Natural Springs Protection Takes Center Stage Ahead Of Busy Summer Season

By Tamas Mondovics

Sought for its constant, comfortable 72-degree natural spring pool, Lithia Springs County Park may be one of the most-visited recreational destinations, especially during a busy summer season.

But, while many visit the park to forget about their hectic work week and to enjoy the outdoors, park patrons are encouraged to remember the importance of protecting the state’s natural springs near and far.

To that end, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board proclaimed April 2013 as Springs Protection Awareness Month.

There are more than 150 documented springs throughout the 16-county District, with five first-magnitude spring groups that collectively discharge more than one billion gallons of water per day.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates that more than 1,000 springs occur in the state, giving Florida the largest concentration of springs in the world. Within the District, many of these springs form the headwaters of several major rivers.

“The board wanted to emphasize that the state’s springs are essential to the environment, economy, citizens and visitors of the state,” said Southwest Florida Water Management District spokesperson, Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

According to Tarokh, in its effort to keep the springs safe, Swiftmud invested more than $2.2 million in springs protection and restoration during 2011-2012, and has  approved a budget of $3.9 million for the current fiscal year with plans to begin construction on three major springs projects in the next six months.

Lithia Springs County Park is located about 5.5 miles southeast of Brandon and boasts of two springs, including Lithia Major and Lithia Minor. Lithia Major’s discharge fluctuates between 7 and 70 cubic ft. per second and is warmed underground to 72 degrees in a large oval pool, about 180 ft. at its widest point.

Each year, Lithia Springs County Park hosts the annual Alafia Challenge Canoe and Kayak Race with hundreds of paddlers that gather in the Lithia Major pool and race to the Riverview Civic Center, 11 miles downriver.

Tarokh said the District, in partnership with the various stakeholders, is committed to implementing projects to conserve and restore the ecological balance of spring systems, supporting the regional economies and quality of life.