Florida Springs History and there affects on Irrigation and farming


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Florida Springs History

View of Shangri La SpringGeologists estimate that there are more than 700 springs in the state of Florida, representing what may be the largest concentration of freshwater springs on Earth.

Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been attracted to Florida’s springs for thousands of years. The springs made the perfect home for Native Floridians who used them as a source of water and food, while the clay taken from the spring’s bottom was ideal for making arrowheads, spear heads and knives.

The first spring dwellers coexisted with the now extinct and mighty animals such as the mastodon, mammoth, ground sloth, giant beaver and giant armadillo. During the last Ice Age, 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, sea level was as much as 300 feet below present levels.

As the last of the Ice Age came to a close in Florida, many environmental changes were occurring. Global weather patterns changed and sea levels began to rise. The large animals that had once roamed the Florida landscape were becoming extinct. As these drastic changes were taking place, Florida’s human inhabitants were forced to adapt.

The Exploration of La Florida

View of Silver SpringsExplorers later arrived to Florida, from Ponce de Leon to John and William Bartram and others, and were drawn to the subterranean discharges of freshwater that were scattered across central and northern Florida.

As colonists and settlers began to inhabit Florida, springs continued to be a focus of human activity. Florida’s springs served as locations for Spanish missions, steamboat landings, gristmills and post offices. They were used by local churches for baptisms, as sources of drinking water for homesteads and as reservoirs for irrigating crops. In the middle to late 1800s many of Florida’s springs served as magnets for development, attracting settlers, tourists and even railroads. A few springs gave birth to towns, including Silver Springs in Marion County, Green Cove Spring in Clay County and De Leon Springs in Volusia County.

The Power of the Springs

Some of Florida’s springs were valued for their perceived therapeutic qualities and people flocked to them to soak in the medicinal waters. Health resorts at several springs attracted thousands of tourists in the early 1900s. People sought the healing powers of White Springs in Hamilton County. Panacea Mineral Springs in Wakulla County was the site of the 125-guest Panacea Hotel. Worthington Springs, in Union County, now completely dry, once beckoned visitors to drink from and bathe in the healing waters. And Warm Mineral Springs, in Sarasota County, still attracts visitors to its year-round 87 degree waters.

Many Florida springs provide recreational opportunities for swimmers, boaters, wildlife observers and cave divers such as Blue Spring (Madison County), Ichetucknee Springs (Columbia County) and Blue Spring (Volusia County).

Florida Springs Today

People swimming at Ginnie SpringSprings continue to attract people with their unique beauty. They have provided immeasurable natural, recreational and economic benefits for residents and visitors for more than a century. Ginnie Springs is the most popular freshwater diving location in the world and the 15 state parks named for springs across Florida attract more than 2 million visitors and contributing nearly $7 million in revenue annually.

Florida’s springs serve as windows to the mysteries of the Floridan Aquifer. Because of the pristine beauty of the springs, the bottled water industry has a renewed interest in spring water while at the same time, many of Florida’s diverse wildlife communities continue to depend on the careful stewardship of Florida springs for their needs. The challenge lies in preserving the water quality of Florida’s springs while meeting the needs of Florida’s residents, visitors and wildlife alike.

Florida Springs Initiative Achievements

People swimming at Wakulla SpringsFlorida is home to one of the largest concentrations of freshwater springs in the world. The Florida Springs Initiative is the first comprehensive and coordinated program to increase protection for the state’s more than 700 freshwater springs.

Florida has invested $15 million to improve spring water quality and flow through improved research, monitoring, education and landowner assistance. As part of the Initiative, researchers completed the first in-depth scientific study of Florida springs in three decades, describing nearly 200 previously undocumented springs. Additionally, the State conserved close to 27,000 acres of spring recharge area to protect Florida’s groundwater, including more than 4,000 acres of land around Wakulla Springs, one of the largest and deepest artesian springs in the world.

