health and science
Water quality in Poe Springs has changed over time and fluctuates depending on river levels and groundwater levels. The relative amount of groundwater and surface water contributions impact water quality. Currently, the nitrate concentration in Poe Springs is relatively low, 0.11 milligram per liter (mg/L) in May 2012. In June 1998 the nitrate was reportedly 1.28 mg/L. Changes in hydrology of the spring, allowing more river water to enter the aquifer and flow from the spring appears to have decreased nitrate concentrations while increasing color and total organic carbon. The decrease is likely due to dilution with river water which has less nitrate and denitrification, a biologically mediated change that may occur.
Flow from Poe Springs historically averaged approximately 40 cubic feet per second (cfs). During the height of the drought in May of 2012, flow in Poe Springs was less than 1 cfs. The heavy rains in May/June 2012 caused Poe to take in river water, recharging the groundwater. In early 2013 flow from Poe springs was approximately 30 cfs.
Water quality data and flow (discharge) data for Poe Springs can be found on the Suwannee River Water Management District website.
What you can do as an individual
Our Springs need our help! Water quality, clarity, and levels have been decreasing in many of our springs. The keys to protecting springs are:
- Reducing Nutrients and
- Reducing Water Use
Although plants and animals require nutrients, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Excess nutrients often come from fertilizers, septic systems, wastewater treatment plants, and agriculture lands.
Even if you don’t live near a spring you may be affecting the springs because the water that soaks into the ground at your house may travel through underground tunnels and caves to springs miles away. When we use water to irrigate our lawns, wash our clothes and dishes, etc.- we may be contributing to the lower water levels at nearby springs.
Although it may feel like you can’t make a difference when you are surrounded by larger water users, but our combined efforts can really add up. Besides, we can’t point our fingers at others until we have cleaned up our own acts! Here are some tips to get you started:
Eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides in your yard (If you absolutely must use fertilizers, use ones with slow release nitrogen and little to no phosphorus)
- Plant native trees and shrubs because they need little or no fertilizer and irrigation
- Replace your lawn with native vegetation which won’t need irrigation once established
- Irrigate only when plants show signs of wilting (turn off automatic systems)
- Use microirrigation if shrubs and trees need irrigation (established plants may not need it)
- Check your irrigation system for leaks quarterly and make sure your rainfall shut off device is working properly (your system should not turn on after a good rain)
- Limit showers to 5 minutes or less
- Install shower heads with a maximum flow rate of 2 gallons per minute
- Fix all leaks- check faucets, showers, toilets, sprinklers, etc.
- Install toilets that use a maximum of 1.28 gallons per flush
- Don’t leave water running while washing dishes, shaving, brushing teeth, etc.
- Don’t pre-rinse dishes and only run dishwashers when full
What you can do as a Group
When we work together we can amplify our efforts to protect the springs we love. A great place to learn more about our local springs and to network with others working to protect springs is at the Santa Fe River Springs Basin Working Group. Everyone is welcome to attend the quarterly meetings and to learn from the presentations from local professionals, researchers, and activists. To find out when the next meeting is visit Santaferiversprings.com.
You can also attend the board meetings of local municipalities, counties, and water management districts to stay involved with the policies that affect our water. There are many non-profits you may want to consider joining or getting on their email distribution lists. Here are a few:
Save Our Suwannee
Our Santa Fe
Supporting local land trusts and land conservation programs is another way to protect the springsheds of our local springs. In this region we are lucky to have the Alachua County Forever program, Alachua Conservation Trust, Conservation Trust of Florida, and Putnam Land Trust working to preserve land.
If you would like to help Alachua County reach a larger audience with springs protection messages, consider joining the Springs Team. Staff and volunteers will plan events in your area and you just have to help us get an audience to participate! To learn more contact Stacie Greco at 352-264-6829
And of course don’t forget to vote!