A century ago Florida’s gin-clear springs drew presidents and millionaires and tourists galore who sought to cure their ailments by bathing in the healing cascades. Now the springs tell the story of a hidden sickness, one that lies deep within the earth:
• The water in many springs no longer boils up like a fountain, the way they have for centuries. The flow has slowed. In some places it has even stopped or begun flowing backward.
• The water that does come out is polluted by nitrates.
• The pollution fuels the growth of toxic algae blooms, which are taking over springs and the rivers they feed and putting human health at risk.
• Finally, the fresh water coming out of many springs is showing signs of a growing saltiness, according to a study by the Florida Geological Survey.
All of it — particularly the saltiness — is a dark omen for the future of the state’s water supply.