Florida Springs Help Drive Florida’s Economy

Dec 11


Davey Crockett

Davey Crockett

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Florida’s natural springs are as numerous as they are breath taking. The spring venues bring much needed dollars in to Florida’s economy and are great recreational hot spots. Some of the larger springs are showing signs of degradation along with high concentrations of phosphate nutrients, while Florida’s elected officials downplay these severe environmental impacts.


Florida is known for its wonderfully inviting natural crystal clear springs. Natural springs in Florida are places of visual delight and has no equal based on the sheer number of springs. The water is so clear that boats on the surface appear to be suspended in mid-air. The state of Florida purchased seventeen springs for its state park system. A 2003 study by Florida State University found that four of the largest springs brought revenue in the amount of $280 million annually,Florida Springs Help Drive Florida’s Economy Articles and created 750 jobs.


Does Florida Have Many Springs?


Florida boasts over a thousand large springs in the state. The largest springs are popular "Old Florida" tourist attractions and recreational venues (1) that bring millions of dollars and jobs into the state's economy yearly. However, in the last two decades, many of these clear springs started showing signs of abnormal algae growth. Now some of Florida's best swimming holes have "No Swimming" signs posted based on public health concerns (3). The algae are not just a minor problem. (4) A species called, "Lyngbya wollei," can be toxic to humans.


In 2002, state officials started recording the complaints related to algae growth. All algae related issues in Florida state parks are recorded when people came in contact with the algae then complained of rashes, hives, nausea, itching, and asthma attacks. The amount of algae-related complaints is now over 140. In 2002, the DEP concluded dissolved nitrates levels in springs to be 0.35 milligrams per liter of water (mass/volume) or less. Out of fifty springs, the DEP is monitoring, seventy-five percent exceeded the (0.35) mg nitrate level.


Florida's Healthy Springs In Decline


Florida officials became aware of an issue when the Department of Environmental Protection biologist, Jim Stevenson noticed spring water changes. Mr. Stevenson, who is also a freshwater cave diver, wondered why Wakulla Springs in north Florida would sometimes fill with cloudy water. They found that high concentrations of phosphorus based nutrients that are related to the murk in the water.


1970's Era Central Florida Springs


Since the early 1970's, I have been aware of the decline of southwest central Florida's springs and aquifers. Many of the springs and rivers I played in as a youth are now too polluted to enter, or they are completely dry. One spring, in particular, is Lithia Springs about five miles outside of Brandon, Fl.


The park was privately owned and operated at that time and provided welcomed relief from the sweltering Florida summer heat. The water was crystal clear and abundant. The main spring at its deepest was about ten feet deep over the spring opening and covered an area about the size of a football field in a "U" shape. The small spring was about three to four feet deep and about the size of a small swimming pool. Today, the main spring is about three feet deep and filled with algae eating fish and the little spring is gone.


The scientific community first noted the problem of spring degradation over a score ago. Florida officials' poor stewardship for Florida's freshwater resources let freshwater supplies become polluted. These changes are directly related to industry and particularly from the "phosphate industry." Florida's elected officials continue to bow to corporate pressure. The state is "permitting" the phosphate industry to pump (unmetered) water amounts daily, out of Florida's aquifer systems. The phosphate industry is the largest industry user of freshwater in the state, in this case, Mosaic mining company.


Where Do Florida's Elected Officials Stand On This Issue?


Florida elected officials "sided with developers and the fertilizer industry (Phosphate mining) over public health, fishing and tourism," reads an editorial in the state's largest newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times. Elected officials ignored the impact on property values and the security of the state's drinking water supply. Instead, lawmakers cared more about political maneuvering and campaign contributions than repairing environmental damage, reported the Tampa Bay Times.

Attorney, David Guest with Earth Justice (2) filed countless legal battles over freshwater. His motivation comes from years of boating in the state's rivers and lakes, which convinced him that waterways are many people's "spiritual connection to nature".


It is clear to see that Florida's economy is based on tourism, food production and phosphate strip mining, in that order. What is not clear is the fact that so many Florida officials denounce the environmental pollutants, but not the polluters, (5) based on EPA reports.


When will Florida residents wake up and tell Tallahassee to place blame where blame belongs? The industry producing the greatest amount of pollutants is the phosphate industry.



  1. Now Endangered, Florida's Silver Springs Once Lured Tourists: NPR.
  2. Pollution Is Ruining Florida's Springs - Earth Justice.
  3. Water Quality Report - City of High Springs
  4. Florida Waters Alive With Toxic Algae, Toxic Politics - ENS
  5. USGS