Springs Protection Initiative

Demonstrating the state’s commitment to long-term springs protection, the St. Johns River Water Management District began a Springs Protection Initiative in late 2012 that combines science, projects, planning and regulatory programs to reduce nitrate loading and protect spring flows.

The district has been working with other agencies for many years through various programs to increase knowledge and understanding about the region’s springs, while also working to protect springs systems. Some of this ongoing work includes:

  • Collecting flow and water quality data at springs
  • Developing minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for springs systems
  • Protecting MFLs in the consumptive use permitting process
  • Protecting MFLs by developing and implementing MFL prevention and recovery strategies
  • Assisting the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the development of total maximum daily loads and basin management action plans to meet water quality targets and natural systems goals
  • Continuing to provide cost-share funding for springs restoration projects

The Springs Protection Initiative utilizes district resources to develop and coordinate the protection and restoration of major springs. The Initiative is a focused effort to achieve springs protection through:

  • Science that builds on past work, seeking to develop the most cost-effective actions to reduce nitrate loading to the springs, and addressing other factors contributing to growth of undesirable algae in the springs
  • Projects to reduce nitrate loading and other factors that adversely affect springs, developed based on the outcome of new scientific work being completed
  • District regulatory programs, specifically consumptive use permitting, environmental resource permitting and minimum flows and levels

To address the ecological changes that have occurred in many of the spring systems of the district, the district has initiated an in-depth investigation that will result in reliable, cost-effective remedies. This multi­disciplinary investigation provides scientific support for development of a compre­hensive and cost-effective plan for holistic protection. It will improve the understand­ing of springshed geohydro­logy, delineate geographic and source variation in nitrate loadings, and explain the relative influences of various environmental factors on the abundance of undesirable biota such as filamentous algae. The initial focus is on Silver Springs, the springs of the Wekiva River, and Blue Spring in Volusia County. The district will utilize the focused expertise of district staff for this evaluation, and also will work with experts from the outside.

The Initiative includes enhanced coordination and participation of many entities, including the district, DEP, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and numerous local governments and utilities and the Southwest Florida and Suwannee River water management districts.

Staff measuring discharge at Salt Springs

A district scientist collects discharge measurements at Salt Springs.