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Saving our Springs: How pollution, pumping and people are destroying Florida's freshwater treasures

Florida has the highest concentration of freshwater springs in the entire world, but the crystal-clear oases are at risk.

Emerald Morrow

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Published: 5:54 PM EDT August 31, 2022
Updated: 6:59 PM EDT September 1, 2022

On an early summer morning in Gilchrist County, Bob Knight and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson took a leisurely paddle along the Santa Fe River.

"This has been called the last pristine river in Florida because there's no wastewater treatment plants discharging into this river. There's no pipes withdrawing water directly from this river,” said Knight, the executive director of the Florida Springs Institute. “But it's not healthy because of the things that are happening around the river."

More than 36 springs feed the Santa Fe, but many of them are polluted and have reduced flows.

"The springs are being loved to death," Malwitz-Jipson said.

Ground pollution from nitrates, groundwater pumping by cities and businesses, and excessive recreation are the three main causes of impairment and decline in Florida’s freshwater springs.

Knight warns if nothing is done, healthy springs could vanish.

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson with Our Santa Fe River and Bob Knight with the Florida Springs Institute paddles along the Santa Fe River next to Rum Island Spring.

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