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Graphic of hydrologic cycleGround Water Management


Integrating ground water protection into DEP’s watershed management approach has required an expansion of both monitoring design and data analysis to include ground water–surface water interaction. Historically, ground water protection has emphasized land use and aquifer vulnerability, as well as investigating and remediating local point sources of contamination to protect potable water supplies. Watershed protection, however, requires the additional consideration of ground water contributions to surface waterbodies through springs and base flows.

Springs are among Florida’s most treasured natural resources and the Ground Water Management Program is responsible for several aspects of DEP’s initiative to address spring water quality issues. These include routine and targeted spring water quality monitoring and assessment, developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (water quality restoration targets) for springs with impaired water quality, and assisting in the implementation of restoration activities. The program directs and participates in a variety of projects to identify and address sources of spring and ground water pollution, such as septic tanks, inorganic fertilizer, and other wastewater and agricultural sources. In addition, the program maintains the floridasprings.org website, a venue for the public to find information on springs and an excellent educational outlet.

Serving as the base flow of many surface waters is a critical function of ground water that must be protected to support aquatic life in those surface waterbodies. Naturally occurring elements in Florida such as phosphorus and iron are in relative abundance in some of Florida’s aquifers and, along with human sources of ground water contamination, can be expressed as surface water pollution where ground water contributes significantly to surface waterbodies.

Another key role of the Ground Water Management Program is to represent DEP in the review of pesticides proposed for registration in Florida. The program evaluates the potential of candidate pesticides to adversely affect ground water resources and surface waters via ground water transport.

Ground Water Management Program Responsibilities

Program Area



Ground Water – Surface Water Interaction & Basin Assessment

Historically, Florida’s ground water monitoring activities focused almost entirely on protecting drinking water supplies. In addition to this focus, DEP now also integrates ground water data into its watershed assessments to help in the evaluation of ground water impacts on surface water quality. This is especially important in Florida, where ground water discharges into streams, canals, lakes, and estuaries and can provide as much as 80 percent of the total flow to some surface waters. Because of this ground water–surface water interaction, it is important to assess ground water quality, identify potential pollutants, establish whether they are likely to be discharged to surface water, and identify any potential impacts that may already be expressed as surface water impairments.

Richard Hicks
Professional Geologist Administrator

Total Maximum Daily Loads for Springs

One of the program’s responsibilities is the identification of nutrient impaired springs and the development of restoration thresholds called Total Maximum Daily Loads. TMDLs developed for springs are used as water quality targets for restoration projects and activities in basin management action plans.

Kristina Bridger
Environmental Consultant

Floridasprings.org Website

The Floridasprings.org website is one of the DEP’s most popular outreach tools, providing information about springs to the general public including teachers and students, more technically-minded users, and visitors to the state who are looking for a vacation destination. The website also includes important information on upcoming events, water quality summaries and information about springs in Florida’s state park system, and a link to the KARST film production of “Water’s Journey, the Hidden Rivers of Florida” and associated teaching curriculum.  Go to the Florida Springs Website.

Gary Maddox,
Professional Geologist II

Spring Water Quality Monitoring

Approximately 100 springs in Florida are currently being routinely monitored by DEP and Florida’s water management districts. The DEP program includes quarterly sampling of springs for a wide range of analytes, including nutrients, salinity indicators, and several chemicals that help determine the age of spring water and the sources of nutrients that may be occurring in them.

Gary Maddox,
Professional Geologist II

Ground Water and Springs Water Quality Data

The protection of water resources is enhanced by collecting and managing ground water and springs data, which are collected from various DEP programs and other agencies and integrated into a centralized repository. These data are managed to support the identification of impaired springs, development of Total Maximum Daily Loads, spring system assessments, and ground water to surface water interaction investigations. Data are catalogued and mapped to maximize the identification of natural and anthropogenic substances of concern for particular aquifers.

Debra Harrington
Environmental Consultant

Ground Water and Springs Assessments

Assessments of the extensive monitoring data on the chemistry of ground water and springs can provide important information about baseline water quality conditions, and how human activities affect these conditions. By combining the water quality data with information on land use practices and changes in springsheds, ground water flow patterns and other hydrologic conditions, and climate, we can better understand the factors controlling the transport and fate of nutrients in the subsurface, changes in water quality over time, and how best management practices affect ground water and spring water quality.

Brian Katz
Environmental Consultant

Agrichemical Effects – Pesticides and Best Management Practices (BMPs)

The program provides consultation to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on evaluating the movement of agricultural chemicals in the environment. It also assists FDACS with technical reviews of pesticides that are proposed to be registered for sale in Florida, and participates in monthly Pesticide Registration Evaluation Committee meetings to consider potential water quality impacts. In 2013, the program began coordinating a pilot study which adds pesticide samples to select water bodies that are sampled through the Department’s Strategic Monitoring Program. These data will be published in the Department’s Integrated Assessment Reports.

For more information on pesticides, follow the links below.

James Dodson
Professional Geologist II

Last updated: December 10, 2013

  2600 Blair Stone Road M.S. 3500   Tallahassee, Florida 32399   850-245-8336 (phone) / 850-245-8356 (fax) 
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