TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection joins the nation in recognizing March 9 through 15 as National Groundwater Awareness Week. The week not only highlights the importance of groundwater, which is the source of 97 percent of the world’s fresh, usable water, but allows everyone to examine the challenges and potential solutions that face this essential resource.
Groundwater is water that is stored in the cracks and spaces within soils and rocks below the ground. It is one of Florida’s most vital natural resources – the source of drinking water for more than 90 percent of the state’s population. Floridians use about 4.6 billion gallons of ground water per day. It provides drinking water to urban and rural communities, supports irrigation and industry, sustains the flow of springs, streams and rivers and maintains riparian and wetland ecosystems.
“Florida’s karst geology fosters strong interaction between surface water and groundwater, and regardless of which water it is, water sustains life,” said Dr. Jon Arthur, Director of the Department’s Florida Geological Survey. “Karstic aquifers are highly vulnerable to contamination, making the work of geoscientists and engineers important toward protection and conservation of these critical resources.”
Floridians are fortunate to have a large source of groundwater. Groundwater fills the cracks and pores in sand, soil, and the rocks that lie beneath the surface of the earth, much like water fills a sponge. These water-filled layers of earth are called aquifers, and they are Florida’s main source of drinking water. Florida’s high rainfall and unique geology makes our groundwater extremely vulnerable to contamination, which makes protection that much more important.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is tasked with protecting, conserving and restoring Florida’s valuable ground water resources. To accomplish this, the Department, in concert with the Water Management Districts, regulate consumptive water use and well construction, conduct well surveillance programs, test groundwater used for drinking water, conduct research on natural and human influences on groundwater and regulate wastewater systems and toxic chemicals.
The threats to groundwater can come from many sources, both natural and human-made. Nature can change the quality of our groundwater through severe weather, droughts and contamination that enters through sinkholes. Human activity is the main contributor to groundwater contamination.
The quality and quantity of groundwater are the challenges the Department faces and and everyone can help play a role in protection and restoration of this precious resource. There are two types of pollution sources: point source and non-point source. Point source pollution refers to pollution that originates from a definable source such as a leaking underground storage tank or a factory. Most non-point source pollution comes from fertilizers and pesticides spread on fields, lawns and parks. Stormwater, the water that runs off impervious surfaces such as streets and parking lots, contains many pollutants, and is a contributing factor to pollution. These include oils, greases, heavy metals and coliform bacteria.
In addition to supplying drinking water to many of the millions of Florida residents and the state’s visitors, recreational opportunities are found in water that escapes from aquifers, known as springs. Governor Scott has included $55 million in springs protection and restoration funding in his 2014 “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget” that will allow Florida to continue this administration’s unprecedented efforts to return one of our state’s most precious resources to health. Since 2011, $18.7 million has been specifically directed to springs protection.
Here are some tips to protect groundwater in Florida:
For more information on National Groundwater Awareness Week, click here.
About the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s principal environmental agency, created to protect, conserve and manage Florida’s environment and natural resources. The Department enforces federal and state environmental laws, protects Florida’s air and water quality, cleans up pollution, regulates solid waste management, promotes pollution prevention and acquires environmentally-sensitive lands for preservation. The agency also maintains a statewide system of parks, trails and aquatic preserves. To view the Department’s website log on to www.dep.state.fl.us.