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The Florida Statutes

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C)

Chapter 373
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F.S. 373.801
373.801 Legislative findings and intent.
(1) The Legislature finds that springs are a unique part of this state’s scenic beauty. Springs provide critical habitat for plants and animals, including many endangered or threatened species. Springs also provide immeasurable natural, recreational, economic, and inherent value. Springs are of great scientific importance in understanding the diverse functions of aquatic ecosystems. Water quality of springs is an indicator of local conditions of the Floridan Aquifer, which is a source of drinking water for many residents of this state. Water flows in springs may reflect regional aquifer conditions. In addition, springs provide recreational opportunities for swimming, canoeing, wildlife watching, fishing, cave diving, and many other activities in this state. These recreational opportunities and the accompanying tourism they provide are a benefit to local economies and the economy of the state as a whole.
(2) The Legislature finds that the water quantity and water quality in springs may be related. For regulatory purposes, the department has primary responsibility for water quality; the water management districts have primary responsibility for water quantity; and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has primary responsibility for the development and implementation of agricultural best management practices. Local governments have primary responsibility for providing domestic wastewater collection and treatment services and stormwater management. The foregoing responsible entities must coordinate to restore and maintain the water quantity and water quality of the Outstanding Florida Springs.
(3) The Legislature recognizes that:
(a) A spring is only as healthy as its aquifer system. The groundwater that supplies springs is derived from water that recharges the aquifer system in the form of seepage from the land surface and through direct conduits, such as sinkholes. Springs may be adversely affected by polluted runoff from urban and agricultural lands; discharges resulting from inadequate wastewater and stormwater management practices; stormwater runoff; and reduced water levels of the Floridan Aquifer. As a result, the hydrologic and environmental conditions of a spring or spring run are directly influenced by activities and land uses within a springshed and by water withdrawals from the Floridan Aquifer.
(b) Springs, whether found in urban or rural settings, or on public or private lands, may be threatened by actual or potential flow reductions and declining water quality. Many of this state’s springs are demonstrating signs of significant ecological imbalance, increased nutrient loading, and declining flow. Without effective remedial action, further declines in water quality and water quantity may occur.
(c) Springshed boundaries and areas of high vulnerability within a springshed need to be identified and delineated using the best available data.
(d) Springsheds typically cross water management district boundaries and local government jurisdictional boundaries, so a coordinated statewide springs protection plan is needed.
(e) The aquifers and springs of this state are complex systems affected by many variables and influences.
(4) The Legislature recognizes that action is urgently needed and, as additional data is acquired, action must be modified.
History.s. 23, ch. 2016-1.