Protecting Land in the Springshed
New standards for development recognize the fragile nature of springsheds and can help local governments protect natural resources like Wakulla Spring.
Wakulla Spring is surrounded by several thousand acres of undeveloped and protected land. However, development and changes in land use outside the park boundaries, but within Wakulla's expansive springshed, are having a negative impact on the spring. Land planners are recognizing that springsheds require special measures to ensure protection of groundwater and spring resources.
Without proper planning, dramatic changes to land within springsheds can have long-term negative impacts on springs. Large residential and commercial developments lead to increased stormwater runoff and alter the natural flow of rainwater in critical spring recharge areas. Residential lawns and community golf courses also place demands on groundwater supplies and typically require fertilizers that can increase the load of nitrates into the aquifer.
The Florida Department of Community Affairs and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are developing guidelines for local governments to use in creating and revising master plans for development. Known as the "Model Land Development Code for Springsheds," these comprehensive guidelines are intended to help local public officials adopt new land development standards that protect vulnerable spring recharge areas.
Richard Deadman, a planner with the Department of Community Affairs, is coordinating the committee working on the Model Land Development Code for Springsheds. Deadman says that there is broad public support for protecting land near springs and that the model code offers local governments concrete ways of achieving springshed protection goals.
Deadman Audio: "The Department of Community Affairs in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Protection is generating a model land development code to protect Florida's springs. The entire focus of the code is to assist local governments in implementing development standards, which will protect the sensitive nature of springs," says Richard Deadman. "Springs are predominantly found in areas of the state that have high vulnerability to groundwater contamination. Florida has over 700 springs. Thirty-five of Florida's 67 counties have springs in them. So we are trying to assist those governments in protecting this fragile resource."
Department of Community Affair's Richard Deadman says that the primary focus of the Model Land Development Code for Springsheds is minimizing pollution from stormwater runoff, lawn fertilizers, septic tanks and municipal sewage treatment systems.
Deadman Audio: "There are three primary sources of pollution to Florida springs. Wastewater from septic tanks or a central treatment facility. Stormwater runoff that carries the pollutants from the road and areas adjacent to the road," says Deadman. "The third source is lawns. Fertilizers used on turf grass are major components of nitrates that we are finding in our groundwater and coming out of our springs. So those are the three primary areas that we are trying to develop standards to mitigate the impacts from those three components."
Walt Schmidt, former chief of the Florida Geological Survey, points out the boundaries of springsheds in northern Florida. More than half of Florida's 67 counties have springs located in them. The importance of understanding and defining springsheds has gained ground in recent years.
Land use policies are developed and overseen by county commissioners in Wakulla and Leon counties. Citizen involvement at the county level is essential to the creation of sound land development policies that preserve open space and protect of natural resources like Wakulla Spring.