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Florida’s aquifers, steps to protect groundwater

By Staff | Aug 6, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Rainbow Springs is famous for its cool clear water. The bulk of it comes from groundwater sources through openings in the aquifer.

Our freshwater originates from two sources: groundwater and surface water. Both sources are recharged with rainfall. The majority – about 90 percent – of water used in Florida comes from groundwater sources called aquifers. An aquifer is an underground layer of porous rock or sediment that is saturated with water. Water enters an aquifer as precipitation seeps through the soil. It can be brought back up to the surface via natural springs or the creation of wells. Sometimes, it comes to the surface naturally and is called an artesian well.

Here in Florida, our largest aquifer is the Floridan, spanning for 82,000 square miles beneath Florida and extending into sections of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The aquifer averages 1,000 feet thick with freshwater found at depths up to 2,000 feet and is the state’s main source of potable water. Aquifers differ greatly in their depth and composition. In areas where the Floridan aquifer does not provide suitable drinking water, residents obtain their water from other shallow aquifers or surface water.

The three main aquifer systems in South Florida are the Biscayne Aquifer System, Intermediate Aquifer System and Floridan Aquifer System. The Intermediate Aquifer System is the main source of water for Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties.

The remaining 10 percent of our freshwater comes from surface waters. This is water that has not seeped into the ground and is exposed to air. Florida has surface freshwater in rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, ponds and wetlands.

Here are a few steps that everyone can take to help protect and conserve groundwater:

– Properly dispose of waste. Do not dump chemicals down the drain or outside on the ground.

– Reduce chemical use and opt for natural/nontoxic alternatives whenever possible.

– Conserve water inside and outside your home. Check for leaks and turn off faucets when not in use.

– Plant native landscaping. Native plants require less water and fertilizers than nonnative species.

Part of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation family, Coastal Watch creates and implements conservation initiatives that promote and improve the future of marine resources and the coastal heritage. For more information, visit sancapcoastalwatch.org or contact coastalwatch@sanibelseaschool.org.