Love Our Springs?

 

John Dame, Jr. Silver Glen, The Well Mother Nature established .05 ppm (parts per million) as the original background level for nitrates in Florida Springs. It also represents the Spring Ecosystem Health in its Purest Expression. --John Dame, Jr. Many Florida Springs now exceed the .3-.35 ppm nitrate limit for a healthy ecosystem. Some exceed 10 ppm, the EPA limit for human health. Windows onto the Floridan Aquifer, the springs reflect the health of our environment and drinking water.

John Dame, Jr.
Silver Glen, The Well
Mother Nature established .05 ppm (parts per million) as the original background level for nitrates in Florida Springs. It also represents the Spring Ecosystem Health in its Purest Expression. –John Dame, Jr.
Many Florida Springs now exceed the .3-.35 ppm nitrate limit for a healthy ecosystem. Some exceed 10 ppm, the EPA limit for human health.
Windows onto the Floridan Aquifer, the springs reflect the health of our environment and drinking water.

Take Action Now.

 

Ten Things We Can Do to Save Our Springs

 

*For the latest SPRINGS NEWS and UPDATES, see our Facebook page.

 

* For the EXPANDED LIST that explains these actions scroll down the page.

 

* VIDEOS!  The Springs Eternal Project presents the video Florida Springs: Paradise Found or Legacy Lost?.  Featuring the then-and-now springs photography of John Moran, this video was created to inspire people to take action to save our springs.  For a joyful underwater springs tour, see Lesley Gamble’s video Swimming Through Air.  

 

*Wondering what to say to your FL Legislators and Agencies about the State of Our Springs?

Go to the EXPANDED ACTION LIST, below. Under BE A SPRINGS CITIZEN (VI) look for Issues to address with Legislators and Government Agencies.  

You can also click here for a Springs Fact Sheet prepared by the Florida Springs Institute; look under SPRINGS NEWS.

To contact your Senator, click here.  To contact your Representative, click here. To contact the FL DEP and your Water Management District, click here and look under Government Agencies.

 

The Problem

Our springs are at a crossroad.  Groundwater overpumping, pollution and regulatory neglect are rapidly degrading the health of our springs and aquifer—the source of drinking water for 90% of Floridians. Depleting the aquifer increases concentrations of contaminants, the potential for sinkholes, and saltwater contamination of freshwater supplies.  Pollutants include inorganic fertilizers, sewage, manure, pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

 

The Solutions

Restoring our springs isn’t complicated. It requires using less water, stopping pollution at its source, and returning spring flows to levels that sustain diverse and thriving ecosystems of plants, wildlife and people. But we need to act now, before we lose our springs forever.  We are all part of the problem.  Together, we can work to ensure effective and ethical solutions.  

 

Here’s what we can do right now:

 

1.  Visit a spring– and take a friend who’s never seen one.  Explore the real magic and beauty of Florida.  

Take a moment to consider the “ecological services” springs, wetlands and the aquifer provide to us 24 hours a day.  In addition to maintaining habitats for a stunning array of plants and animals, natural wetlands are the most efficient and cost-effective systems for storing, cleaning and recharging fresh water.  The aquifer provides water for springs, lakes, rivers and estuaries, as well as drinking water for the vast majority of Floridans.  Unlike many people in the world, we really do live in an aqueous paradise of beautiful, accessible and affordable fresh water.  Yet our supply is finite and degrading rapidly as a direct result of pollution and overconsumption.

2. Use less water.  Be mindful of our water footprint, every day.  Everything we do costs water, from irrigating and turning on lights to deciding what to eat for dinner.  It’s up to us to make smart water choices, every day. 

3.  Grow Native!  Lawns and landscaping account for half the water used by Florida households.  Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are polluting our springs, lakes, rivers and coastal waters.  Native plants and grasses don’t need irrigation or chemical fertilizers to sustain them.  It’s our choice, Florida: Do we want artificially green lawns or naturally blue springs? 

4.  Volunteer or donate to organizations working on springs restoration, education and land conservation. How we live on the land directly impacts the health and flow of our waters.  Local groups are particularly well-suited to understand water issues from direct experience, fight for realistic solutions based on sound science and the law, and work within community dynamics.  See our Resources pages for listings.

5.  Support Florida farmers who use water wisely, grow the right crop in the right place at the right time, and avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Shop local and buy organic whenever possible.  The quality of our food directly impacts the quality of our water.  

Remember, many agricultural practices, like many businesses and social programs, are subsidized by our tax dollars.  We get to choose which practices and products are in our wisest long-term interests to support.  For example, growing sod and ornamental plants (the largest sector of Florida’s agricultural production) is not a good use of our water.  On the front end, these crops require intensive irrigation and fertilizer to grow, and on the back end, require intensive irrigation and fertilizer to maintain as lawns and landscaping.  A far better alternative would be to plant native trees and other crops that require no chemical fertilizer and little or no irrigation.  Solutions do exist, but we have to choose them.

6.  Stay informed. Are our water managers and elected officials promoting polluter profits or protecting public waters?   To learn more about the science, history and current situation of our springs and aquifer, see our Resources pages, join us on Facebook, and discuss the issues on Aquiferious (see tab at right).

