Water resources engineering connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, environmental and societal issues. Our student Zpikin makes this connection here with the pollution problems in the State of Florida’s springs and groundwater which provide much of their drinking water and the policy behind fixing this problem.

Figure 1. The springs are clear, beautiful and commonly used for recreation

Figure 1. The springs are clear, beautiful and commonly used for recreation

The article published by the New York Times on April 14, 2014 titled “Florida Lawmakers Proposing a Salve for Ailing Springs” was written by Lizette Alvarez and went in depth about the issues faced by these freshwater areas and what is currently being done to save them. This is a pertinent hydrology issue because of the groundwater infiltration of pollutants is having a negative effect on the states drinking water supply and overall ecosystem health. The problem is due to dairy farming and the nutrient rich runoff which is ending up in groundwater and adjacent lagoons and springs causing algal blooms and wildlife deaths including fish, oysters and even manatees. Different solutions that have been pondered but it has proven difficult to decide the best plan of action because of cost and property rights but even residents had enough and sued the State for not doing enough to clean up the water. Finally, a decision was reached despite all the back and forth and a timetable has been put into place.

Figure 2. A resident living near the Springs sees the algae blooming from nutrient overloads

Figure 2. A resident living near the Springs sees the algae blooming from nutrient overloads

There has been a lot of hesitance when trying to come up with a plan to save these springs. Political clashes could potentially be the source in addition to the people that live around the park whose property would likely be affected as well. Finally everyone realized that the problem is real, not only having an effect on the springs but the locale economy as well. There has been a huge decline of once-popular clear bottom boat tours due to poor clarity in the water negatively impacting the tourism industry. Groundwater flows just as many other bodies of water do. There is agricultural waste inundating these groundwater systems that feed the springs resulting in nutrient rich water which creates the perfect environment for algal blooms. This has not only been seen in Florida but similarly so in Spain where non-point agricultural pollution is a concern to groundwater management and the springs the water feeds. As seen in the cross-section schematic (Fig. 3), showing groundwater flow and the resulting nutrient (NO3) load fluctuations in the springs over time. As anyone can see, there is a clear connection between groundwater and bodies of water it may feed (lakes, sprints etc.); anything entering these groundwaters, whether pharmaceuticals, agricultural waste or detergents will end up in the receiving bodies.

Figure 3. Schematic of groundwater flow off of an agricultural site

Figure 3. Schematic of groundwater flow off of an agricultural site

References

Alvarez, Lizette. “Florida Lawmakers Proposing a Salve for Ailing Springs.” The New York Times. The New  York Times, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.

Boy-Roura, Mercè, Anna Menció, and Josep Mas-Pla. “Temporal Analysis of Spring Water Data to Assess Nitrate Inputs to Groundwater in an Agricultural Area (Osona, NE Spain).” Science of the Total Environment 452-453 (May 2013): 433-45. Science Direct. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969713002507>.

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