The Ripple Effect: Why We Love the Florida Springs | Flamingo Magazine

by CRAIG PITTMAN | MAY 27, 2016 The Ripple Effect: Why We Love the Florida Springs Why we love and need to protect the fantastical, all-natural springs, the watery wonders of our state On my first visit to Ichetucknee Springs State Park, just outside Gainesville, I stood at the edge of the spring and gazed down, down, down into the depths of the water. The water was as clear as glass—clearer, really. It was so crystalline, I could see a small freshwater turtle scooting across the sandy bottom of the spring, and it was as if it were swimming through air. I could see every detail of its shell. I stared, amazed, until I felt as if I were about to fall headlong into the water. At that point, before I joined the turtle, I backed away. Big springs like Ichetucknee that gush out a lot of water are called “first magnitude” springs. Florida has more of them than any other place in the world—more than Yellowstone, more even than New Zealand’s famed Rotorua. Each one is a window into where our drinking water comes from. Deep beneath the ground we stand on, below the strip malls and condos and cul-de-sacs, under the office parks and rumbling concrete highways and lush green golf courses, there’s a reservoir of water that makes life in Florida possible. The underground Floridan aquifer, which stretches beneath central and north Florida, roars through Swiss-cheese caverns of crumbling limestone, bubbling up to the surface in the springs, producing what environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas once called “bowls of liquid light.”

Source: The Ripple Effect: Why We Love the Florida Springs | Flamingo Magazine

Just Released: The Spring Sentinel Vol. III Issue 2 

Source: Just Released: The Spring Sentinel Vol. III Issue 2 

Vision and will needed to save springs heartland

By Robert L. Knight
March 2016

The Suwannee River Water Management District is home to more than 300 artesian springs and aptly named the “springs heartland” of Florida. These springs discharge groundwater into the Suwannee, Santa Fe, Ichetucknee, and Withlacoochee Rivers.

Under pre-development conditions, these springs provided from 50 to nearly 100 percent of the average daily flows to these four interconnected rivers. Their combined flows, measured in billions of gallons per day, were the lifeblood of Florida’s Nature Coast, nourishing the Lower Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge and supporting coastal fisheries.

Twenty four of these springs border the lower Suwannee River below its confluence with the Santa Fe River. The two largest springs in this reach, Fanning and Manatee springs, are in state parks established to protect them from development and over-exploitation. Four smaller springs along the Lower Suwannee River are located in county parks, and other springs are on land owned and managed by the Suwannee River district.

In response to long-term flow declines, the district in 2007 established minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for the lower Suwannee River and for Fanning and Manatee springs. These MFLs allow groundwater withdrawals to cause up to a 20 percent reduction in average spring and river flows.

In spite of these MFLs, flows in the lower Suwannee River continue to decline, and based on recent analysis, the MFLs for Fanning and Manatee springs are not being achieved. In fact, Fanning Springs has been down-listed from a first to a second magnitude spring. Spring flow reductions are being caused by excessive groundwater pumping for agricultural, industrial, and urban water uses.

In 2008 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection concluded that the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers were impaired due to elevated nitrogen concentrations, resulting primarily from agricultural sources. In other words, these rivers and the springs feeding them were polluted and had been above the numeric nitrogen water quality standard for more than 20 years.

The department adopted a basin management action plan (BMAP) for the Santa Fe River in 2012. This nutrient reduction plan calls for a 50 percent cut in nitrogen loading to the Santa Fe River and springs. Unfortunately, the Santa Fe River BMAP does not provide a reasonable deadline for recovery or have the regulatory clout needed to actually effect the required water quality improvements.

Exploitation of North Florida’s abundant groundwater resources is weakening the heartbeat of the Suwannee River basin, including its tributaries and coastal estuaries. Groundwater that was once plentiful and clean is now depleted and polluted.

Groundwater depletion results in declining flows to North Florida’s spring-fed rivers. Current average flows in the Suwannee River are less than one half of historic flows, and more than 5,000 tons of nitrogen (a 90 percent increase) is now flowing out of the lower Suwannee River into the Gulf of Mexico every year. This excessive nitrogen load is resulting in a rising frequency of toxic red tide events at the mouth of the river, and in turn, killing off the live bottom that supports coastal fisheries.

Spring flows are truly the lifeblood of North Florida’s heartland. With a depleted and polluted aquifer, and with drying spring-fed rivers, the North Florida landscape is becoming more arid — an over-drained landscape, increasingly dominated by drought-tolerant plants and animals, and algae-infested springs.

The good news is that these human-caused impairments can be reversed. Spring flows can be restored to protective rates by reducing groundwater pumping from the Floridan Aquifer. Loading rates of nitrogen in the form of fertilizer and animal/human wastewater can be reduced in the springshed by implementing advanced best management practices for agriculture; advanced nitrogen removal for human wastewater disposal systems; and reducing the intensity of livestock feeding operations.

In response to the continued declining health of the springs along the Suwannee River, the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute has prepared a comprehensive restoration strategy ( This plan is different from previous efforts by the Department of Environmental Protection and water management district in that it outlines a holistic approach to restoration of the Suwannee’s springs and river resources by defining effective strategies to simultaneously restore both spring flows and water quality.

