Springs are among Florida’s most renowned environmental treasures — fonts of crystal clear water, oases for animals and plants, year-round playgrounds for swimmers and divers from across the state and around the world.
But Florida’s springs are dying. Less water is flowing, due in part to overpumping from their underground water supply to feed the development beast.
They are increasingly slimed by algae and weeds, fed by nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients contained in the run-off from storm drains, fertilized lawns and septic tanks.
At the iconic Silver Springs near Ocala, famed for its glass-bottom boats, the flow has dropped by at least half since 2000, this year reaching its lowest level ever. Algae tints the water green and weeds cover most of the white sandy bottom.
This is an emerging environmental disaster. And an economic one. A state-commissioned study in 2004 estimated that recreation and tourism associated with Silver Springs added $61 million a year to the economy and supported more than 1,000 jobs.