7. Contact our elected officials. Tell them we want clean water, not green water.  Overuse of water and pollution from chemical fertilizers and pesticides, human septic and animal waste, stormwater runoff and industrial discharge are polluting Florida’s waters.  Human and natural systems are interdependent; we can’t clean up one without the other.  We get to decide: Do we want to eat and drink, live and play in, a toxic soup?  Or healthy, vibrant ecosystems?  

Saving our springs and aquifer is an issue of democracy as well as ethics.  Ensuring access to clean and abundant water for everyone, for all life, is a mandate for civic, economic and public health.  The quality of our personal lives is inseparable from our collective well being.

8.  Speak up and Support Others Who Do.  Attend Water Management District meetings and other public venues where decisions affecting springs are made, write letters to the paper, stay in touch with elected representatives, produce media and share widely.

9.  Vote as if the fate of our springs hangs in the balance.  It does.

10.  Create Your Own Springs Project! Dream and scheme, initiate and collaborate.  We can all learn from the springs, becoming voices for wise water use.  The future of the springs, like our own, depends upon it.

 

The Vision

 Together, we can restore our springs to their rightful health and beauty.  At the same time, we’re supporting local and state economies, preserving diverse ecosystems, ensuring clean and cost-effective drinking water for all, and giving a gift we cherish—access to one of the most beautiful, unique and valuable water features on the planet—to our children and theirs, for generations to come.

Ecological conservation makes economic and ethical sense.

 

Stay updated on the Springs Eternal Project Facebook page.

For ongoing discussion join  Aquiferious on Facebook.

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

 

Love Our Springs?  Take Action Now. 

EXPANDED VERSION 

 

All of us impact the health of our Florida springs through our daily habits, choices and actions.  Taking steps, individually and collectively, to ensure their recovery is working toward the long-term success and well-being of our state, our communities (human and non-human), our loved ones and ourselves. Our physical health and the health of Florida’s economy depend upon an ample supply of clean, fresh water.  In this case, “self-interest” benefits everyone.

 

The Primary Problems: excessive water use and over-pumping of the aquifer, pollution, lack of regulatory oversight and political neglect.

 

The Primary Solutions: water and land conservation, non-polluting practices and products, citizen-led advocacy, informed political engagement and leadership, and the development of a personal and civic water ethic.

Keep in mind that water quality and quantity are entwined in our karst-based system.  Human water and land use, our daily behavioral choices, and concerted group action hold the keys to the health of our springs and aquifer.

Vote for representatives who are well-informed, actively working with springs scientists and advocates, and genuinely committed to conserving, restoring and protecting Florida’s waters.

Be a visionary.  See sustainable solutions as life-affirming, job-creating opportunities for everyone.  See Florida as a model of clean and abundant water for nature and humans alike.

 

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

What we’ve done:

One of the best steps we can take as individuals and citizens is to develop our appreciation for the springs, what they provide, how they function and the problems they face, and then share this insight with loved ones, neighbors and our legislators.

We’re here to help with suggestions drawn from a variety of knowledgeable sources so that you can select the actions that make the most sense for you and your family.

The categories below should make it easier to review your options quickly.

Additional information can be found on the SpringsEternalProject.org Resources pages.

 

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

What you can do:

I. Take time out to visit a spring, and take your loved ones.

Let the springs speak to you. Explore, enjoy and learn more about the diverse habitats and ecosystems springs support, including our own.

We protect what we value, and we tend to value that which delights and connects us, sparks our curiosity, broadens our understanding, makes our lives possible and speaks to our hearts.  Hire a guide to paddle, dive, bird, bike or hike in the area; enjoy local restaurants and businesses.  Every dollar spent supports local and state economies, further confirming the need for springs conservation.

Take a moment to consider all the “ecological services” the springs, wetlands and aquifer provide to all of us 24 hours a day. In addition to maintaining habitats for diverse species of plants and animals (including ourselves), natural wetlands are the most efficient and cost effective systems for cleaning, storing and recharging fresh water. Unlike many places in the world, we really do live in an aqueous paradise of accessible and affordable drinking water, yet that supply is finite and threatened.

 

Citizen led clean up at Weeki Wachee Spring run. Photo by John Moran

Citizen led clean up on Weeki Wachee Spring run. Photo by John Moran

II. Join or Support a Springs Advocacy, Education and/or Research Group.

Volunteer or donate to non-profit organizations supporting springs protection and restoration.  The work these organizations do in research, outreach, conservation and education is critical to the survival of our springs.

Ichetucknee, Rainbow, Silver Glen, Silver Springs, Volusia Blue, Wekiva and springs along the Santa Fe and Suwannee rivers all have active advocacy groups. A list of these organizations and links to their pages can be found on the SpringsEternalProject.org website Resources pages under the ADVOCACY GROUPS tab.

Become a member and/or donate to the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, the Alachua Conservation Trust, the Florida Conservation Coalition, the Water Action Team, the Springs Eternal Project and other key groups.  

 

 

A native garden replaces a lawn.

A water-thrifty native garden has replaced a thirsty lawn.

III. Conserve Water—Use less so we all have more.

— Conserve water use at home.  Recycle rainwater with cisterns or gray water systems, replace your lawn with native vegetation that requires little or no watering and no fertilizer.  Install a water meter if you don’t have one already.  A list of easy-to-follow guidelines can be in the Alachua County DEP handout.

