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FAQ: Springs and Aquifer

Commonly asked questions about springs in Florida


Question:

Why are there more springs in Florida than in any other state? - Kerry, New Port Richey, Florida

Answer:

The reason why Florida has more springs than any other state (and most other countries) is related to the state's geology, weather, and subsurface water flow. Florida is underlain by an extensive series of geologic formations which contain very porous marine limestone near the land surface where Florida's aquifer systems occur. All of Florida's larger springs discharge ground water from this Floridan aquifer system. Less porous limestones are found in other spring areas of the United States. Because limestone formations in Florida are more porous than in many other areas, they can hold and transport more water, making the regional Floridan aquifer system one of the most productive freshwater aquifer systems in the world.

Weather is another factor responsible for Florida's many springs. Florida receives between 30 and 100 inches of rain per year. Rainfall becomes slightly acidic through interactions with gases in the atmosphere and soils, and over millions of years, this slightly acidic rainfall has percolated downward into the subsurface and has slowly dissolved underground limestone. Joints and fractures left behind in the limestone can eventually enlarge into water-filled caverns and tunnels that can form subterranean drainage systems (in the Floridan aquifer). Also, sinkholes can form due to dissolving of the limestone and create an opening and direct connection between the land surface and the Floridan aquifer. Springs occur when subsurface pressures force water up through an opening to land surface. The combination of highly porous limestones that can hold vast quantities of water, combined with relatively high rainfall amounts and subsurface water flow, are responsible for the occurrence of so many springs in Florida.


Question:

Are springs still flowing at the rate they were 20 years ago? Some springs that I have visited seem to be drying up. – Debbie, Naples, FL

Answer:

Your observations are correct. Many of our springs are experiencing lower flows than in the past, largely due to the persistent drought that we've been experiencing in the past years. Because of the drought, more water is pumped from the Floridan Aquifer (FA) for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses. The FA is also the primary source water for our springs so additional pumping has an impact on spring flow levels. The FA is recharged by rainfall. With reduced rainfall and continued need for water, we impact the level of water in the aquifer and subsequently the spring flows. Conserving water from the FA by using low flow fixtures and Florida Friendly yards, etc., are ways you can help maintain spring flows. You can also contact your local representative and water management district to express your concern about the loss of flow to springs, and to obtain more information about protecting ground water levels and spring flows.


Question:

Why are all of Florida's springs cool (around 70 degrees) when some springs in other states can be very hot? -- Christy, Orlando, FL

Answer:

Good question. Many people are familiar with "geothermal or hot springs" like those found in Yellowstone. Water in these springs comes from deep within the ground and is heated by the geothermal activity beneath the Earth's crust.

The springs in Florida are not geothermal or hot springs. They represent the "end of the pipe" of the Floridan aquifer, a layer of relatively shallow limestone underground that stores virtually all of Florida's groundwater. In some areas the limestone is very close to the surface and this is where springs form. The water underground stays at a constant 68 to 70 degree temperature.


Question:

I understand how springs form thanks to your web page. My main concern is what is the importance of springs? - Fezeka, Cape Town, South Africa

Answer:

In Florida, some springs support entire ecosystems with unique plants and animals. They also flow into other rivers that are dependent on the springs clean fresh water. The springs also represent the visible part of the Floridan Aquifer, the underground supply of most of Florida's drinking water. If the springs are unhealthy, it's an indication of the quality of water that Florida residents drink, cook with, etc. Additionally, Florida's springs are beautiful environments that are enjoyed by people who visit from around the world. You should come visit some day.


Question:

Just how many springs are there in the state of Florida? - Greg, Largo, Florida

Answer:

While we don't have a complete count of all springs in Florida, there are close to 900 ranging in size from very small springs discharging little more than a trickle of water to 1st magnitude springs like Wakulla, Manatee, and Silver Springs discharging hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day.


Question:

Where can I bottle water from one of the springs? - Jennifer, Macon, Georgia

There are not any springs on public lands in Florida that are set up to be used as sources of potable water. However, there are potable wells at many state parks that draw water from the same sources as the springs do. That source is the Floridan Aquifer.


Question:

Is it safe to drink the spring water while you are swimming in it? - Karen, Dania Beach, Florida

Answer:

While enticing, it would not be advisable to drink water straight from the spring. We don't always know what contaminants might be introduced in the spring's recharge area or through runoff into sinkholes connecting to the spring. In addition, there may be naturally occuring micoorganisms that could cause illness if not filtered from the water.


Question:

Can I go SCUBA diving in a spring with no previous experience? Would it be costly? - Tim, Montreal, Canada

Answer:

There are many springs in Florida that are good for SCUBA diving. However, to SCUBA dive you must be a certified diver or be under the direct supervision of a certified dive master. There are many dive shops and organizations in Florida, with web sites on the internet, who can give you more information. One thing you might want to consider is to chose a venue where you can have a good time snorkeling, which does not require certification. Most of the springs are great locations for snorkeling. One good location in Florida with lots of springs that many people go to for a snorkeling experience is the Crystal River area, which is just north of Tampa. There are several dive shops (with web sites) in that area that have snorkeling packages.


Question:

Do more sinkholes form because we are depleting the aquifer too quickly? - Mary, Vero Beach, FL

Answer:

Sinkholes are naturally occurring geologic formations, but it is understood that a sudden sinkhole can be caused by human activity. Increased water consumption associated with a prolonged drought period may draw down the water in the aquifer resulting in the collapse of an underground cavern in the limestone rock. Also, large withdrawals of groundwater used for freeze protection of citrus crops has caused numerous sinkholes to form in some areas in Florida. Heavy rains following a drought period might also lead to formation of sinkholes.


Question:

Does the spring water eventually flow into the sea? Are the manatees afraid of the divers? - Gwen, Medford, NJ

Answer:

Yes, springs typically flow into other bodies of water like rivers, which eventually flow into the ocean or the gulf. Be sure to read Dispatch 6, which talks about the influence of spring water on Suwannee River estuary.

Manatees are very calm animals and often will not be afraid of divers, particularly where divers are frequently present. Manatees are endangered species and it is against the law for divers to hold onto manatees or to alter their behavior in any way. However, manatees are curious animals and will sometimes approach divers.

 
 
 
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