South Atlantic Water Science Center - Georgia
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Coastal Georgia Sound Science Initiative
Saltwater contamination is restricting the development of ground-water supply in coastal Georgia and adjacent parts of South Carolina and Florida. The principal source of water in the coastal area is the Upper Floridan aquifer, an extremely permeable and high-yielding aquifer, which was first developed in the late 1800ís. Pumping from the aquifer has resulted in substantial ground-water-level decline and subsequent saltwater intrusion of the aquifer from underlying strata containing highly saline water at Brunswick, Georgia, and with encroachment of seawater into the aquifer at the northern end of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The saltwater contamination at these locations has constrained further development of the Upper Floridan aquifer in the coastal area and has created competing demands for the limited supply of freshwater.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GaEPD) has restricted permitted withdrawal of water from the Upper Floridan aquifer in parts of the coastal area (including the Savannah and Brunswick areas) to 1997 rates, and restricted total new pumpage in all 24 counties to an additional 36 million gallons per day above 1997 rates. These actions have prompted interest in alternative water-management scenarios and in the development of supplemental sources of water supplies including the shallower surficial and upper and lower Brunswick aquifers, and the deeper Lower Floridan aquifer
Coastal physical setting
The coastal area of Georgia and adjacent parts of South Carolina and Florida is part of the Coastal Plain physiographic province of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The area consists of barrier islands, marshes, plains, a series of terraces, and inland rolling hills and valleys. Land use is urban and industrial in cities such as Savannah and Brunswick; outside these areas, land use is a combination of forest, grazed woodland, cropland with pasture, and marsh and swampland. In 1997, ground-water sources served a population of about 526,600; surface-water sources served about 8,000 (Fanning, 1999). Average annual precipitation ranges from about 46 to 54 inches.