Restoration and erosion control are a vital part of the Springs Initiative’s goal to allow Florida’s springs to return to their natural conditions and to help the springs flow without obstructions. The following are projects that the Springs Initiative has funded for restoration:
2002-2003 Head Spring Restorations $246,583.22
2002 Restoration of Fanning Spring $65,000
2002 Removal of Sediments from Alexander Spring $60,000
2002 Ichetucknee Restoration $1,900
2002 Construction of Monitoring Well along St. Marks River
2004 Gainer Springs Restoration
2004 Poe Springs Restoration $16,700
2002-2003 Troy Spring Erosion Control $250,000
2002 Boardwalk to Control Erosion at DeLeon Spring
2002 Removal of Lime Rock Trails from Spring Wetlands at Homosassa Springs
2002 Fencing around Ichetucknee and Rose Sinks $8,000
2002 Access Ramps and Boardwalks to Cherokee Spring at Wakulla Springs
2004 Rose Sink Restoration at Ichetucknee Springs $3,948
2004 Indian Spring Restoration at Wakulla Springs $9,725
2004 Peacock Spring Boardwalk for Erosion Control at IchetuckneeSprings $6,200


Underwater shot of Scuba diver in Florida springPoorly maintained septic tanks can cause harm to springs by allowing nutrients to seep into ground and deep into the aquifer. The Springs Initiative has worked to provide safe management of waste for the state owned spring parks by funding:
2003 Lafayette Blue Drainfield Relocation $70,000
2002 Septic Tank Drainfield and Boat Ramp at Manatee Springs $122,684
2002 Sewer Improvements at Rainbow Spring $180
2002 Sewer Hookup to Park Ranger Residence and Shop and Wakulla Springs
2004 Elimination of Septic and Hookup to Sewer at Park Ranger Residence at Volusia Blue Spring $23,450
2004 Removal of Septic Tank and Park Ranger Residence Sewer Hookup at Blue Hole in Florida Caverns $38,665
2004 Waterless Urinals at Rainbow Springs $1,436
2004 Wekiwa Springs Sewer System Upgrade/Connection $85,667


The Florida Springs Initiative produces educational materials for the public to highlight the importance of Florida’s springs and the impact people can have on the health of Florida’s liquid bowls of light. Below is a sampling of the educational projects the Springs Initiative has funded:
2002-2003 Homeowner Brochure $18,700
2002-2006 Water’s Journey Video Production $176,632
2002-2006 Springs Website Updates $208,632
2002-2003 2003 Springs Conference $6,000
2002 Springs Recharge Area Brochures $250
2002-2006 Spring Specific Brochures and Updated Reprints of Ichetucknee, Wakulla and Wekiwa Springs
2002 Two Public Service Announcements $1,665
2002-2003 Three Public Workshops for Gainer, Jackson Blue, St. Mark, Wakulla Springs and Spring Creek $5,000
2003 Ownership Mapping for 8 Privately Owned First Magnitude Springs $20,500
2004-2006 Renovation of Rainbow Springs Education Center $100,237
2003 “Portals to the Past” Springs Brochures $580
2003 Florida Geological Survey Poster $2,148
2003 State Fair Exhibit $14,000
2004-2006 Wakulla Springs Educational Trail System
2004-2006 Springs Curriculum Development $40,000
2004-2006 Florida Springs Website Maintenance $1,800
2004 Sponsorship of Wakulla Springs Scientific Conference $1,000
2004-2006 LIFE Program $20,000
2002 Wakulla Springs Recharge Area
Landowner Assistance Program
Surveys $18,245
2002 Video on Volusia Blue Spring
2004-2006 Educational Signage/Kiosks $28,965
2002 Environmental Education at Camp Kulaqua $6,000
2004-2006 Springshed Basin Road Signs $4,385


Underwater view of Devils Eye Run at IchetuckneeThe most effective method of preservation is through acquiring land in the springshed to be left in its natural state. The Springs Initiative has been, and continues to be, supportive of land acquisition efforts through the Florida Forever program. For developed land in recharge basins the Springs Initiative works to establish Best Management Practices (BMPs) to help protect the water resources. The effectiveness of the BMPs are evaluated and used to plan methods of day-to-day management of the area that will help preserve the environment. BMP projects include:
2002-2003 Nutrient Reduction BMPs $332,200
2002-2006 Springs BMPs/Land Use BMPs (aka Model Land Code Outreach Program) $101,173
2002 Land Use Management Tool $10,000
2004-2006 Golf Course BMPs $89,464

