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4th Annlual Hydrogeology Consortium Workshop

FGS Intro and Disclaimer Workshop Introduction Scientific Overview Panel
Peer Review Report Field Map

Workshop Introduction

Problem Statement

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 Wakulla Springs
Glass-bottom boat over Wakulla Spring

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.

Useful Links

a graph showing nitrate levels measured in the Wakulla Spring Basin between 1971 and 2004
Nitrate levels measured in the Wakulla Spring basin between 1971 and 2004

Algae and hydrilla covering the Wakulla Spring basin near the platform
Algae and hydrilla covering the Wakulla Spring basin near the platform

Measured reduction of water clarity in the Wakulla Spring basin based on the number of days the glass bottom boats connot run
Measured reduction of water clarity in the Wakulla Spring basin based on the number of days the glass bottom boats cannot run

logos of all the sponsors of the workshop