Craig Pittman covers Florida's environment for the Tampa Bay Times.
On his Facebook page he offers up this tongue-in-cheek description of what he does for a living: "Any job where you get paid to go out and ride around in a boat every now and then is a good job in my book."
But, in this morning's Times, Pittman tackles a very serious subject: Florida's Vanishing Springs.
Deep beneath the ground we stand on, below the strip malls and the condos and the lush green of the golf courses, runs a river of water that makes life in Florida possible. The underground aquifer rushes through Swiss cheese caverns, its hidden flow bubbling up to the surface in Florida’s estimated 1,000 springs -- the greatest concentration of springs on Earth.Read the rest of Pittman's story by clicking here and read other articles in the series here.
A century ago Florida’s gin-clear springs drew presidents and millionaires and tourists galore who sought to cure their ailments by bathing in the healing cascades. Now the springs tell the story of a hidden sickness, one that lies deep within the earth.
• The water in many springs no longer boils up like a fountain, the way they have for centuries. The flow has slowed. In some places it has even stopped or begun flowing backward.
• The water that does come out is polluted by nitrates.
• The pollution fuels the growth of toxic algae blooms, which are taking over springs and the rivers they feed and putting human health at risk.
• Finally, the fresh water coming out of many springs is showing signs of a growing saltiness, according to a study by the Florida Geological Survey.
All of it — particularly the saltiness — is a dark omen for the future of the state's water supply.
"It's the very same water we drink that's coming out of the springs," said Doug Stamm, author of the book Florida's Springs. "When they start to deteriorate, that's the water we drink deteriorating too."