Community Involvement

To ensure the continued health of a spring, the Springs Initiative engages the local community to be involved in its protection. The Springs Initiative has established local spring basin workgroups who engage in a vigorous and collaborative process for the preservation of the springs. The workgroups are composed of the federal, state and local government agencies having information or responsibilities concerning the function of the spring recharge basin. Other important stakeholders include agricultural and commercial interests, environmental organizations, and citizens.
2005 Florida Springs Task Force Facilitator $30,000
2002-2006 Ambassador for Manatee Springs $30,112
2002-2006 Working Group Coordinator for Ichetucknee Springs $22,551
2002-2006 Silver Springs Outreach/Working Group Coordinator $104,964
2002-2003 Working Group Coordination at Rainbow Springs $15,000
2002-2006 Ambassador at Wakulla Springs $32,051
2002-2006 Working Group Coordination at Santa Fe Springs $46,214
2004-2006 Working Group Coordination at Wakulla Springs $14,047

Welcome to Fanning Springs State Park

Located on the Suwannee River, this inviting source of cool, clear water has attracted people for thousands of years. Fanning Springs now produces less than 65 million gallons of water daily, making it a second magnitude spring. Historically, Fanning Spring was a first-magnitude springs as recently as the 1990s. Swimming or snorkeling in the spring is a refreshing activity on a hot day. Visitors can enter the park by boat from the Suwannee River or by car from U.S. 19/98. Visitors enjoy the picnic area, playground and sandy volleyball court. A boardwalk overlooks the spring and river. White-tailed deer, gray squirrels, red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers and barred owls are some of the animals seen in the park. Manatees sometimes visit the spring during the winter months. Five full-service cabins are available for rent. Overnight vehicle parking for primitive campers is not permitted. Primitive camping is available only for those arriving by foot, bicycle or paddling on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. Reserve a kayak at least a day in advance of your arrival by calling Suwannee Guides & Outfitters at(352)542-8331.

Florida Friendly Landscaping 101 header image
You don’t have to be an expert gardener or landscaper to create a Florida-friendly yard. All it takes is a willingness to learn and a desire to build a beautiful yard that helps protect Florida’s environment.

Get started by taking the Florida-friendly landscaping Interactive Tutorial and Quiz. Next, download the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods’ handbook below for more detailed information.

Also, be sure to browse the photo gallery for great Florida-friendly yard examples, and check out resources offered through your local UF/IFAS County Extension office including Master Gardener training opportunities by exploring the Toolshed.

Florida Friendly Interactive Yard header image
Creating a low-impact, Florida-friendly yard and landscape can be fun and rewarding. But, where do you start?

Start with the Interactive Yard. This online tool will take you through the steps needed to transform a yard dominated by lawn into one featuring beautiful beds with Florida-friendly plants and Florida native plants that require little or no fertilizer or irrigation.

You’ll also learn about features like micro-irrigation, compost bins, and rain barrels that make a yard environmentally friendly.

Take what you learn with the Interactive Yard and apply it to your own yard.

Stories of Success with Florida-Friendly Yards
New land use policies and consumer demand are driving changes in landscape design and maintenance in residential and commercial developments. Throughout the state, communities, developers and landscape professionals are embracing Florida-friendly landscaping practices that conserve water, reduce runoff of fertilizers and minimize need for pesticides. View multi-media stories about those who have gone Florida-friendly.

The Changing Landscape
Landscape companies, builders and developers are embracing low-impact landscaping and finding that it’s good for the environment and good for business. View their stories now.

Resources for Professionals
Numerous educational resources are available to developers, builders and landscape professionals interested in implementing Florida-friendly landscaping practices. Take advantage of these resources.

