Knight sounds alarm over plight of Florida’s springs

fsimural In: Knight sounds alarm over plight of Florida’s springs | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Photo by Jim Tatum.

Florida has the knowledge and the money to restore the springs but they have not restored one spring because they lack the political will.   They either throw money at useless projects that do not address the sources, or they lie and say the springs are in great shape, pretending to be doing a great job.

Actually the State does both, but either way the springs are dying little by little as time goes on, as the following article explains.

Read the entire article here in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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– A river is like a life: once taken,
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Knight sounds alarm over plight of Florida’s springs
October 7, 2020

Larry Savage

Gainesville Sun USA TODAY NETWORK

When Bob Knight opened the Florida Springs Institute 10 years ago in High Springs, he felt he had no choice.

He did it to help educate the public about the plight of the Florida springs. Involved in research since the 1970s, Knight said the springs are literally dying before his eyes.

“My job seems to be to monitor and record the demise of Florida’s springs,” said Knight, 72, who said there are more dry springs currently in the state than ever. “Some springs are stopping their flow completely, in which case they become a stagnant cesspool because

of the high nitrogen in the ground water. They become stagnant and grow toxic algae. The fish die, turtles die, everything dies except the algae.”

Springs are losing their natural blue water and turning brown because of the lack of flow combined with an increase of nitrogen. Knight said springs in North Central Florida have lost one-third of their flow potential.

He points to 20 years ago when the state had a program to restore the springs, under Gov. Jeb Bush. But when Rick Scott became governor, one of his many cuts included that program.

“The state has shown interest in protecting the springs but not doing anything that has actually been effective in improving the water quality or increasing their flow,” Knight said.

In 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced $100 million budget for springs restoration for all of Florida’s springs. But many of those working to save the springs, led by Knight, said too much of the money went to agriculture and farmers, who contribute to the springs’ demise with groundwater pumping and  fertilizer use.

It was another state promise that Knight said hasn’t delivered.

One of the many natural beauties in Florida is its springs, but if conditions continue future generations won’t have them.

To reverse this, Knight said businesses must care about the ecological impact of their decisions when building along the coast. Because of the human reliance on groundwater as our water supply, the overall flow reduction from Florida springs is 3 billion gallons a day. He gives dozens of presentations to Rotary clubs, civic groups, city officials and state agencies each year.

Knight also offers a monthly Springs Academy, an annual Springs Field School, a weekend school for college students, and presentations to high schools.

“We have the biggest concentration of springs anywhere in the world, and we are destroying this unique natural resource in the name of poorly controlled development with urban and agricultural activities,” Knight said. “Both activities have to be controlled if we are going to restore the springs. So I’m hoping my grandkids will see a healthy spring when they grow up, because they are going down fast.”

IFASDUKE I zoey In: Knight sounds alarm over plight of Florida’s springs | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Zoey Hendrickson. Photo by Jim Tatum.

Zoey Hendrickson is an environmental scientist who works at the Florida Springs Institute, and works closely with Knight.

“Most Floridians don’t realize drinking water comes from the aquifer,” Hendrickson said. “Some parents say they have never been to the springs and have lived here all their life. That’s been a lot of Bob’s struggle. Providing numbers isn’t enough. We as scientists have to shift how we produce science and make it more of a social movement than just data. That’s been a challenge for us, but it’s a good challenge.”

Knight said a large part of the Santa Fe River stopped flowing in 2012 due to a combination of drought and excessive groundwater pumping. The stagnant portion of the river was chocked by floating, rotting algae, killing fish and other wildlife.

When Jeb Bush’s program to save the springs — the Florida Springs Initiative — first started, Knight was a consultant to the state and studied 13 springs as part of that effort, traveling throughout the state to document their condition.

His data showed him the springs were in trouble. So by the time Scott became governor and the program was discontinued, Knight knew what he needed to do.

Knight taught at the University of Florida as an adjunct instructor in springs ecology up until 2010.

“I thought, if they are going to stop, then I’m going to start because someone needs to keep attention on the springs,” Knight said. “I started the institute 10 years ago because springs were having major problems with their water quality and their water quantity. Things haven’t gotten any better.”

Knight has devoted much of his life in researching and educating the public about Florida’s springs. He said because of reduced flow, rivers have backed into the springs and into the aquifer….

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