By Robert Knight, Florida Springs Institute
Florida is the Land of a Thousand Springs. Beautiful and healthy springs are among Florida’s most important natural attractions. Crystal clear, sky blue and teaming with fish; cooling in summer, warm enough for manatees in winter.
But North Florida’s springs are now more endangered than South Florida’s Everglades.
Increasingly dominated by tannic waters, suffering from declining flows, polluted by nutrients, choked with noxious filamentous algae and often overwhelmed by uncontrolled recreation, Florida’s once-pristine springs are a shadow of their past glory and a testament to poor resource management and economic greed.
If you are one of the millions of Florida’s residents who has visited these springs, and if you enjoyed that unforgettable experience, it is time to take action to help save our springs for the future.
Officials not doing their jobs
Public officials pass laws that are intended to ensure clean water and protect our natural environment and are expected to enforce those laws. We pay our taxes so they can reverse the pollution and depletion of the springs allowed by previous administrations. Why should you spend more of your own money and invest your energy to do their job for them?
The sad answer is because they are not doing their job. Ongoing data collection and analysis by the non-profit Florida Springs Institute indicates that despite our government throwing money at these problems, our springs are less healthy every year. Florida’s springs are dying in a single generation primarily due to the greed of for-profit corporations and the politicians they finance.
Vote for the environment
I have a vision for a brighter future for Florida’s springs. That optimistic future requires that we vote for the environment.
Vote because your life and the lives of your children depend on clean water and a healthy world. Vote for candidates who have a track record of working for the public good rather than for the wealth of their corporate donors.
It is easy for political candidates to claim they support clean, healthy springs. But that is often far from the truth. Tallahassee politicians and their appointees to the environmental agencies are not acting on your behalf or for the future health of Florida’s natural waters.
Many of Florida’s most important waterways are dying. From the Everglades to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, and the Indian River Lagoon; to Tampa Bay, the St. Johns, the Suwannee and the Apalachicola rivers; and to North Florida’s priceless springs. Given the inaction of Florida’s existing government to protect our waters, it is time for new strategies and leadership.
Corporate accountability and personal responsibility are both needed to ensure a brighter future for our state. We need to know our taxes are paying for better wastewater cleansing, reduced aquifer depletion and increased protection of public lands that are off-limits to urban or agricultural development.
Last defense against destruction
But we should all do more. Environmental nonprofits statewide are the last defense against the rampant destruction of Florida’s natural environments.
Nonprofits conduct the science, educate the public, defend our waters in court and monitor the politicians. Your financial, volunteer and moral support for these selfless organizations will help prove that a successful economy and healthy waterways can co-exist in Florida.
Our drinking water aquifers and our surface waters are already polluted and depleted due to lax governmental oversight. But don’t be fooled by false claims that we can’t do anything about this tragedy.
We can have jobs, food and clean waters. Our ground and surface waters can be restored and protected in combination with a thriving economy.
If we all play our part to change our defective leadership, our springs, rivers and estuaries will have the chance to heal themselves.
Dr. Robert Knight is founder and director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in High Springs. This column is part of The Messages from the Springs Heartland series published in the Gainesville Sun. More pieces from the series can be found at bit.ly/springsheartland.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.