Monday, May 21, 2012

Is the Department of Environmental Protection Fiddling While Florida’s First Magnitude Springs Turn Green

The Greening of Wakulla Springs
If you’re monitoring the news these days, you’re hearing about the declining state of one of Florida’s most unique natural assets, its world-class concentration of first magnitude springs in northern Florida.  Everywhere, these deep chasms of water that once boiled furiously upward to the delight of generations of local swimmers and thrill-seeking tourists have now slowed to only a vestige of their past strength by drought and over-pumping.  Worse yet, many have also become clouded with sediment and slime fed by the nutrient-rich seepage of over-fertilized golf courses, lawns, farm fields and septic tanks.  The fish that at one time were as clear as you might see them in an aquarium are nearly gone. 

Are you concerned, agitated, and fearful about what’s happening?  Worried about what’s being done about it? Or have you just become numb to the thought, kind of like the Israelis have become numb to the fact that the Palestinians have rockets aimed at their homes from three directions? (Okay, so the analogy’s a stretch, but stay with me.)
I just watched 60 Minutes on CBS and learned that despite having armed rockets pointed their way and suicide bombers threatening every public gathering with mass murder, Tel Aviv residents have become “numb,” as a reporter put it.  They go to the beach, to the restaurants and the bars, and carry on normal and apparently very happy lives as if there was nothing to worry about.  An observer noted that it seems they have become hopeless because they believe there is little they can do about it all, so why worry. 
Importantly, he noted that ignoring the danger does nothing to lessen the genuine danger that exists for them.  Point being, ignoring a threat to one’s way of life will not make the threat go away.
The problem with Florida’s springs, while certainly not as immediately lethal, has a somewhat similar ring.  While one can hear the wailing of those with a particular emotional appreciation for Florida’s natural environment, the silence from the majority of Floridians is deafening.  Have they become numb to the reality that Florida’s springs are being taken from them and have simply given up hope that anything can be done to stop it? Like the Tel Avivians, have they simply decided to go to the mall?
It’s a valid question. Those in a position to do something about the obvious deterioration are ignoring the problem and most of us are just shrugging our shoulders.  Just as Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear nation seems so unstoppable by our elected leaders, so is the continuing deterioration of Florida’s springs.  State legislators continue to pander to the moneyed elite and ignore the insidious decay beneath their feet.  Florida’s world reknowned environmental legacy is at risk while they haggle over how best to cut the cost of protecting some of the state’s greatest natural assets because "regulation kills jobs.”
This studied denial of the importance of natural Florida has pervaded even the self-aggrandizing publication of the Department of Environmental Protection.  If you visit their “Florida State Parks” website (, you’ll find this warning about the historic and once incredibly beautiful Wakulla Springs:
“Glass-Bottom Boat Tours over the spring basin have become the exception rather than the rule in recent years. Tea-stained or green water impedes the penetration of light needed to view the impressive features of the 120 foot deep chasm of Wakulla Spring. Heavy rains, combined with other unknown factors, are thought to be the cause of decreased visibility.”
”To avoid disappointment, it is strongly suggested that the park be contacted prior to expected visitation to ascertain the feasibility of glass-bottom boat operation. Water quality conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly.
It is unfathomable that the state agency responsible for “getting the water right” has become so blasé about such a disaster that they blandly warn visitors to check first because the spring has become prone to green scum and cloudy water instead of the crystal clear natural wonder it used to be.  Have we all become so calloused by the indifference of our elected leaders that to read this on the primary website where all of Florida’s parks are marketed to the world we are yet not appalled and offended as we should be?   
Well, I’m appalled, even if I’m only one of a few.  And I’m disgusted.  I’m going to start seeking out my elected representatives and asking why they aren’t as well.  You should, too.


  1. Amen!! We need a 2012 Water Awareness Campaign to push water issues to the forefront of this next election cycle!

  2. Some peopleare not indifferent and are taking action. (check back for updates on protest and events.)
    Karen Chadwick

  3. Nothing new here folks, just the same ole game since "we" settled this water state. Tame the wild, the rich can manipulate anything with enough politicians in their pockets.

  4. pump baby pump....the teabaggers never saw a pump they didn't like

  5. You hit it on the spot. We have all been talking about this. Thanks for making so much sense. I'm going to share this far and wide.

  6. Robert J. Henn IIIMay 21, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    When the price of water excedes the cost of gas people will flee this state like the plaque, then and only then will the water table start to rise again, Til then we will suffer with low water pressure and quailty. The only thing that would make people leave faster is a lack of A/C.

  7. You are a poet in defense of Florida’s vanishing natural resources. Thanks for capturing the problem so well. Our leaders are ignoring the problem, but perhaps it is because they aren’t qualified for their jobs.

  8. From Cynthia Barnett's article "Nature slip-siding away for Suwannee River, Florida" published in the Tampa Bay Times (

    "To the west, strike out another past prize, Wakulla Springs south of Tallahassee. The deepest freshwater spring in the world has darkened and become so choked with algae the glass-bottomed boats rarely run anymore. Scientists say human sewage is primarily to blame."

    Cynthia Barnett is the author of "Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis" and "Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S."


  9. Sonny, just politics as usual in Florida. The more interesting article was the one on springs and declining flows that the TBT published this morning also. Don't take this the wrong way but I think there was too much weaving in of the Palestinian, Iranian, Jewish condition which didn't resonate with me. I think the more interesting article would be to look at spring flows since say 2008 when most migration into the State stopped and water use declined dramatically. The Districts have been too successful with their conservation programs and although I use half as much water now, I still pay the same amount. I don't think you can blame all the spring decline on overpumping

    1. Surely if this is politics as usual we're in deep trouble. Yes, the middle east analogy was a stretch. (Poetic license.) Interesting that you feel conservation has been too successful because you use less and pay more for water. I'd say we're just getting started. If the state wants to continue to grow economically, water is going to become harder to come by without causing major resource damage and will cost even more. Consider it politics as usual. -Sandspur