997 to manage saltwater intrusion in the Upper Floridan aquifer. As part of this interim plan, GaEPD has capped permitted withdrawal from the Upper Floridan aquifer at 1997 rates in the Savannah and Brunswick areas, and has funded a program of scientific and feasibility studies (Coastal Sound Science Initiative) to support development a final water-management strategy. Implementation of the final water-management strategy is scheduled for January 2006.

    USGS has studied saltwater contamination of the Upper Floridan aquifer in coastal Georgia for over 50 years through the cooperative water resources program. In support of the Sound Science Initiative, the USGS is working on a comprehensive program to evaluate ground-water flow, saltwater contamination, and alternative water sources of ground water in the coastal area of Georgia and adjacent parts of South Carolina and Florida. The study is being conducted in cooperation with GaEPD and the Georgia Water Resources Research Institute. Project activities include:

    • offshore drilling near Savannah and Hilton Head Island;
    • drilling of deep test wells onshore;
    • evaluation of alternative water supplies in man-made seepage ponds;
    • ground-water monitoring; and
    • simulation of saltwater intrusion using digital ground-water models

    USGS Water Resources for Georgia
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    Last updated: 03/05/2013 12:54:04 PM

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