Concentrated orange juice, airboats, air conditionings, swamp buggies, and amusement parks … Florida is more famous not for inventions
But perfecting their widespread use.
Florida perfected but did not invent these
The notable exception is the Floridan Aquifer:
Florida is the birthplace and home to this hydrologic original, and Garald Parker, late geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey, is its proud inventor.
But inventor, really?
Wouldn’t a more proper description be that he discovered it, as do explorers, instead; and not that he “invented” it from scratch, say, like the light bulb as did Thomas Edison. (Edison, incidentally, wintered in Ft Myers, and as fate would have it, also tapped water from the Floridan Aquifer (before it had its name) for his pool – using a thousand foot deep well.
Thomas Edison unwittingly used but did not invent the Floridan Aquifer
But it was Garald Parker who discovered or rather I mean invented it.
Partly the culmination of careful scientific inquiry mixed in with possibly a Eureka Moment too: Garald Parker came to realize that the giant mass of water beneath his feet … the one which overran the geologic bounds of any single rock Florida’s many formations … and one which towards the Big Bend was exposed at the surface where it formed springs … and the one which south of Okeechobee where it was buried a thousand feet deep … and the one that throughout the entire peninsula (and even up in to the continent) where it was everywhere … was actually a single water body.
Parker understood (and named) the water body for what it truly was:
The state’s biggest water body!
Garald Parker (right) invented and discovered the source of Florida’s many springs, one of which reputed to have youth restorative qualities Juan Ponce de Leon (left) never found
Even more than that Parker was the first to coin the term aquifer as well, now a mainstay of the hydrologic lexicon. The term aquifer is used to describe the contiguous (and productive) body of underground water, not the geologic formations in which it is contained.
That makes Florida home of the world’s first aquifer,
Garald Parker was both its discoverer and inventor.
If only Ponce de Leon had been as lucky with the Fountain of Youth.
People “winter” (the verb) in Naples to escape “winter” (the noun) of the cold continental North.
More people means more water usage …
Or in other words, ground water pumping is on the rise.
Where does all that water go?
I calculated my household usage to be around six 32’long x 15’ wide x 3.5’ long swimming pools per year. The catch is I only drink about six 42.5 gallon barrels of it per year. (And usually not all at once!) The rest gets used to wash the dishes and clothes, in the bathrooms, watering the lawn and, yes, occasionally refilling our 32’ long x 15’ wide x 3.5’ deep swimming pool.
Why refill the pool when we don’t swim in it all winter long?
If water drops below the skimmer the pump starts sucking in air (and before you know it the motor burns out).
Could the same thing happen to our aquifer if we pump too much?
That’s a matter of scientific conjecture And closely guarded trade secrets to a degree.
Plus technological “know how,” or rather:
How much you can get out?
(A question which in recent days has reversed to: “How quickly can it be plugged?”)
What is known is the volume of water in Lake Okeechobee:
At its current height of 15 ft above sea level, The answer is 4 million acre feet.
As coincidence would have it, 4 million acre feet is also the annual volume of oil pumped from the ground (and water) each year across the blue planet. That includes Saudi Arabia, Russia, United States, Iran, China, Canada, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Venezuela (to name the Top 10).
Millions of acre-feet of course is a water term.
In the oil industry, the parlance barrels –
Or 85 million of them per day to be exact (1 barrel equals 42.5 gallons).
So next time you get a chance:
Drive out now to Lake Okeechobee, climb up its levee …
And look out:
That’s a lot of oil … or water (however you want to look at it).
I always knew that Thomas Edison drilled an artesian well (in this case, I think down into the Hawthorne Formation, which is one step above the Floridan), to tap aquifer-warmed water for his pool, but on a recent trip to the Edison Winter Estate in Ft. Myers, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he also discovered the light bulb as well!
Actually, the reverse was the case:
I was happy as an oyster in the Caloosahatchee to find Edison was connected to the hydrologic folklore of the state.
How much oil is buried in the underlying geology of peninsular Florida?
That’s a question I’ll leave to the petroleum geologists.
As for how much water is in Lake Okeechobee?
Currently, at 12 ft above sea level (asl), it’s holding just under 3 million acre feet, (down from a 4 million acre-foot volume when it tipped up at 15 ft asl in the weeks following Fay).
How much water is that?
World oil production peaked at around 85 million barrels per day … at least it was, before the economy slumped. At 42.5 gallons per barrel, 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, and 43,560 square feet per acre – plus a few handy unit conversions – that adds up to just around 4 million acre feet per year!
So next time you want to see how much oil the world pumps out of the ground each year, take a ride out to Lake Okeechobee and look over its rim.
But first you’ll have to wait for it to rise back up to 15 ft. That could be a few months.
Maybe between now and then I’ll figure out how much oil we have in Florida, or more correctly stated, I’ll ask a petroleum geologist.