Rob Williams: Florida's springs are in jeopardy
By: Rob Williams
A beautiful mural hangs in the chamber of the Florida House of Representatives, aptly titled “The Spring of Life.” The painting depicts the diverse and unique assemblage of plants and animals that inhabit Florida’s springs, from the huge manatee to the small invertebrates.
The written description that accompanies the mural notes:
“The past and future of Florida are gathered together in her beautiful springs. Throughout much of the state, crystal clear waters well up from the earth, collecting and scattering light like azure diamonds. But far more valuable a treasure than gemstones, the springs create and sustain life — in an ecosystem unlike any other.”
That same life-giving water also sustains us. We humans are dependent on the Floridan Aquifer for our drinking water.
But today our springs are in danger as never before. They are threatened both by increased consumption of groundwater for residential and agricultural uses, which reduces the spring flows below sustainable levels, and by groundwater pollution, particularly nitrates. Many springs have dried up; others are fouled with algae blooms. Slowly but surely, we are killing our springs.
In 2011, the governor and the Legislature eliminated funding for the decade-long Florida Springs Initiative, which had provided springs science and protection activities.This year, the Legislature repealed the statewide septic tank inspection program, which is critical to reducing nitrate contamination of the aquifer.
Now, we have reached a tipping point . The St. Johns River Water Management District is considering a permit application submitted by the Adena Springs Ranch to develop 30,000 acres of the springshed that feeds Silver Springs, one of our largest, most beautiful and most culturally significant springs, into an intensive cattle finishing operation and slaughterhouse. Adena Springs Ranch has requested permission to pump 13.2 million gallons of water per day out of the aquifer.
Besides reducing the flow to the spring, the thousands of cattle will add to the nutrient load soaking into the ground. Approval will be the death knell for Silver Springs, which is already seriously compromised. Some predict that Silver Springs could cease to flow sometime in the next decade.
Published 11 months ago under Rivers to Oceans