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Jacob's Well SpringFrequently Asked Questions

1. What is a spring?

A spring is a point where groundwater flows out of the ground, and is thus where the aquifer surface meets the surface of the earth. With more than 900 freshwater springs, Florida has one of the largest concentrations of springs on Earth. Most of the springs are located in northern and central Florida.

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2. How do springs form?

All of Florida is underlain by limestone which occurs at various depths beneath the surface. Where the limestone is at or near the surface it becomes vulnerable to chemical weathering processes. Rainwater is made slightly acidic by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and can become more acidic as it moves through the soil. When this acidic rainwater reaches the limestone it can dissolve away some of the rock. Over millions of years this process, called dissolution, can cause numerous cavities and caves to form in the limestone. These cavities can be large enough to fit buildings in! When the material overlying one of these cavities collapses, it forms a sinkhole. The landforms created by the dissolution of limestone are called karst and include sinkholes, springs and caves. The majority of large springs in Florida were likely formed by sinkhole activity. Water in our aquifers rises and falls due to changes in sea level and in precipitation rates. When water in the aquifer is high enough to intersect the ground surface, through a sinkhole or other karst feature, it creates a spring.

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3. What is a spring magnitude?

Springs are ranked according to the volume of water flowing from the ground. Discharge from Florida’s springs can range from less than 1 pint per minute (Eighth Magnitude) to more than 64.6 million gallons per day (First Magnitude).

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4. What are the biggest threats to springs and how do you prevent them?

The health of springs depends largely on the activities in the spring basin and at the spring itself. The people closest to the spring can have the biggest impact on a spring’s health.

  • Lawn Care: To protect the spring, landscape your yard with native, Florida Friendly, plants. Non-native plants often require more frequent watering and fertilization  to grow. Excess fertilizers can leach into the groundwater and travel to springs upsetting the delicate balance of the fragile spring ecosystem. Visit www.floridayards.org for more information.
  • Human Consumption: Floridians use an average of 103 gallons of water a day. Approximately ninety percent of the state's drinking water is supplied by groundwater. It is important that citizens limit their water usage, through local conservation practices, to ensure adequate water supplies for human use and to protect fragile spring ecosystems.
  • Recreational Activities: Recreational activities like camping, swimming, tubing and boating can have a direct impact on the water quality of the springs as well as on the animals and plants that live there. These impacts include the trampling of native vegetation, the disturbance of wildlife, an increase in soil erosion and water turbidity, and direct physical damage to plants and animals by boat propellers, groundings and anchors. When people visit the springs they can ensure that they are being good stewards by not disturbing submerged or emergent vegetation to minimize recreational impacts to springs ecology.

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5. How many springs are located in Florida?

There are more than 900 freshwater springs in the state of Florida.

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6. What is government doing to protect Florida’s springs?

The state of Florida has made it a priority to protect Florida's springs. In 2013 Governor Rick Scott announced a $10 million investment in springs resotration. Additional funds from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and local partners brought the total for springs restoration projects to $37 million.

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7. What types of animals are found in springs?

Clear spring waters provide a natural aquarium for many of the state's most common, as well as most unusual, fish species including:

  • The American mullet that migrates to the springs from the ocean.
  • The white and brown bullhead catfish that lives in the dark recesses of the springs' underwater caves, emerging only at night to feed.

Florida's springs also support some interesting reptiles, including:

  • The American alligator, the largest reptile in North America.
  • The loggerhead musk turtle, which attains a maximum size of only five inches.

Above the surface of the water, springs are home to many of the most recognizable mammals and birds found in Florida.

  • The Great Blue Heron, whitetail deer and otter, can be found at the springs year-round.
  • The springs' constant 70-degree waters provide a warm-water refuge for species like the West-Indian manatee.

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8. Where can I visit a spring?

Nineteen Florida State Parks are named for springs. Each year these parks draw more than two million visitors. Use the springs’ locator to find a spring to visit.

For more information please visit www.floridasprings.org and www.floridayards.org.

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Last updated - April 11, 2014

  2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 3575   Tallahassee, Florida 32399  850-245-8229 (phone)  / 850-245-8236 (fax) 
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