Forty million people – one water source. The Florida aquifer is truly a unique and amazing structure. Spanning more than 100,000 square miles and crossing through all or portions of five states, the Florida aquifer is one of the major sources of freshwater in the United States. Approximately 3 billion gallons of water is taken from the aquifer each day.
In addition to the 40 million people who call the region home, the Florida Aquifer is also providing water for providing water for at least that many people who visit the area annually. In addition to providing the water lifeline for the region, the aquifer also serves as a source of recreation. The Florida Aquifer is the source of the region’s countless springs, the most famous of which may be Silver Springs, Florida, which puts out 74 million cubic feet of water every day, just by itself.
How is it possible that a source that draws 3 billion gallons of water a day can continually replenish itself? What are the dangers of this source eventually drying up? What is being done to continually seek out other sources of water in the areas where the Florida Aquifer serves?
Although there has been a great deal of speculation about this, there is currently no evidence to suggest the Florida Aquifer is stressed by its current rate of depletion, according to Sandra McCullough, who cited a number of different studies relating to the system. Though there may be some areas where the aquifer is lower than it was in the past, these are local nuances, not a sign of widespread trouble. Several things contribute to the aquifer’s amazing ability to regenerate itself. One is the fact the ground in the region in which the aquifer is located is remarkably porous, which allows water to seep down to the aquifer more easily. Also, the region experiences a tremendous amount of rain. The rainiest city in the United States is in the region of the Florida aquifer (not Seattle, but Mobile, Alabama).
Even so, no water source will last forever. Weather patterns and landscapes change. At some point, in order to support all the people who choose to live in the region, it will likely become necessary to draw water from other sources. That could be a hard task. The demand in the area would quickly deplete Florida’s rivers and lakes, no matter how plentiful they are in the state. The only other source is the ocean. At some point, massive desalination facilities may need to be built to help take some of the pressure off the aquifer.
It may be that Florida and other states in the region will soon begin to think outside the box. While there is a huge source of groundwater via the Florida Aquifer, nothing will last forever. In order to support the massive growth the region has experienced, options will need to be expanded. It may still be decades away, but at some point the aquifer will need another water supply to relieve some of the pressure.