Wakulla Spring is the third largest spring in
Florida and one of the best known. The spring is the centerpiece of
Wakulla Springs State Park, considered the crown jewel of the
Florida parks. It discharges an average of 250 million gallons of
water per day from the Floridan aquifer to form the Wakulla River.
It has the largest range of discharge of any spring in Florida, ~80
million gallons per day at low stage and > 1 billion gallons per
day at high stage. The sheer size of the spring basin is uniquely
impressive being several hundred feet across and more than 100 feet
deep. The spring pool contains the entrance to one of the longest
and deepest underwater caves in the world having more than 10 miles
of mapped passages that extend both north and south from the spring.
Glass-bottom boat over
The park features glass bottom boat tours that enthrall visitors
when the water is clear with views of the spring and cave entrance.
Wakulla Spring is also a national cultural treasure being the site
of Indian artifacts, and the setting for classic movies such as the
original Tarzan series and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Unfortunately, water quality in Wakulla Spring has been
in decline for more than a decade due to rising nitrate levels,
algae blooms and a growth explosion of Hydrilla that chokes the
spring and causes the loss of native species, including the apple snail
and limpkin. The decline in water clarity has kept the glass bottom
boats at the docks and tourists and cave explorers waiting for clear
water that seldom comes. Park attendance has dropped in recent years
by approximately 20,000 visitors per year.
The purpose of this workshop was to present an overview of the broad
and growing scientific evidence linking water quality decline at
Wakulla Spring with land use practices in the region. The workshop
convened scientific and engineering experts to present the current
understanding of groundwater and surface water flow patterns through
the Woodville Karst Plain, the sources of pollution to Wakulla
Springs, and explore the applicability and effectiveness of advanced
technologies as solutions to the problem of degrading spring water
quality and clarity. The primary goal of this workshop was to
disseminate this knowledge to local decision makers and encourage
cooperative proactive governmental investment in water resource
protection programs in the Woodville Karst Plain basin.
General Workshop Format
The workshop convened as a plenary session on Thursday morning,
May 12. Scientists currently engaged in research projects within the
Woodville Karst Plain gave presentations on groundwater and surface
water flow patterns and sources of pollution in the Woodville Karst
Plain. Afterward, the group broke out into three discussion sessions
focused on the science and technologies specific to abating three
important sources of nutrient loading in the basin: stormwater,
septic systems, and wastewater treatment facilities. The discussion
sessions each contained four or five panelists who gave short
presentations on the problems from their perspective and a moderator
who guided subsequent discussions. The goal for each session was to
build a consensus of opinion and recommendations for the best course
of action to solve the problems. On Friday morning, May 13, the
plenary session reconvened and the moderators presented the
conclusions and recommendations derived in each session. The
workshop then concluded with lunch and a summary by the emcee.
Members of the Woodville Karst Plain Project presented a video
luncheon presentation, Exploring Wakulla Cave, on Thursday, May 12.
A half-day field trip was offered on Wednesday, May 11, to provide
an overview of the hydrogeologic setting and sources of pollutions.
Nitrate levels measured in
the Wakulla Spring basin between 1971 and 2004
Algae and hydrilla covering the Wakulla Spring basin near the
Measured reduction of water clarity in the Wakulla Spring basin based
on the number of days the glass bottom boats cannot run