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U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Division Video History Project

March 17, 1989
Interviewee: Garald G. Parker, Sr. (Sr.); Interviewer: Garald G. Parker, Jr. (Jr.)

Dr. Garald G. Parker, Sr. began his hydrogeologist career by joining the U.S. Geological Survey right out of college in 1940 to be on a newly created team to address salt water intrusion in the wellfields of Miami. His work in Florida in the 1940s and then during the 1970s and 80s after retiring from the USGS makes him rightfully known as the "Father of Florida groundwater hydrology". His son Dr. Garald G. Parker, Jr., who grew up doing fieldwork in southern Florida with his father, is also a retired USGS employee who worked primarily in Alabama, California and Washington - where he retired as the state district chief.

As stated by Garald G. Parker, Jr. at the beginning of this March 17, 1989, interview, "He [Garald G. Parker, Sr.] was a member of the Water Resources Division for thirty years before his retirement in 1969. A brief summary of his career: He started with the old Ground Water Branch in 1940 in Miami, Florida. They did the early definition of the entire water resources, principally concentrating on ground water in Miami in south Florida. From 1948 to 1949, he was assigned to the Hanford Atomic Energy Resource/Reservation in Richmond, Washington. Following that, from 1949 to 1955, he was located in the Washington headquarters in both the Ground Water Branch and later in the general hydrology branch. From 1956 to 1959, he led the multi-agency Delaware River Basin study and following that he was assigned to Denver from 1960 to 1965 where he was in charge of the arid lands research effort, again, I believe in the general hydrology branch. Following that assignment, he returned to the east coast in 1966 where he remained until 1969 as the District Chief for the state of New York. He retired from the Water Resources Division in 1969, moved to Florida where he assumed the position as senior scientist for the Southwest Florida Water Management District and was in fact a principal cooperator of the Florida District. In 1975, he resigned from the management district and entered private consulting practice where he has concentrated his efforts up until last year (1988) where he retired again".

Following are excerpts from the interview with Dr. Garald G. Parker, Sr. by Dr. Garald G. Parker, Jr. (The full text is not available at this time.)

View text and hear audio excerpts by following the links below:

Please Note: Audio files (.wav) have been made available below. The audio files may take a while to download.

Learning about pumping tests in the Biscayne Aquifer
photo of Garald Parker Jr.
photo of Garald Parker Sr.
Listen to the Learning about pumping tests audio file (1.5 MB)
Jr: Why don't you tell us your story that you like to tell about the first pumping test that you ran down there in Florida.

Sr: All right. That was a surprise to everybody. No research was done in planning this well to determine the approximate yield of wells in this area, we knew it would be high, but the thought was that a pump that would pump a thousand gallons of water a minute would easily give us the information we need on the drawdown so you could define the cone of depression. So, I didn't have much to do with this early planning, it was done principally before I got there, in fact, it was the first big survey operation that I participated in as an observer and a recorder of fluctuations in the observation wells. Bill Cross was in charge of the planning and he hired a local well driller to bring a pump that would pump a thousand gallons a minute. In initial pumping, we found out that it wouldn't draw a thousand gallons a minute, it was only around seven hundred and fifty, but we used that pump anyway.

The pump was installed over a six inch diameter well, about 46 feet deep, open ended into the limestone. In other words, there was casing down to 46 feet and then the well bore went on down to something like 70/80 feet into this open permeable limestone. To measure the observation fluctuations, in observation wells, one well was put down about a foot away from the initial well, hoping, you know, that we could measure head loss going into the casing. Then other wells were put out at 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 feet on four quadrants at right angles. The pump was started and the water carried off to a rock pit about half a mile away so we didn't get any return water from the pumping. And, the water was run through a large volumetric box and then the discharge was carried out with a big pipe going from the volumetric box and that was how the discharge was measured. After the pump had started running, we began making our observations and Cross had one man on each of one of these wells on these four quadrants, measuring the drawdown with steel tape. And, after a few minutes, people began looking around to see what was wrong - the water levels weren't dropping. And, it turned out that no matter how long or how hard you pumped that well, it was just like pumping water out of the ocean. There was some head loss, but the head loss didn't even show up in that well a foot away. So, in that respect, our pumping test was a failure because we didn't get the aquifer constants that we were after, the coefficients of transmissibility and storage. So that's that first pumping test. We ran later ones, pumping a thousand to two thousand gallons a minute and were able to get some small drawdown, but what we were measuring was coefficients of transmissibility that range from around two million to twenty-two million, unheard of coefficients.

