Protection of springs is one of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s highest priorities. The district has just concluded a three‑year investigation into the health of springs to develop an enhanced scientific foundation that will help identify the most effective restoration and protection actions. The $3 million project is an important component of the district’s Springs Protection Initiative.
In 2014, the district engaged the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the UF Water Institute to undertake extensive research, experimentation, data collection and analysis. Collaboration across scientific disciplines and areas of expertise allowed the team to perform research and experimentation specifically targeting the uniqueness of spring systems and gather significant ecological data and analyze it from multiple perspectives. The partnership was termed the “Collaborative Research Initiative on Sustainability and Protection of Springs,” or CRISPS.
The team’s work included:
- Enhancing the scientific foundation for the management of nitrates flowing into the springs
- Evaluating whether nitrate reduction alone will be sufficient to restore the balance of nature
- Assessing the influence of other pollutants and stressors
Scientists examined rainfall and runoff quantity and quality; aquifer storage, flow and spring discharge; nitrate sources, nitrate uptake and nitrate loss in soils and groundwater; spring functions and algae abundance.
Much of the work took place in the Silver Springs springshed in Marion County, while the Alexander Springs system in central Florida was a secondary site for hands-on study. The scientific understanding gained through the project will be applicable to other Florida springs and their ecosystems.