— Use energy-saving appliances, turn off your lights, set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter.  It takes a lot of water to generate electricity.  Remember, when you flip the switch, you turn on the water at the power plant.  With conservation, your bills will decrease and the amount of water available to our springs can increase.

— If you’re a farmer, switch from center pivot systems to micro-irrigation techniques, move water-intensive crops out of springsheds, install water meters and monitor them regularly.[1]

— If you’re a homebuilder, feature energy efficient materials and products, water-saving fixtures, and water re-use systems.[2]

— If you’re an engineer or inventor, develop new ways for people and businesses to save water. [3]

— Investigate how much water it takes to make the products and foods you consume, and adjust your habits wherever possible.  Start by making choices that are easy.  National Geographic, The Hidden Water We Use: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/embedded-water/

— For real-time water data: (stream stage and stream flow, water quality, and groundwater levels), visit the USGS website.

 

DSC_0863IV. Engage in and Support Non-polluting Practices and Products.

Buy local, support farmers who don’t use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  Produce and food products that come from the springs country of Florida are often grown with fertilizers and pesticides that infiltrate the groundwater, negatively affecting the aquifer and springs ecosystems.  Something as simple as supporting local farmers who refuse to use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides can influence agricultural practices to shift to more ecologically sustainable methods.

Grow Native!  And Let’s Get Real about Being Florida Friendly. Find organic alternatives to inorganic fertilizers for your lawn and plants—and encourage your neighbors/community/town/city/state to do the same.  Nitrogen and phosphorous are primary contributors to the overload of algae in our springs and in most of Florida’s waters (i.e. the Indian River Lagoon, Tampa Bay, etc.). An even better solution: stop fertilizing altogether.  Swap your lawn for hardy, water-thrifty native plants.

Worried about your HOA?  In 2009, the state Legislature passed the Water Rights Bill, which forbids local governments, including HOAs, from prohibiting the use of native and other Florida-friendly plants because they require less watering and little to no commercial fertilizers, which pollute waterways.

Consult or join your local Native Plant Society.  In the meantime, here are two guidebooks: A Gardener’s Guide to Florida’s Native Plants by Rufino Osorio and Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants by Gil Nelson.

Use biodegradable, non-toxic products and don’t flush medications or other chemicals down the drain. Dispose of oil, antifreeze and other products properly.  If you don’t want to drink it, dispose of it properly.   Each county has guidelines for household, hazardous, and business waste disposal. Here’s a link to household waste disposal on the Alachua County Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

If you have a septic system, have it inspected regularly to make sure it’s not leaking into our groundwater. Consider upgrading to a system that reduces pollution levels even further.

Report algae outbreaks to:

The Sierra Club’s Slime Crime campaign

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Water Resource Management.

 

ich blue hole overhead.moran.sRGB

Ichetucknee Blue Hole
Photo by John Moran

V. Support Land Conservation

Even if we live far from a spring, the daily choices we make impact the springs and, ultimately, the quality and quality of water for everyone.

A springshed is an area within a ground or surface water basin that contributes to the spring flow.  The boundaries of springsheds are dynamic – they change based on the level of the aquifer, otherwise known as its potentiometric surface.  This means that a springshed may cover different areas at different times, depending on whether water levels are high or low. The health of a spring depends on land and water use within the entire springshed, which can be hundreds of square miles.

Consider this calculation for reducing nitrate load in unconfined areas of a springshed in order to achieve a target of .035 mg.L (the limit of nitrate load a spring can tolerate and remain healthy).  It comes from Dr. Wendy Graham at the University of Florida’s Water Institute, via Sister Pat Siemen of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence:

For example, one acre in residential use needs to be offset with 5 acres in a natural state if the total load to the groundwater is to be kept under 0.35 mg/L. For row crops such as corn or potatoes, the offset is 70 acres. For dairy, one acre of dairy needs to be balanced against 120 acres in a natural state. The closer one is to the spring, the greater the value of the ecological services which land in its natural state provides.

In addition to monitoring our personal and private land use habits, we can support land conservation trusts such as the Alachua Conservation Trust, the Conservation Trust for Florida and the Putnam Land Trust.

See our RESOURCES pages for links and more information.

 

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

VI.  Be a Springs Citizen: 

Call for Responsible Water Planning, Management and Environmental Protection

 The sources of our water problems—reduced flows and pollution— have been understood for years. Although some recent studies have clarified the division of responsibility, there are no pending actions by state government or water management districts that provide effective, measurable solutions to these problems on a statewide basis.

Legislation is needed in the 2014 session to protect our waters, our environment and our economy.[4] To stay up to date on legislative issues, join the Florida Conservation Coalition. Here are some Talking Points on the proposed Simmons Bill assembled by the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.

We must call on our Florida legislators, the Florida DEP and our Water Management Districts to abide by and enforce the environmental protection laws already on the books, such as OFW (Outstanding Florida Waters designation).  We must also insist that these agencies, which we support with our tax dollars, provide the necessary planning, regulation and management required to restore our springs and aquifer to health now.  Time is running out but this can be done.

A state-wide Springs Initiative is needed that includes routine springs monitoring and health assessments, strict enforcement of existing laws to protect springs, and adequate public funding for springs protection and restoration. To stay current with these issues, join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.

