Northern Florida has the highest concentration of freshwater springs in the world. The region’s unique limestone geology and consistent rainfall have led to the formation of over 1,000 named springs. Most are small, only pumping out a few gallons of water per minute, or even per hour. Thirty three however are truly monsters. These “first magnitude” springs consistently expel over 100 cubic feet of crystal clear water per second. Not only is the beauty of the springs themselves breathtaking, but they also provide habitat for a variety of species that could not exist elsewhere.
The springs and the associated aquifers, are the source of both the region’s various rivers and its water that is used for domestic and agricultural purposes. Herein lies one of the major threats to Florida’s springs. Ultimately, there is only a limited amount of water in the aquifer system. Water that is pumped out through a well, is water that is not available for the spring and therefore, the wildlife in the spring.
The other most serious threat to the springs is pollution, primarily in the form of agricultural runoff from fertilizer and animal waste. Organic chemicals filter into the aquifer, eventually making their way to the springs. The higher levels of nutrients in the spring water leads to the growth of filamentous algae which smothers all other aquatic plants. Eventually, the spring ecosystem collapses, and all that remains is a murky pool full of what amounts to pond scum unsuitable for much else.