Florida is home to more large (first and second magnitude) springs than any other state in the nation. Springs are the window into the health of our groundwater, which is the source of 90 percent of drinking water for Floridians. Some springs support entire ecosystems with unique plants and animals. They also flow into other rivers that are dependent on the spring’s clean fresh water. Additionally, Florida’s springs offer many recreational opportunities such as swimming, kayaking and diving, attracting visitors from all over the world and serving as economic drivers for our communities. Florida's springs face various complex threats, including decreasing spring flows and excessive nutrients. Spring flows decrease because of declining water levels in the groundwater aquifer that sustains them and excessive nutrients, mainly nitrate, can lead to algal growth and habit degradation. Florida is committed to investing in nitrate-reducing capital projects (wastewater, stormwater and nonpoint source pollution control projects) and water-quantity projects to protect and restore springs as well as in conserving and acquiring land in spring recharge zones to prevent nitrate contamination. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Scott and the Legislature, the state of Florida has made an unprecedented financial commitment to springs restoration, funding nearly $268 million over the last four years specifically for springs restoration. This record funding has enabled the department to assist local governments and other stakeholders to identify and construct projects that are imperative to achieving restoration goals. Much has been done to date, however there is more work to be done for springs restoration and long-term protection. All of the Outstanding Florida Springs – historic first-magnitude springs as well as De Leon, Peacock, Poe, Rock, Wekiwa, and Gemini – that are impaired lie within areas covered by a basin management action plan that is either adopted or currently being developed. A restoration plan is a comprehensive set of strategies to reduce or eliminate pollutant loadings and restore particular waterbodies to health.
In 2016, the Florida Legislature identified 30 "Outstanding Florida Springs" that require additional protections to ensure their conservation and restoration for future generations. These protections will be outlined in restoration plans, known as Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs). These plans are focused on reducing nitrogen pollution that is impacting the water quality of these springs. For springs that are not meeting water quality standards, DEP must develop BMAPs by July 1, 2018.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.