Local governments must be able to protect springs. One of the easiest things the Florida legislature could do is to remove the many pre-emptions they have created over the years that limit local governments.  Local government’s ability to regulate septic tanks, agricultural practices, building codes, etc. have been pre-empted, as has local government’s ability to tax or license certain products or activities.  This is where the legislature could, with minimal fiscal impact to state coffers, unshackle local government to seek solutions that won’t work at the state level.

In addition, springs legislation could include a general section clearly stating that: “no act of the legislature shall constrain a local government from enacting and enforcing rules consistent with state water quality standards to control pollution sources.”

 

The Springs Eternal Project's first exhibition tour for policy makers. Dr. Bob Knight, Representative Clovis Watson, Jr., Springs Eternal Project Co-Directors Lesley Gamble and John Moran

The Springs Eternal Project’s first exhibition tour for policy makers. Dr. Bob Knight, Representative Clovis Watson, Jr., Springs Eternal Project Co-Directors Lesley Gamble and John Moran

Here are some Direct Actions (see Issues to Address, below):

Adopt and Educate a Legislator.  Show lawmakers that there are more Floridians who care about Florida’s water and land than about the next strip mall. Tell them so all year.  If they respond with active commitment to finding effective and timely solutions, support them at election time.

Contact your Representatives.  Ask them: What is your plan to clean up our springs?  Thank legislators who do respond.  Vote for those who know the issues and are actively working with local springs groups to find sustainable solutions. To contact your Senator, click here. To contact your Representative, click here.

Contact your Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about water quality issues, including the massive outbreaks of algae choking our springs and coastal waters alike. Go to the GOVERNMENT AGENCIES tab on our RESOURCES pages.

Contact your Florida Water Management District and attend meetings. Send them your comments about pending water permits and other water issues.  For a list of the WMDs and links to their websites go to the GOVERNMENT AGENCIES tab.

 

Issues to Address with Legislators and Government Agencies:

The kind of prudent and responsible water management we need cannot occur without an accurate picture that tells us how much water is being used by whom, when and for what purposes. Laws and regulations must be enforced.

 

center pivot crop rainbow running sprgs.1088 copy

Center pivot agricultural irrigation wastes water, particularly through evaporation.
Photo by John Moran

This is what we need:

1.—A FLORIDA WATER BUDGET that accurately assesses the amount of water flowing out of natural systems in relation to the amount coming in through recharge and rain.  We need to adopt water budgets for each springshed, water management district, and for the entire Floridan aquifer. These water budgets need to limit human use of water from the aquifer so as to maintain 90% of historic spring flow.

This requires:

Mandatory metering of all wells, including agricultural wells, which are currently exempt (on a voluntary basis only).

Accurate Water Models that reflect our karst-based aquifer and understand surface water and groundwater as interrelated in our hydrogeological system.  Currently our WMDs (Water Management Districts) and the FL DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) use computer models that do not reflect the reality of how water moves through the karst system.  Their models are primarily “static” models that make calculations as if water were moving through sand, which, as any cave diver knows, is not the case in our karst geology.  Instead, the USGS (United Sates Geological Survey) recommends “transient” models that take into account the realities and impacts of water moving through large and small conduits, where it travels much faster and pollutants move more quickly.

There is, in fact, a far better water model available, one already developed, tested and implemented in the Santa Fe springshed by Dr. Todd Kincaid. By taking the conduits and hydrogeology of the karst system into account, Dr. Kincaid’s model can more accurately assess how-and how quickly-water travels through the system, which gives crucial information about the impact of groundwater withdrawals on the aquifer. This information is important for calculating recharge, pollution and the potential development of sinkholes, and should be a primary source of data whenever WMDs consider issuing permits for water withdrawals. See Craig Pittman’s “Florida’s aquifer models full of holes, allowing more water permits and pollution,” published in the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, January 27th, 2013. You can also see a pdf of Dr. Todd Kincaid’s groundwater model (large file, takes a while to download), a far better solution to the current model. Water quality and supply is fundamental to our well being  Let’s require our WMDs and DEP to adopt the more accurate karst-based model and insist that our Florida legislators apportion our tax dollars to properly fund it.

Former Florida Governor Buddy MacKay Jr. eloquently explaining the original intent of the 42 year old Minimum Flows and Levels rules at the Suwannee River Water Management District hearing on April 2, 2014.

Former Florida Governor Buddy MacKay Jr. eloquently explaining the original intent of the 42 year old Minimum Flows and Levels rules at the Suwannee River Water Management District hearing on April 2, 2014.

Setting Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) that are actually protective of spring flows and ecosystems. WMDs must set stronger conservation measures that allocate adequate amounts of water to preserve the natural water resource values of springs.[5]

Managing water quality and quantity as interrelated.  Currently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is in charge of quality while the WMDs are in charge of quantity. This split results in a lack of accurate data, understanding and policy.  Moreover, our FDEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) has actually sued the EPA (federal Environmental Protection Agency) for LOWER water quality standards in Florida. This is unconscionable, as record numbers of dead manatees, pelicans and dolphins; human ill health and algae choked waterways can attest.  The State of Florida has also joined a lawsuit to block the Chesapeake Bay Blueprint, an interstate, local and interagency initiative of six states working together to solve water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay.  Florida’s attempt to prohibit other states from cleaning up their waters so we don’t feel pressured or legally obligated to clean up our waters is deplorable.