Professional Resources header image
There are many resources available to builders and developers and landscape professionals who adopt Florida-friendly and environmentally sound landscaping practices. Explore the links and resources below to learn more.
Landscape Professionals
Image of house roof construction and man talking
Green Industries Best Management Practices (BMP) Training Link graphic
Univ. of Florida/IFAS Extension provides training in the landscape BMPs for professionals. Contact Laurie Trenholm at (352) 392-1831 x 374 or email: ltrenholm@ifas.ufl.edu. Train the trainer programs available as well as Spanish and English language manuals and summary books.
University of Florida Turf Science ProgramLink graphic
Latest information on turfgrass science and green industry best management practices for residential landscapes, sports turf, sod growers, and more.
University of Florida/IFAS Extension Web CalendarLink graphic
The Extension Web Calendar lists continuing education classes for landscape professionals as well as members of the public.
Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape AssociationLink graphic
Educational and certification resources for landscape and horticulture professionals.
Florida Landscape Maintenance AssociationLink graphic
Offers certification and educational programs and promotes best management practices in landscape maintenance.
Florida Irrigation SocietyLink graphic
Offers training and certification for irrigation professionals and promotes practices that conserve water and minimize runoff. FIS’s website includes links to manufacturers of low-volume irrigation and water conservation systems.
Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape ArchitectsLink graphic
Offers continuing education programs for landscape architects.

Builders and Developers
Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program
FYN consults with and provides educational resources for builders and developers. Contact FYN’s Builder and Developer Statewide Coordinator, at (352) 392-1831.
Southwest Florida Water Management DistrictLink graphic
The Water-wise Landscape Recognition Program and Community Water-wise Awards recognize developers, builders, businesses and homeowners that demonstrate excellence in water conservation. For information, contact Sylvia Durrell at Sylvia.Durell@swfwmd.state.fl.us
Florida Green Building Coalition:Link graphic
Information about “green building” certification for builders and developers.
Program for Resource Efficient CommunitiesLink graphic
Promotes the adoption of best design, construction, and management practices in new residential community developments.
Audubon InternationalLink graphic
Offers consulting, educational and certification services to help developers and communities implement sustainable development practices.
Florida House Learning Center:Link graphic
Located in Sarasota County, the Florida House is a model home and landscape that features readily available, environmentally friendly materials and methods. The landscape is a model Florida Yard, demonstrating the use of native and drought-tolerant plants, micro-irrigation, composting, and ways to reduce harmful run-off.
Council for Sustainable Florida:Link graphic
Promotes awareness of sustainable business and development practices.
Stormwater Management Academy, University of Central FloridaLink graphic
Conducts research and education in new technologies for managing stormwater.

Integrated Pest Management
University of Florida/ IFAS Integrated Pest Management:Link graphic
Extensive online resource covering all aspects of IPM for commercial and non-commercial applications.
Nonpoint Source Pollution
DEP Nonpoint Source Management Publications:Link graphic
Florida DEP’s Nonpoint Source Management Program site for BMP publications, model ordinances, and other educational material.
Florida’s Water: Ours to Protect:Link graphic
Florida DEP’s Comprehensive watershed education resource.
Native and Florida-friendly Plant Resources
Association of Florida Native Plant Nurseries:Link graphic
Locate wholesale and retail sources of Florida plants.
FNGLA Plant and Nursery Locator:Link graphic
A database of nurseries and members of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.
Florida Native Plant Society:Link graphic
Information about all aspects of native plants in Florida.
Univ. of Florida/IFAS Tree Selector Database:Link graphic
Comprehensive database of trees recommended for Florida urban and suburban environments.
Atlas of Florida Vascular PlantsLink graphic
Comprehensive database of native and naturalized plants in Florida.
Springs and Springshed Protection
DEP’s Florida Springs Initiative:Link graphic
Florida Springs Initiative research, reports and contact information for protection of Florida’s springs and springsheds.
Florida’s Springs: Protecting Nature’s Gems:Link graphic
An in-depth web production about springs.
DCA’s Springs Protection Resources:Link graphic
Department of Community Affairs website including best practices and model land code for spring and springshed protection.
FGS’s Springs Resources:Link graphic
Florida Geological Survey’s reports on springs and the aquifer.
University of Florida/IFAS Wetlands WebsiteLink graphic
Site provides comprehensive information about wetlands and wetland related issues in Florida.
Invasive Plant Control
Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants:Link graphic
The University of Florida’s online resource for information about invasive plants.
IFAS Assessment of the Status of Non-Native PlantsLink graphic
Site includes in-depth information about University of Florida/IFAS’s ongoing assessment of the invasive status of non-native plants.
DEP Bureau of Invasive Plant ManagementLink graphic
Resources provided by the Florida DEP for invasive plant control and removal.

