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Friday, February 27, 2015

Clarity for Florida's Springs

Published February 26, 2015
Twenty-five years ago, the striking blue waters of Florida’s Peacock Springs were as clear as glass, “like a fantasy,” recalls environmental scientist and cave diver Pete Butt. Snorkeling at the surface, he could see through the water to the limestone bottom and its craggy portals to one of the longest underwater cave systems in the nation.

Algae clump on the surface in smelly mats, smother native aquatic vegetation with slime or grow along the bottom in hairy, green strands. “Amorphous goo,” Butt calls it. “Atrocious.”

Last year, state environmental protection and agricultural agencies added real-time monitoring on the web, in addition to a project they started in 2013 with farmers, to try and tie specific land-use changes to water quality. For the first time, scientists will have an instant read on how springs respond to all sorts of factors, from fertilizer application to drought or heavy rainfall, says Brian Katz, a geochemist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Clearer science, says Katz, “will eventually lead to clearer springs.”
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