District and UF complete collaborative three-year investigation into Florida springs’ health

PALATKA, Fla., Jan. 5, 2018 — Scientists and engineers with the St. Johns River Water Management District and University of Florida have completed a collaborative multi-year science investigation into the health of priority spring systems. The partnership was launched in 2014 to develop an enhanced scientific foundation to help identify the most effective projects and strategies to protect or restore the district’s Outstanding Florida Springs.

“The state of Florida and the St. Johns River Water Management District have made protection of Florida’s Outstanding Florida Springs one of our highest priorities,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann B. Shortelle. “The challenge for water managers is finding a balance that provides environmental protection while also meeting people’s water needs and allowing for continued enjoyment of these unique natural resources. As a result of this cutting-edge effort, our path forward on springs protection and restoration will continue to be informed by the very latest science.”

In 2014, the district launched the three‑year investigation and engaged the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the UF Water Institute to assist with research, experimentation, data collection and analysis. The partnership is called the Collaborative Research Initiative on Sustainability and Protection of Springs, or CRISPS.

“For the past three years, the University of Florida has proudly joined the district in their commitment to the protection of Florida’s springs,” said Dr. Jack Payne, IFAS senior vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Along the way, the scientists from our two organizations have established a partnership that has answered important questions and that can help answer many more questions in the years to come. This is what the land-grant mission of UF/IFAS is all about — science in the service of society. Collaboration with the district has been a great opportunity to do work that is relevant and beneficial to all Floridians.”

“Collaboration across scientific disciplines and areas of expertise has allowed the team to perform research and experimentation specifically targeting the uniqueness of spring systems and to gather significant ecological data and analyze them from multiple perspectives,” said Casey Fitzgerald, director of the district’s Springs Protection Initiative.

“Florida’s springs are complex ecosystems that require multifaceted strategies for effective protection and management,” said Dr. Wendy Graham, director of the UF Water Institute. “In order for the state of Florida to spend its springs protection and restoration dollars wisely, cooperative interdisciplinary efforts, such as this one, that bring researchers and managers together are essential.”

“UF has partnered with the district for the past four decades on various projects that dealt with management and restoration of ecosystems with the St. Johns River Basin, and the success of the CRISPS project is an example of this joint effort,” said Dr. K. Ramesh Reddy, chair of UF’s Soil and Water Sciences Department and Principal Investigator of the project. “The findings of this multi-year effort provide much needed information toward developing enhanced management strategies to protect and restore springs. These foundational research efforts must be continued to develop long-term innovative and sustainable solutions to protect these fragile ecosystems.”

Since 2014, the district has cost-shared with local governments, utilities and agricultural interests on more than 80 projects protecting spring water flow and water quality. The district has contributed more than $35 million toward vital springs protection projects, resulting in more than 62 million gallons of alternative water supplied and 4 million gallons of water a day (mgd) conserved. These projects also have reduced total nitrogen to priority spring systems by 990,000 pounds and total phosphorus by 19,400 pounds.

The final report is available on the district’s website at www.sjrwmd.com/waterways/springs/springs-science-investigation/.

For more information about springs within the district, visit the district’s website at www.sjrwmd.com/waterways/springs.