Existing laws are already in place to protect the springs heartland in perpetuity. What our springs need now are leaders with the vision and will to enforce those laws and achieve a sustainable future.

Springs Vent – February 2016

Monthly update from the Florida Springs Institute View this email in your browser Monthly Springs Vent February 2016 President’s Update   Poisoned Waters by Robert L. Knight Have you noticed that many of Florida’s waterways are becoming more polluted with every passing year? These formerly pristine natural resources include Atlantic beaches, the Gulf of Mexico, the Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie River, the Caloosahatchee River, the Rainbow River, the Suwannee River, the St. Johns River, and the Apalachicola River, just to name a few. Many of Florida’s most treasured waters are suffering from increasing pollution due to the discharge of nutrients, trace metals, and organic compounds that are toxic to aquatic life. The inevitable results of poisoning these waters are harmful algal blooms, red tide, closed springs and beaches, declining fisheries, and diminished recreational and commercial opportunities. This pollution is often the result of insufficient enforcement of environmental laws passed by previous Florida legislatures. Restoring these polluted waters will ultimately cost Florida taxpayers billions of dollars and setback the state’s economic recovery. [Read more…]

Source: Springs Vent – February 2016

Permit seeks 500K gallons a day from aquifer – Daily Commercial: News

Scott Callahan | 0 comments BUSHNELL — An Ocala company wants to sink a well and pump nearly a half-million gallons of water a day near Bushnell and sell it to a Leesburg bottling company. SWR Properties’ water use permit request is currently under review by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or SWFWMD. The company owns about 10 acres southeast of the intersection of County Road 470 and State Road 301, northeast of Bushnell, that contains what has been called Fern Spring and Heart Spring.

Source: Permit seeks 500K gallons a day from aquifer – Daily Commercial: News

Springs Vent Special Edition – 2015 Year in Review

Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute 2015 Year in Review As we move forward into the New Year, we look back on the many accomplishments that occurred in 2015; a time in which the Florida Springs Institute (FSI) continued to fight tirelessly for our treasured, yet suffering, springs. We begin 2016 with a renewed resolve to promote springs science and education, while also advocating for stronger protection and meaningful restoration of these truly unique and greatly admired environmental wonders. Let us take a brief moment to reminisce on the FSI’s productive activities during this past year before charging forward into a new year of continuing battle to protect the natural aquatic environments that we seek to preserve for generations to come.  Florida Springs Council On the very first day of 2015, the FSI announced the formation of a new coalition of springs organizations coming together to promote the goal of springs protection through education, legislation, and action. Since its formation, the Florida Springs Council has grown to 35 member organizations representing over 125,000 Floridians. In January and August, the Council hosted roundtable meetings to allow for collaboration between its member organizations on important springs issues. During the last two months of 2015, the Council was an active voice on both water bills as they moved through the sub-committees of the House and Senate, recommending significant improvements to the bills to strengthen the springs protections contained therein. In the first few days of 2016, the Council’s legislative committee is already working to promote several key amendments for consideration in this year’s water legislation. In October 2015, the Council hosted a legal strategy workshop to discuss possible action to prevent further degradation to our springs. In December 2015, a letter about the inadequacies of the Basin Management Action Plan for Silver Springs was sent by the Council to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is awaiting review. Also in 2015, the Council began the planning process for a statewide springs conference to be held in 2016, which will include an update on the current health of our springs and panel discussions on key issues for protection and restoration. Science & Monitoring The FSI conducted several new and existing springs ecology monitoring projects in 2015, allowing us to expand our knowledge of Florida’s springs ecosystems and to recommend improved management options. The FSI continues to advise local and state leaders on improving their efforts to reduce excessive pollution and water withdrawals that negatively affect springs health. With assistance from the Protect Florida Springs Grant Program, the SPRINGSWATCH program was extended to Homosassa Springs in 2015. Adding to the work of citizen scientists at Silver and Ichetucknee Springs, the Homosassa SPRINGSWATCH helps fill in monitoring gaps at our most imperiled springs by providing regular monthly updates on springs ecological health. [read more…]

Source: Springs Vent Special Edition – 2015 Year in Review

Springs Vent

How bad is the ocean’s plastic problem? What sea birds tell us. –

A new study has found that majority of seabird species have plastic in their gut.

Source: How bad is the ocean’s plastic problem? What sea birds tell us. –

Springs Vent – July 2015

Adena Springs Ranch – In the Court of Public Opinion (2012) By: Robert L. Knight When was the last time you saw a two-page ad in the Gainesville Sun? Probably not that long ago. It was bought by another billion dollar company. BP Oil has spent millions trying to convince us that the Gulf of Mexico was not harmed by more than 206 million gallons of crude oil from their Deep Water Horizon drilling platform. Now a lawyer working for Adena Springs Ranch, thinks a 2-page newspaper ad will convince the public that he can pump more than 13 million gallons per day (4.8 billion gallons per year) from the aquifer and cause no harmful affects on groundwater levels or flows at nearby Silver

Source: Springs Vent – July 2015

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