Protecting Springs and Groundwater
Check out this Springs Friendly Landscaping Checklist to see how you are doing!
Our Springs need our help! Water quality, clarity, and levels have been decreasing in many of our springs. The keys to protecting springs are:
- Reducing Nutrients and
- Reducing Water Use
Although plants and animals require nutrients, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Excess nutrients often come from fertilizers, septic systems, wastewater treatment plants, and agriculture lands.
Even if you don't live near a spring you may be affecting the springs because the water that soaks into the ground at your house may travel through underground tunnels and caves to springs miles away. When we use water to irrigate our lawns, wash our clothes and dishes, etc.- we may be contributing to the lower water levels at nearby springs.
You can protect springs by:
- Not using fertilizers (or use no phosphorus, slow release nitrogen ones if you must fertilize)
- Planting native trees and bushes instead of lawns
- Conserving water by mulching plants and installing drip irrigation
- Maintaining your septic system or upgrading to an advanced system
- Re-use stormwater by using rain barrels, rain gardens, or other LID techniques
- Check out this Springs Protection Brochure
- Support the acquisition of conservation lands, which are essential for protecting our springs.
Groundwater supplies ALL of our drinking water!
The Floridan aquifer system is located underneath all of Florida and is the primary source of drinking water for Alachua County. (Click HERE to see a map of the Floridan aquifer.) Water is stored and flows through porous limestone and dolomite formations moving northwest to the springs along the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers where they discharge into these rivers. The shallow water of the Floridan aquifer system is recharged primarily by rain. Rain water soaks into the ground in the western part of the county where the aquifer is unconfined, which means there is only sand above the limestone and dolomite aquifer. In eastern Alachua County the Floridan aquifer is overlain by clay, sand, and carbonate sequences called the Hawthorn Group. This clay layer keeps rainwater on the surface and causes it to run off and form the surface water streams, lakes and wetlands in eastern Alachua County. The map below shows the abundance of surface waters in the eastern part of the county. Many of these surface waters eventually end up recharging the Floridan aquifer system through sinkholes or swallets, which are sinkholes that swallow up a portion or all of a stream's flow.
In many parts of Florida the overuse of groundwater for irrigation of non-agricultural landscapes has caused water shortages requiring the use of other sources such as lakes, rivers and even the desalination of salt water. The irresponsible and wasteful use of groundwater has lowered the potentiometric surface (water table elevation) of the Floridan aquifer system, which means there is less water in the aquifer since rainfall cannot replace what is being used. The lowering of the potentiometric surface has caused some springs to stop flowing and wells to go dry, requiring people to drill their wells deeper.
Click HERE to see an enlarged version of this map.
To protect springs, it is essential to protect groundwater. Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (ACEPD) is involved in monitoring the quantity and quality of water in the Floridan aquifer system. Sampling efforts are aimed at monitoring levels of nutrients and bacteria in the groundwater. ACEPD also performs semi-annual potentiometric surface mapping of the Floridan aquifer system to monitor groundwater levels within Alachua County.
ACEPD also helps protect Gainesville's drinking water supply by inventorying all wells in close proximity to the GRU Murphree Well Field in adherence with Alachua County Murphree Wellfield Protection Code. This inventory is intended to protect this portion of the aquifer by identifying nearby wells that are in poor condition which might thereby serve as conduits for aquifer contamination.
Pollution Prevention Programs
Alachua County Environmental Protection has a Petroleum Cleanup Program and a Storage Tank Compliance Program under contract withthe states Department of Environmental Protection. Check out their websites to learn more about these programs.
If you have swithched to electric or gas, you can have your old heating oil pumped from your household tank for free! Staff from the Alachua County Hazardous Waste Collection Center will come pump the oil out and dispose of it properly. Removing the oil prevents it from leaking out and causing pollution. To find out more about this program call 264-6800.
Old tanks can leak oil and pollute our drinking water.