Controlling salt water intrusion in Miami
photo of Garald Parker Sr.
Listen to the Controlling salt water intrusion audio file (0.3 MB)
Sr: So we had found then the sources and the mechanisms that were causing Miami and the whole area of this coastal ridge, that was losing their fresh water supply chiefly because the Everglades were being drained purposefully, and the coastal ridge with its fresh water lands, was being drained as an unplanned result.

My studies led me to believe that the only way to stop this salt water wedge from going in any farther was to establish salt water barrier dams in the major canals there in Miami, as far downstream as possible to pull salt water back toward the bay.

World War II in Miami
photo of Garald Parker Sr.
Listen to the World War II in Miami audio file (0.6 MB)
Sr: Bill Cross, who had been a surface water engineer, working in the Ohio district out of Columbus, was chosen to lead this integrated project that the Survey was to head up. He was given three young engineers as a staff and they set up shop in Miami in 1939 in a little office on the seventeenth floor of the Dade County courthouse. It was an office that had been planned for a jail supervisor and it was in the midst of the women's quarters of the Miami jail, up on the seventeenth floor. Looking out the windows from that little office during the war, one could see the ships carrying goods to support the war effort, being torpedoed by the German subs. We could see the ships sometimes blown up and the debris floating on the water. The next day the debris had come on the shore and people were down there picking up sacks of flour and sacks of coffee, cases of canned goods. All kinds of material, even corpses would float up sometimes. So it was an interesting place to have an office, but it was cramped and small.

Why I went to work for the USGS
photo of Garald Parker Sr.
Listen to the Why I went to work for the USGS audio file (0.4 MB)
Sr: I suspect that the best place to start this account would be with my being at University of Washington, in the graduate school there. I started in the field of geology as an undergraduate really at Central Washington State College where I majored in biology for my bachelor's degree. But just before graduating, the geology teacher, from whom I was taking a course, said to me one day, "Jerry, you know you're wasting your time as a teacher in public schools" (I had been teaching for ten years in the public schools prior to this), "why don't you prepare yourself and get into the Geological Survey. You'll have a happier life, you'll make more money, you'll get to transfer all over the world, work all over the world."

Naming the Floridan and Biscayne Aquifers
photo of Garald Parker Sr.
Listen to the Naming the Aquifers audio file (1.0 MB)
Sr: I thought there's no sense in my trying to spend my time worrying whether this is the Ocala limestone, or the Mariana limestone or any of the other limestones, it's one big hydrologic unit. Why don't we give it a name? And, I talked with Gunner and Vernon about it and I proposed the name Floridan Aquifer. That hit a receptive note with them and they were very agreeable and enthusiastic about that. Vic Stringfield was my supervisor, and Vic had done a lot of work in the area and he had never used the word aquifer and when I came up with it, he was very reluctant to approve a formal name of a hydrogeologic aquifer. It had never been done in the Geological Survey, in fact, it had never been done anywhere. There was no ground water unit called by a formal name, so the Floridan Aquifer was the very first one.

And concurrent with this, I had been working up all of the logs and underground data that I had from our own well drilling in the southeastern Florida area, which is underlain by Ice Age Pleistocene limestones. And I found in the underground there, at Miami, that we had an oolitic limestone at the surface, a hard white limestone that once had been fresh water limestone, you could tell that by the fossils it had in it, but by association with Ice Age salt water, had become a salt water limestone. There was coralline limestone in there. And, the whole thing was penetrated by a network of solution cavities, all interconnected, much like the holes in a sponge, which made this whole group of interconnected limestones a big, single, hydrologic unit of fresh water. It was Miami's life blood, this fresh water in this group of limestones which, (as I said, I guess I said), acted as a unit. Well, I felt it had to have a name too, so I called it the Biscayne Aquifer. Its natural discharge of water was into Biscayne Bay, and so Biscayne Bay, Biscayne Aquifer. And, again, this was frowned upon by Stringfield, but he acquiesced and it became accepted by the geologic names committee and the Geological Survey and it remains that way to this day.

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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:07 PM (KP)