SPEAK OUT

THE ISSUE: Florida’s over-pumped and polluted springs are in crisis.

OUR OPINION: Citizens should demand caps on groundwater pumping and personal nitrate use.


You may think that swimming in a spring is the most harm a human could possibly do to it, but that is a far cry from reality.

The H.T. Odum Florida Springs Institute recently published the first Florida Conservation Plan, summarizing historical and recent health data of Florida’s 32 “sentinel” (publicly owned, large and economically important) springs, and the results are alarming. In King’s Bay/Crystal River and Homosassa, our springs’ health grade is a “D” and labeled “poor.”

The factors contributing to springs’ health in the study include flow, salinity and nitrate concentrations. Are you satisfied with a D?

According to Chronicle guest columnist Dr. Robert Knight (Page C1, Sunday, Jan. 27), half of the springs explored in the assessment received a grade of D+ or lower. Our D grade implies that the health of our local springs are classified in the bottom half of springs health in the state.

This label indicates degraded conditions and significant loss of ecological health — something that requires our immediate and focused attention.

The Florida Conservation Plan outlines steps needed to curb total human-induced degradation of Florida’s springs, and two ways in which we can take immediate action include limiting groundwater use and the use of nitrogen fertilizers.

In the assessment, 19 of the “sentinel” springs received an F grade for average flow reductions greater than 20 percent; 11 received an F grade for nitrogen pollution above 1 milligram/liter (a 2,000 increase over natural levels).

To restore the health of springs, attention should be focused to reducing extractions of groundwater and decreasing nitrogen pollution.

To change our current habits, that means potentially capping the amounts of groundwater citizens can take for avoidable uses (like watering lawns), capping the use of nitrogen fertilizers and putting fees on human-caused nitrogen sources (septic systems).

Guest columnist Dan Hillard said the best way to accomplish this is by demanding the diligence of public servants (Page C1, Sunday,

Jan. 27). For the everyday citizen living in Citrus, this means insisting elected officials take steps to ensure that we never reach the level of irreversible harm.

Hillard, a former en route air traffic control specialist, urges citizens to speak out, citing the historic increase of airline safety to public outcry. It takes a community to enact change and hold public officials accountable.

If a student received a D grade, would you just sit idly by, or give them special attention?

The quality of the water in Citrus is of the utmost importance. Our springs shouldn’t fail due to our collective unwillingness to step up and demand action. It is imperative that we resist the urge to defer the responsibility.

There are no simple solutions, and there needs to be a public will to do it, or it won’t happen.

To curb your own personal impact, look into Florida-Friendly Landscaping, limit irrigation and practice moderation. Stay on top of hot-button water issues like minimum flow levels (MFL) and House Bill (HB) 157 (requiring the use of slow-release fertilizers), and pass your thoughts to your political representatives.

Demand that elected representative stay on top of spring degradation by implementing proactive regulations instead of using taxpayer dollars to clean up your neighbor’s pollution.

We all need to accept partial responsibility for the problem, and we need to work together to keep our springs healthy.

Have feelings on this issue? Sound off at 352-563-0579.

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