Image credit: Jenny Adler
Florida has nearly 1,000 freshwater springs, the largest concentration on Earth. The source of water for our springs is the Floridan Aquifer, a vast underground formation of limestone that also supplies about 92% of the drinking water in our state. Click here to learn more about Florida's springs and here to learn more about the anatomy of a spring.
Springs provide critical habitat for wildlife and fish, the base flow for many rivers and streams, and signficant recreational and economic benefits for Florida’s residents and visitors. Over 100 springs are located within the St. Johns River watershed, providing approximately 30% of the river’s flow. These springs are critical to the health and hydrology of the St. Johns. Some of largest and most important include Wekiwa Springs, Blue Spring, Alexander Springs, Silver Glen Springs, and Silver Springs. The St. Johns River Water Management District website offers a complete listing and description of the springs, including discharge and water quality data.
Silver Springs, one of the largest and most famous springs in the world, is the source of 50% of the flow of the Ocklawaha River, the largest tributary of the St. Johns. Despite its historical, economic, and ecological importance, the health of Silver Springs has declined significantly over the last several decades. Nearly 92% of the fish biomass has disappeared, the flow has dramatically declined by over 50%, nitrate-nitrogen concentrations are more than 25 times higher than historic levels, and algae covers a significant portion of the spring and river bottoms.
Unfortunately, many of our springs are suffering the same fate as Silver Springs. Numerous springs have experienced dramatic declines in flow and increases in nitrate pollution, as a result of groundwater over-pumping, fertilizers, animal waste, and poorly treated sewage.
Springs are a “window” into our aquifer, allowing us to see the impacts we are having on its health. They are also the “canary in the coalmine” for our waterways, providing a warning sign that the whole system may be in trouble.
What You Can Do
- Use water wisely. Install low-flow fixtures, fix leaks, and water lawns and plants only when needed.
- Create a River Friendly Yard. Plant native plants and use fertilizer and chemicals sparingly, if at all.
- Allow only rain down the drain. Keep clippings, leaves, fertilizers and chemicals from entering storm drains.
- Maintain your septic tank. Pump your tank every 3-5 years and have it inspected every 3 years. Click here for a septic tank maintenance brochure.
- Stay informed by following the issues that affect our springs and waterways and get involved.
- Use your voice and your vote. Communicate your concerns and elect pro-springs candidates.
Springs of the St. Johns brochure – St. Johns Riverkeeper and MOSH
Anatomy of a Spring – St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)
Listing of Springs in St. Johns River Watershed – SJRWMD
Florida Springs: Protecting Nature's Gems – Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)
The Journey of Water: Getting to the Source of Springs – FDEP
Springs Eternal Project – John Moran, Rick Kilby, and Lesley Gamble
Finding the Fountain of Youth – Rick Kilby
Hidden Secrets of Florida Springs Documentary Trailer – Equinox Documentaries