Florida Groundwater and Runoff Issues Threaten Natural Springs

Groundwater depletion isn’t an issue only in dry places.

Greg Allen of NPR has a fascinating report on Florida’s water issues, focusing on the formerly glorious Silver Springs, now much diminished and rather more greenish than silver.

Florida’s endangered springs are a symptom of a larger problem. With development and wells sunk for everything from golf courses to bottled water plants, Florida’s aquifer is being depleted.

In some areas, the aquifer — which most Floridians rely on for drinking water — has dropped by 60 feet. Some coastal communities are now getting saltwater in their wells, which costs millions to treat.

The most visible consequence of excessive pumping from the aquifer may be Florida’s epidemic of sinkholes, including a massive one near Tampa recently that claimed a man’s life.

Worth a second thought is this:

A dozen years ago, alarm over the decline of Florida’s springs drew the attention of political leaders in Tallahassee. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush launched an initiative to save the 1,000-plus springs throughout the state. That program was defunded last year by Florida’s current governor, Rick Scott.


  1. A few weeks back I listened to a similar program:

    What impressed me about it was the direct language describing the way we are treating our planet.

    There was a startling bit about sulfuric acid dumping at an ammunition plant, but it was common sense rather than sensational detail that got to me.

    Tidbits from a related NPR program on sinkholes:

    "when you're depressurizing the aquifer by excessive groundwater pumping, that's one mechanism that can trigger sinkhole formation."

    "large portions of Philadelphia were built on quite a vast network of underground rivers."

    Brine is used in drilling, and brine operations are associated with water depletion.

    The original I heard was this one:


    (good map at main site)

    "As we pave highways, we put up buildings, those are impervious services. So the water can no longer just naturally go into the ground like it did before. It runs off these impervious services. We concentrate the water into, you know, drainage ditches and things like that. And so we're concentrating that water getting in and that can increase the speed of some of this dissolution."

    "we will extract things from underground and think that we're not having an impact on our environment just because we can't see it. But, it's very much the case. You can't pull material out forever without having consequences."

    "in the case of a lot of sinkholes, when they collapse they look like cylinders. But, you know, mother nature wants to try to stabilize things, so most sinkholes start to -- the slope on the edges lessen so it turns into more of a bowl shape. That's what it really wants to do. "

    I would like to see this simple sentence burned into our consciousness:

    "you get a sort of capsule lesson in the interrelationship between people and geology and it runs in both directions."

    "we are also accustomed to dumping things into holes in other places where the effects are not visible and are not immediate, but are still in the long run as consequential"

    I was startled to hear Erin Brockovich mention that there are 35 to 40,000 outstanding Superfund sites (not to mention the existing ones are not being remediated as they should be - time passes and memories are short, but stonewalling will be with us forever).

    There was lots more, but I've extracted enough.

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  3. We've been encouraging Central Florida residents to start rain gardens or capture rain water precisely because we're so concerned about this issue. It's pretty ironic, isn't it? Our state is surrounded by water on three sides and we get torrential rains every year--but we're still struggling to protect these important resources.

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