Keeping waterways clean and abundant has developed into a top concern for Florida business, lawmakers and residents, not just for the state’s entertainment and commerce, but also for its drinking water.
To help Floridians understand how natural springs are necessary to the state’s environment and economy, the Legislature, as well as a number of Water Management Districts, joined the Department of Environmental Protection in declaring April as the official “Springs Protection Awareness” month.
“Florida’s springs are one of our most fascinating geological treasures,” said DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard in a prepared statement. “The health of Florida’s many springs is directly related to our actions, and this month is dedicated to encouraging residents and visitors to help conserve our springs.”
With more than 300 documented springs statewide, clean and flowing water from aquifers, remaining at a consistent temperature, is essential for healthy plant and animal life. Those springs also serve as key indicators of the health of nearby groundwater, which supplies 93 percent of the state with drinking water.
Demonstrating the state’s responsibility to sustainable ground and surface water, Gov. Rick Scott dedicated $10 million in 2013, expanded to $37 million with state and local funding partners, to advance ten spring improvement projects statewide.
In Scott’s “it’s Your Money” tax cut budget for 2014-15, the state will allocate an additional $55 million for spring protection.
As part of the campaign to protect natural waterways, the Florida Park Service installed new interactive kiosks at each of 20 state parks with freshwater springs to educate visitors on the continuing threats to the water supply — such as erosion, pollution and invasive plants—as well as what they can do to reduce those threats.
For the rest of April, the DEP and Water Management Districts will provide tips on ways to help protect springs throughout the year:
With landscaping and lawn care:
- Resist the urge to over-fertilize. Applying twice as much as fertilizer as is recommended does not make plants grow twice as fast.
- Do not over-water your lawn. Use a rain gauge to determine when and if you need to water.
- Use rain barrels to capture and store rainwater to water plants.
As for indoor water use:
- Install aerators on all household faucets; they restrict the flow of water.
- Re-use water. Catch water while you shower and use it to water plants. Try the same approach when washing vegetables or rinsing dishes.
- Ensure that septic tanks and drain fields are properly maintained.
When visiting Florida springs:
- Avoid trampling submerged vegetation and stirring sediments when tubing, snorkeling, or swimming at springs.
- Use extreme caution when boating and anchoring in spring runs. Anchors, props and boat groundings can harm aquatic vegetation and increase the cloudiness of the water.
- Dispose of your trash properly. Cans and bottles, cigarette butts, plastic bags and other waste harm water quality and wildlife and destroy the natural beauty of the springs.
For more information on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in addition to resources for Citizens, businesses and educators, visit www.dep.state.fl.us.