The Floridan Aquifer
Florida’s Lifeblood– Clear, pure groundwater is the lifeblood of Florida's artesian springs. Remove flowing water and a spring is a sinkhole, a stagnant window into the dark, dead limestone below our feet. A spring's functionality, or "life" declines, essentially to zero, when its flow ceases, and increases in proportion to flow. The living assemblage of plants and animals characteristic of Florida's springs are directly dependent upon the quantity of groundwater that "springs" forth from its limestone vent.
All life is dependent upon water, including human life. When we are deprived of water it takes from one to three days for a typical adult human to die. Springs and humans in north and central Florida are dependent upon the same water supply. There is really only one, highly-interconnected Floridan Aquifer - a single supply of groundwater for humans and springs.
When humans consume groundwater there is less flow at our springs. This is direct competition for a limited resource. A gallon of water consumed by humans is one less gallon for springs. A million gallons consumed by humans is a million fewer gallons for our springs and their dependent ecosystems. The question for humans who wish to protect our springs is: how much is too much? How much flow can a spring lose and still be healthy?
Q&A on the Floridan Aquifer
How Big is the Floridan Aquifer?
The Floridan aquifer system extends 100,000 square miles and includes all of Florida and portions of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
Where Does all the Water Come From?
The total recharge to the Floridan Aquifer System during an average year is estimated as 13.9 billion gallons per day, all of which used to flow out through springs.
How Do Humans Impact the Springs?
Wells are functionally the same as springs - they are artificial discharge points from the Floridan Aquifer System. Currently, we are pumping an average of about 3.6 billion gallons a day from the system, or 1/4 of the former average spring flow.
What is all That Water Used For?
Spring flows are dependent upon the pressure in the Floridan Aquifer System and decline rapidly as levels decline. A spring will stop flowing when aquifer levels are reduced by as little as 10 to 20 feet. Water levels in the Floridan Aquifer System have already been reduced in many urban areas by 30 to 90 feet.
During dry years with reduced rainfall and recharge, the input to the aquifer declines to about 9 billion gallons a day and pumping increases, resulting in an estimated reduction in spring flows of over 40%. Harm to a spring's ecology occurs at a reduction in flows between 4 and 15%.
Total fresh water use in Florida is expected to increase.
Conclusion: We are already exceeding the capacity of the Floridan Aquifer System to supply adequate water to maintain springs health. The only way to restore health to these springs is to greatly reduce our reliance on groundwater from the Floridan Aquifer System.