As a kid, I can remember going to many different Florida springs with my family. I also remember thinking, “why is the water so cold and where does it come from??”
The last time my wife and I took our kids to a spring they asked the same questions. I tried to give them my best answer, but after a lot of hemming, hawing and head-scratching I realized that I don’t know a whole lot about our natural springs and, more importantly, our amazing aquifer system.
As you can imagine, this didn’t sit very well with me. This was something that I had to know more about and I was honestly ashamed at how ignorant I was to this.
Geez, the Floridian aquifer is pretty amazing! Check out what happens in Florida in ONE day:
-An average of 150 billion gallons of rain falls.
-The three spring vents in Silver Springs discharge 359 million gallons of water.
-Collectively, Florida’s springs discharge over 19 billion gallons of freshwater.
The entire State of Florida sits on top of this huge underground water basin made mostly of limestone. This porous rock acts as a giant sponge, and as water flows through all the tiny holes and cracks, it is naturally filtered.
If you think about it, Florida is not only surrounded by water on three sides, but anywhere you might be standing there are millions of gallons of water under your feet. This all sounds so great: we have a seemingly endless supply of fresh, pure water that just comes up from the ground…right?
Scientist and environmentalist have warned us for decades that everything that goes on top of the soil eventually ends up in our aquifer because the limestone underneath us is so porous…and they were right.
In fact, Florida was rated as one of the top five worst states for drinking water quality. The water that we do pull from the aquifer for drinking often must be extensively filtered and purified before it is fit for human consumption.
There’s an ongoing debate on how much we can or should pull from our aquifer system, as this effects our rivers flow and overall health. It’s an incredibly daunting task to try and reverse the decades of damage that have been done to it because so little is known about our aquifer.
For now, we can still enjoy the natural wonder of our springs. Once considered “fountains of youth” by Spanish explorers, springs are fantastic places to see wildlife. The never-ending supply of clean water at a consistent average temperature of 72 degrees brings manatees, alligators, turtles and a huge variety of plants, fish and birds to the spring basins.
I consider Florida springs to be one of our greatest gems, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, do yourself a huge favor….DO IT!