-A moratorium on issuing new consumptive use permits (CUPs) until accurate groundwater models are implemented would be our wisest action at this point in time. Then WMDs must establish Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) that insure enough water is left in the system to maintain healthy natural springs, rivers and wetlands ecosystems.  What is important is that we set MFLs that are actually protective.  For example, the 35% reduction in flows we’ve seen since the 1970s in the Santa Fe River basin means that we are not protecting the resource at our current rate of consumption.

Lucinda Merritt calling for mediation after the proposed MFL rule for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers was radically rewritten (under FDEP influence) to be far less protective of the rivers. Suwannee River Water Management District hearing on MFLs, April 2, 2014.

Lucinda Merritt calling for mediation after the proposed MFL rule for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers was radically rewritten (under FDEP influence) to be far less protective of the rivers. Suwannee River Water Management District hearing on MFLs, April 2, 2014.

Without these measures, we have no way of knowing how much water is actually being used and whether or not conservation efforts are successful. Instead, we must rely on what we see—the increasing degradation of water quality and flow in most of our springs—while feeling the frustration of our tax dollars being spent on continued obfuscation rather than solutions.

Consider this idea from former Florida Governor Buddy MacKay Jr., published in the Gainesville Sun:  “Give Florida springs consumptive-use permits with priority rights over existing holders of consumptive-use permits. If new permits are issued, reduce existing consumptive-use permits proportionately, until flows to the springs are restored. Assuming an existing shortfall of 20 percent, all existing consumptive-use permits should be reduced by 20 percent until the minimum flows are restored.” 

 

2.—Strong  STATEWIDE REGULATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF BOTH POINT- AND NON-POINT SOURCES OF POLLUTION to ensure that our fouled waters are cleaned up. Governments must implement ways to move people off septic tanks and onto sewer systems. We must stop using our waters as sewers for human and animal waste, and we must greatly reduce the amount of fertilizer we use. If we don’t, it’s only a matter of time before we face a public health crisis caused by fouled drinking water.[6]

This requires:

Reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus leaching into the aquifer. Begin by following the lead of other aquifer-sensitive regions that place a limit on fertilizer use, improve wastewater treatment and disposal practices, and relocate land use practices that are unsuitable for the area.

The right place for crops that require nitrogen fertilizers and animals farms that produce high levels of waste is somewhere other than our highly vulnerable karst springsheds. Consider relocating these farms to areas where the aquifer is “confined,” which means more shielded from direct pollution by thick layers of clay.  There is an historical precedent for this. In the 20th century, dairy farms were relocated from South to North Central Florida to eliminate their pollution burden on the Everglades.  Now we need to relocate them again, outside springsheds and places where the aquifer is unconfined and therefore vulnerable.

ich algae hands 2011.moran.sRGB

Ichetucknee Algae
Photo by John Moran

In areas of unconfined karst, for example in the Santa Fe springs basin, we need to reduce the nitrogen fertilizer applied by >50%. This would require everybody – both residential and agricultural sources – to reduce the amount of fertilizers they use. Clearly, the first step should be to eliminate the use of nitrogen fertilizers for lawns and landscaping. The remaining reduction will need to be equitably spread over the agricultural landscape.

We need restrictions on nitrogen fertilizer sales and use in sensitive karst areas of springsheds, based on application rates that will result in measurable declines in groundwater nitrate nitrogen concentrations.[7] Remember, the background nitrogen level for Florida springs was .05 ppm (parts per million).  A healthy spring system can only tolerate .3-.35 ppm.  Today, the nitrate nitrogen levels in many of our algae-choked springs far exceed that limit.

We need to offset land uses which contribute more than 1 K of nitrate per hectare by setting aside large areas of land dedicated to forest or other use which uses no groundwater and no fertilizer. (Robert Williams, attorney for the Center for Earth Jurisprudence)

We need to adopt the principle that the polluter pays across the board.  Agricultural interests dump 1,500,000 tons of nitrate fertilizer onto the land every year. This needs to be taxed at a rate which is sufficient to cover the cost of clean-up.  Similarly, large water users need to pay for the water they take out of the  aquifer and that money should be spent to preserve or restore the land’s recharge capabilities. (Robert Williams, attorney for the Center for Earth Jurisprudence)

Photo by Wes Skiles

Photo by Wes Skiles

Recommendations by the Florida Conservation Coalition:

More Effective Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) Implementation and Enforcement. The current TMDL and BMAP process has proven ineffective in reducing nitrates and pollutant loading to our water resources, primarily because they are not being effectively implemented. The attitude persists that more studies are needed to address these issues. Perhaps in some circumstances more detailed studies are needed, but it is not a lack of information or studies that is causing the degradation of our springs and water resources.[8]  The issue here is a lack of political will to enforce laws already on the books.