JACKSONVILLE – A representative of the Coastal America Partnership presented the Coastal Spirit Award today to a highly successful Tributary Assessment Team (TAT) in Jacksonville. The team, which consists of members from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), City of Jacksonville, JEA, Duval County Department of Health and the Florida Department of Transportation, was created to investigate elevated levels of fecal coliforms in the Lower St. Johns River (LSJR) tributaries.

The Coastal America Awards Program was established in 1997 to recognize outstanding efforts and excellence in leadership for protecting, preserving and restoring the nation’s coastal resources and ecosystems. The awards are presented annually by the Coastal America Partnership, a unique partnership of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private organizations.

The TAT’s intensive water quality sampling and analysis resulted in action items coordinated amongst local and state agencies with authority to investigate and eliminate bacteria sources. In December 2009, the LSJR Tributaries Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) was adopted. The action plan identifies actions to decrease fecal coliform bacteria in 10 water bodies within the LSJR Basin. These water bodies are Newcastle Creek, Hogan Creek, Butcher Pen Creek, Miller Creek, Miramar Creek, Big Fishweir Creek, Deer Creek, Terrapin Creek, Goodbys Creek, and Open Creek.

Water quality restoration targets, called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), were adopted by DEP for the 10 water bodies. The TMDLs establish the amount of reduction of fecal coliform bacteria that is needed to restore the beneficial uses of these water bodies. The TMDLs require reductions in fecal coliform bacteria ranging from 60 to 92 percent in order to meet water quality standards. The BMAP lists the steps that must be taken to reduce bacteria, a schedule for their implementation, and potential resources to accomplish the reductions.

“This award recognizes the hard work and commitment of several local governments and numerous stakeholders to restore ten of the most at-risk water bodies in the basin,” said DEP Northeast District Director Greg Strong. “Our team has helped to establish a series of clearly defined actions that are targeted to reduce bacteria pollution in these important water bodies.”

The LSJR Tributaries BMAP was developed under DEP’s comprehensive approach to identify polluted waterways and build partnerships with local, regional, and state interests to return the water bodies to a healthy condition. Through its science-based program, DEP determined that these LSJR tributaries did not meet Florida’s water quality standards and, therefore, established restoration targets and worked in collaboration with local stakeholders to create the BMAP. The local stakeholders identified more than 480 projects to achieve restoration in these water bodies and have committed to monitoring to ensure restoration occurs and to identify additional fecal coliform sources.

Examples of significant project commitments include:

* City of Jacksonville – Prioritization of septic tank phase-out in these 10 tributaries, inspections of private wastewater infrastructure, capital improvement projects to reduce flooding issues, and identification and removal of illicit connections to the stormwater system.
* Duval County Health Department – Site-specific septic tank inspections in four tributaries that have areas identified as high risk for failure, septic tank failure area ranking, and permit reviews.
* Florida Department of Transportation – Maintenance of stormwater conveyances and identification and removal of illicit connections to the stormwater system.
* JEA – Upgrades, inspections, and maintenance of sewer infrastructure and implementation of proactive programs to prevent issues with the wastewater collection system.

Proposed actions include improvements in stormwater management, implementation of corrective actions for sewer system failures, removal of failing septic tanks, field investigations to better identify and mitigate pollutant sources, and ongoing public education programs. The stakeholders have already implemented many of these actions and the remaining projects will be in place within the next five years.

For more information on the Coastal Awards visit www.coastalamerica.gov.

For more information about DEP’s water quality protection and restoration programs, visit: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/tmdl/index.htm.