Is development draining Florida’s aquifer system beyond repair?
"Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs, so when you reduce their flow, they start getting sick." —Robert Knight, Florida Springs Institute
The economic benefits of development and the preservation of natural resources are continually being weighed against each other. In a state like Florida, this conversation is often a protracted — even heated — one because so much of the state’s tourism industry is reliant on keeping its beaches, parks and springs as pristine as possible. The boon delivered by tourism also justifies questions about how new construction and expanding agricultural operations could put a dent in one of the state’s biggest revenue streams.
More than 112 million tourists visited Florida last year, a 5.9% increase from 2015, Florida Today reported. Those visitors spent $109 billion and generated 1.4 million jobs.
And some visitors are staying.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced last month that the state had seen the number of private businesses increase by 16.5% since December 2010. While many of the net 75,449 businesses added since then are homegrown, the figure also includes those coming from out of state to set up shop. The growth in the number of businesses in the state is one contributor to its strong population growth currently.
That’s good news and bad news for the state. The good news is that all those new people will need places to live, shop, work, learn, relax and seek medical care, which means a boost for the state's construction industry and its workers. Local and state agencies also get to collect more property, sales and other taxes as a result.
The bad news is that the strain on the state’s aquifer system — the subterranean limestone reservoirs that provide most of the water that Floridians use to drink, bathe and water their lawns — is starting to become evident.