Improve Effectiveness and Enforcement of Agricultural Best Management Practices. Under the current BMAP process, agricultural best management practices are voluntary and largely focused at lowest common denominator-solutions that do little to help achieve the state criteria for water quality in our springs. In areas where agricultural practices are shown to be a significant source of springs deterioration Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) needs to create, monitor, and enforce Best Management Practices that result in the reduction of nitrates in Florida’s springs within the shortest possible time frame. Best Management Practices should have specific goals for nitrate loading on a site-by-site basis, mechanisms for monitoring to assure the achievement of these goals, and an enforcement system to ensure that these goals are met.[9]  We need Best Management Practices that focus on what’s best for our water and our future, and not just what’s best for short-term agricultural profits.

Cave Divers Entering the Aquifer

Cave Divers Entering the Aquifer

Reduce Septic Tank Pollution– Years of scientific research have identified septic tank discharges as a major source of water pollution throughout much of Florida, particularly in areas of the state containing most of Florida’s springs. Even properly maintained septic tanks contribute large amounts of nitrates to the Floridan Aquifer and springs, yet many septic tanks are not properly maintained because of the perceived inordinately high cost of inspections and maintenance. Given the difficulties of inducing private action to address this problem, and the reality that even well-functioning septic tanks contribute unacceptable nitrate levels to our groundwater, legislation is needed to authorize state and local governments to require and enforce the removal of septic tanks, and to provide the funding to replace septic tanks with central sewer systems and advanced wastewater treatment facilities. Regional nutrient reduction strategies, including comprehensive management entities to coordinate all types of wastewater treatment, are also necessary.

Photo by Mark Long

Photo by Mark Long

The Clean Water Act provides Florida with financing for sewage treatment infrastructure under the State Revolving Fund, a low-interest loan program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Federal, state and local government sewage treatment funding that currently facilitates growth and sprawl would be better directed to ensuring our state has the necessary infrastructure to support current and future Florida residents and businesses without damaging water and natural resources. Local governments within priority springsheds should be given discretion to adopt stricter standards for septic tanks for both new and existing onsite sewage treatment systems.[10]

Reduce Fertilizer Pollution – Fertilizer use is a major source of water pollution throughout Florida, affecting nearly every important water resource in Florida. Unfortunately, local governments that have enacted regulations on fertilizer are finding themselves in conflict with the Legislature, which has sought to prohibit or weaken such regulations. It is not scientifically feasible to restore our springs and protect our waters without meaningful and effective fertilizer regulations that apply to large agricultural operations and other significant users, including residential users. Many agricultural operations could be covered under an improved BMP program. The legislature should take a leadership role and establish strong statewide regulations for fertilizers sold in Florida and provide stronger minimum criteria for utilization in Florida. Whether agricultural or residential, state legislation should allow for more stringent local requirements.[11]

 

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

3.–Additional Comments and Explanations from the FL Conservation Coalition:

Connect Water Quality and Water Quantity Regulations. Florida has two distinct regulatory systems for dealing with water quality and water quantity issues. This separation fails to reflect the undeniable linkage between these two important areas. Reduced spring and river flows serve to concentrate pollution that would otherwise be diffused if more water were running through our spring systems. In that regard, Chapters 373 and 404 of the Florida Statutes need to be linked together so Florida’s water management districts can consider the effect of increased nutrients and pollution when making consumptive use permitting decisions. Under the existing system, even if a water management district is aware that approving a consumptive use permit will result in increased nutrient levels, even beyond criteria established by the state, they are unable to incorporate this knowledge into their permitting decisions. Florida’s regulatory agencies need the authority and tools to address both water quality and quantity problems in order for real progress to be made. The districts should also proceed to develop water reservations for all stressed spring and river systems as already required by Chapter 373.[12]

Standards for Groundwater Discharges. Permits issued for discharges into the aquifer should be evaluated and modified to assure that they do not cause or contribute to violations of surface water standards once the water resurfaces in Florida’s springs. It is essential that our laws and regulations reflect the direct connection between groundwater and surface waters. Dye tests like those performed in connection with Wakulla Springs (Wakulla County) show that groundwater can travel much faster through karst areas of the aquifer than previously thought, reducing the ability for nutrients and other pollution to be filtered out before reaching springs. Updating central sewage treatment nutrient output standards in priority springsheds should be given the highest priority.[13]

Picture 013

Photo by John Moran

Update Water Management District Rainfall and Recharge Modeling.  Water management districts currently use outdated rainfall models that overestimate annual rainfall amounts in their consumptive use permitting process. Assuming that present and future rainfall will mimic that of the past (but which is often less than in the past), results in the permitting of greater withdrawals than would otherwise be allowed. The consequence of this system of management has resulted in the continued drawdown of the Floridan Aquifer at a rate greater than it can be replenished, leading to reduced spring and river flows and lower lake levels. Florida’s water management districts should update rainfall models to reflect actual rainfall totals and trends over the recent past. This is of special importance considering that water management districts have argued that reduced spring and river flows are the result of decreased rainfall, yet, at the same time, do not acknowledge the same decreases in their consumptive use permitting decisions.

In addition, water management districts should revise aquifer recharge models to reflect the alteration of land uses that have led to greater run-off and reduced aquifer recharge even during times of heavy rains.[14]

See a pdf of Dr. Todd Kincaid’s groundwater model, (large file, takes a while to download) for a better solution to the current model. Let’s require our WMDs and DEP to adopt the more accurate karst-based model and demand that our Florida legislators apportion our tax dollars to properly fund it.

