Florida evokes daydreams of white sandy beaches and palm trees – but perhaps the most magnificent water in Florida lies just out of sight. In the Sunshine State, water fills the limestone cavities of the Floridan aquifer beneath our feet. This is the source of drinking water for 92% of Floridians. But this water is not always hidden - where it finds its way to the surface, it forms marvelous freshwater springs, which support not only human life in Florida but also incredibly diverse and unique aquatic ecosystems. In fact, Florida is home to the highest density of freshwater springs in the world – more than 1,000 of them dot the karst landscape of the sunny peninsula.
Unfortunately, increasing development and growing pressures on water resources are having negative impacts on Florida’s springs. Over the past 15 or 20 years, Florida’s burgeoning population has had a plethora of consequences for the springs, namely decreases in flow due to over-pumping and a transition from native underwater grasses to nasty algae. Nitrate levels in the springs have skyrocketed and ecosystem dynamics have changed as food webs are altered.