Florida’s Famed Silver Springs Has Lost Two Thirds of Its Flow Rate
Silver Springs, the very brightest of Florida’s famed 700 springs, growing murky with algae and plant grow brought about by greatly reduced flow and consequential nitrate buildup. At one time glass-bottomed boats and underwater photography attracted visitors for all over the world. Even Tarzan was lured to the springs; six of the movies in the 1930s and ’40s were filmed here. Tourists arrived in droves to these springs, just outside Ocala.The springs scarcely bubble up now. Flow rate has dropped by a third over 10 years.
The culprits, environmental experts say, are a recent drought in north-central Florida and decades of pumping groundwater out of the aquifer to meet the demands of Florida’s population boom, its sprinklers and its agricultural industry. To what degree the overconsumption of groundwater is to blame for the changes is being batted back and forth between environmentalists and the state’s water keepers. But, for the first time, a state with so much rain is beginning to seriously fret about water.
And the decline in the springs are likely a foretaste of worse to come. As one expert in springs explained, “Springs are a very good canary in a coal mine because they pull water off the top of the aquifer.”