Annual Report – The DEP should annually submit to the Legislature and Governor an assessment of the water quality and flow and level conditions of springs and significant water resources, using 2013 conditions as the baseline. A report in 2014, the baseline report, and annual reports beginning in 2015 should include: for springs – clarity, nitrate and pollutant concentrations (including the sources), algae, and biota; for significant water resources – water levels and flow and nutrient and pollutant concentrations (including the sources); and for groundwater – ground water levels, principal water users, and nutrient and pollutant concentrations in the watersheds or areas related to or affecting springs and significant water resources. The report should also detail the individual and cumulative effects on water quality and quantity of projects completed after 2013.[15]

Water Management District Governing Board Selection.  In 1997, the Legislature required the consideration of diversity in water management district governing board composition and expertise. Unfortunately, simply mandating “consideration” has proven ineffective at assuring diverse and knowledgeable governing boards that represents the public’s best interest. The Legislature should consider a more specific directive to ensure that its intent is carried out. One solution would be to institute a nominating system (with a candidate screening committee) similar to that used in appointing Public Service Commissioners. This would result in a more balanced list of potential appointees. Specific guidance should be given to the screening board to include representatives from the business, agricultural, academic and environmental communities.[16]

Re-evaluate public recreational uses in all springs on Florida public lands to develop science-based management plans that insure compatibility between appropriate recreational activities and sustainable ecological communities in these “crown jewels” of our parks, preserves, and national forests.[17]

 

4.—With respect to governance, we need to declare that OUR GROUND WATER IS A PUBLIC TRUST and make sure that the state agencies to regulate the ground water have a fiduciary duty to protect that trust. (Robert Williams, attorney for the Center for Earth Jurisprudence)

 

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

VII. Support Citizen-led Legal Actions to Protect our Waters

There are at least two groups positioned to take legal action to protect our springs, the Water Action Team and SOS (Save our Springs) Now.  Descriptions and links can be found here under ADVOCACY GROUPS.

 

VIII. Consider the Rights of Nature

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is working with communities in the United States and in countries around the world on grassroots organizing, public education and outreach, research, and legislative drafting – assisting people, NGOs, elected representatives, and government officials to craft and adopt new laws that change the status of natural communities and ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.

Through this work, the Legal Defense Fund has assisted more than three dozen communities in the U.S., and assisted the Constituent Assembly of Ecuador, to put in place a new paradigm to protect nature – a paradigm based on rights. For more information, see “Environmental Advocacy, General,” under ADVOCACY GROUPS.

 

Merrillee Maltwitz-Jipson of Our Santa Fe River addresses the Clean Water Rally in Gainesville, FL, Jan. 2014, part of a statewide Clean Water initiative.

Merrillee Maltwitz-Jipson of Our Santa Fe River addresses the Clean Water Rally in Gainesville, FL, Jan. 2014, part of a statewide Clean Water initiative.

IX. Stay Informed and Get Active

For updates on news and events, go to the Springs Eternal Project Facebook page. 

For ongoing news and discussion, join Aquiferious on Facebook

For updates from local springs advocacy and working groups, see the Resources pages under the ADVOCACY GROUPS tab.

For Legislative Updates join the Florida Conservation Coalition, also under Resources listings above.

Under RESOURCES on the SpringsEternalProject.org header you’ll find:

Groups, Research, Education and Public Policy provides descriptions of and links to many organizations, including the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, a leader in springs research, and their springs resources page; listings for blogs written by Sonny Vergara and Tom Swihart, two retired Florida water management officials who continue to track public water policy and management in the state; the Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC), a bipartisan group offering legislative updates on water issues; Craig Pittman’s series in the Tampa Bay Times: “Florida’s Vanishing Springs”; and the Florida Clean Water Network, which offers legislative updates and action alerts on water quality issues.

The URBAN AQUIFER debuts at the Florida Museum of Natural History, April 2012

Lesley Gamble’s URBAN AQUIFER debuts at the Florida Museum of Natural History, April 2012

Art, Literature, Film and Culture offers sources on Florida springs and water history, ethics, art and public policy, including award-winning journalist Cynthia Barnett’s Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. (2007) and Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis (2011). Margaret Ross Tolbert’s Aquiferious (2010) offers poetic, aesthetic and scientific views of twelve North Florida springs, including Ginnie. Rick Kilby’s Finding the Fountain of Youth: Exploring the Myth of Florida’s Magical Waters examines how the legend of Ponce de León’s quest for restorative waters shaped the Sunshine State’s image as a land of fantasy, rejuvenation, and magical spring-fed waters.

 

X. Vote!

Support representatives who understand the issues and are actively working with local springs groups to fully restore the health and flow of our springs.

 

Photo by John Moran

Photo by John Moran

XI. Develop a Water Ethic

Here are some suggestions from Cynthia Barnett’s Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis (p. 228):

–Americans value water, from appreciating local streams to pricing water right.

–We work together to use less and less—rather than fight each other to grab more and more.

–We try to keep water local.

–We avoid the two big mistakes of our history: overtapping aquifers and surface waters and overrelying on the costliest fixes that bring unintended consequences to future generations.

–We leave as much as prudently possible in nature—aquifers, wetlands, and rivers—so that our children and grandchildren, with benefit of time and evolving knowledge, can make their own decisions about water.

 

Jim Stevenson, retired Chief Biologist for the Florida State Park System, Chairman of the Florida Springs Task Force, Grandfather of Florida Springs Protection.

Jim Stevenson, retired Chief Biologist for the Florida State Park System, Chairman of the Florida Springs Task Force, Grandfather of Florida Springs Protection.

XII. Be a Visionary

The following is an excerpt from Lucinda Merritt’s op-ed in the Gainesville Sun, September 22, 2013:

“Solving our water problems will cost money. Bonus: Solving the problems will also create jobs. The alternative to spending that money is the failing system we have now, and we’ve learned from the Everglades that the longer we wait to fix our water problems, the more expensive the fix becomes.

As Barnett suggests in “Blue Revolution,” we need a strong water ethic that protects our waters for our children and grandchildren. Because such an ethic takes time to evolve, however, we must encourage it. To level the playing field with polluters and water wasters in courts of law, we should consider granting our waters the legal right to exist and appointing human guardians for them. Local governments throughout the United States and countries all over the world are using this approach. Why not Florida?

Another way to encourage a water ethic would be to articulate a compelling vision for water use in Florida. Right now the vision seems to be, “Use as much water as you can and dump your waste in it, too.” An alternative vision could be, ‘Florida has the cleanest, most abundant water in the world and is an international model of wise water use.’”

 

 

The Urban Aquifer SIRENA bus, a collaboration by Margaret Ross Tolbert, photographer Tom Morris, and Lesley Gamble.

The Urban Aquifer SIRENA bus, a collaboration between Lesley Gamble, Margaret Ross Tolbert, Tom Morris and Mark Long.

XIII. Create Your Own Springs Project

It’s a privilege for us to work on the Springs Eternal Project—a genuine labor of love— and we’re delighted to share it with you.

We hope that you’ll become A VOICE FOR FLORIDA’S SPRINGS, too, speaking from your own unique perspective, in your own style, using your specific strengths, skills and creative desires to initiate your own springs projects.  DREAM, SCHEME, COLLABORATE AND INNOVATE.  And keep us posted!

Tracy Wyman's aquiPROJECT teams up with the kids from the White Springs H.O.P.E. Program and Lesley Gamble's URBAN AQUIFER to create the first Rural Aquifer bus!

Tracy Wyman’s aquiPROJECT teams up with the kids from the White Springs H.O.P.E. Program and Lesley Gamble’s URBAN AQUIFER to create the first Rural Aquifer bus.

 

save our springs I75 billboard

Billboard on I-75, Florida Springs Institute. Photo by John Moran, design by Rick Kilby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Springs, Silver Springs

Flotilla Rally for Silver Springs, June

Jenny Adler's Springs Blog, 1st Magnitude

Jenny Adler’s Springs Blog,

 

 

Margaret Ross Tolbert Springs Installation, Orlando FL International Airport

Margaret Ross Tolbert Springs Installation, Orlando FL International Airport

 

 

 

 

Dade City Garden Club created the first SPRINGS ETERNAL FLOWER SHOW. High attendance, great energy and creative expression, and a strong message of advocacy for our springs made this show not just a popular event but a page in springs history.

Dade City Garden Club created the first SPRINGS ETERNAL FLOWER SHOW. High attendance, great energy and creative expression, and a strong message of advocacy for our springs made this show not just a popular event but a page in springs history.

 

Senator Wilton Simpson, one of the co-sponsors of the SPRINGS AND AQUIFER PROTECTION ACT, was on hand to speak about recent efforts to advance springs legislation and the need for clean water. Dade City Garden Club's Springs Eternal Flower Show, March 2014.

Springs Eternal Project Co-Directors John Moran and Lesley Gamble with Senator Wilton Simpson (right), one of the co-sponsors of the SPRINGS AND AQUIFER PROTECTION ACT. Senator Simpson was on hand to speak about recent efforts to advance springs legislation and the need for clean water. Dade City Garden Club’s Springs Eternal Flower Show, March 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracy's poster for the summer 2013 partnership of aquiPROJECT, H.O.P.E. Program and URBAN AQUIFER.

Tracy’s poster for the summer 2013 partnership of aquiPROJECT, H.O.P.E. Program and URBAN AQUIFER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Primary Sources:

Cynthia Barnett, Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis.  (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011).  http://www.beacon.org/Blue-Revolution-P945.aspx

Lucinda Faulkner Merritt, Op-ed, Gainesville Sun, 22 September 2013.

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20130922/OPINION03/13

Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, “A Time for Action.” (October 2103) http://www.floridaspringsinstitute.org

Florida Conservation Coalition, “Recommendation to Protect Florida’s Springs and Significant Water Resources.”  (October 2013)

http://floridaconservationcoalition.org/pages/resources

 


[1] Lucinda Faulkner Merritt, Op-ed, Gainesville Sun, September 22, 2013.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Florida Conservation Coalition, “Recommendation to Protect Florida’s Springs and Significant Water Resources.”

[5] Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, “A Time for Action.”

[6] Lucinda Faulkner Merritt, Op-ed, Gainesville Sun, September 22, 2013.

[7] Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, “A Time for Action.”

[8] Florida Conservation Coalition, “Recommendation to Protect Florida’s Springs and Significant Water Resources.”

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, “A Time for Action.”