Where Our Water Comes From
|Have you ever thought about where your water comes from? Seminole County's drinking water is pumped from groundwater. Groundwater is the underground water found in the spaces between soil particles and rocks and in cracks of the bedrock. There are two main layers of groundwater beneath us, the surficial aquifer and the Floridan Aquifer. Less than 1% of the water people use comes from the surficial aquifer.
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Seminole County has 31 wells that are drilled between 400 and 1000 feet down into the Floridan Aquifer. The Floridan Aquifer provides high quality water that requires little treatment. This keeps your water bill low.
The fresh water in the Floridan Aquifer started accumulating during the last Ice Age. The water you are drinking may be up to 26,000 years old! The aquifer is constantly being replenished by water from rainfall and lakes seeping into the ground. In other areas, groundwater discharges into springs and rivers. This is all part of the Water Cycle. It also discharges into our wells where it is pumped through the distribution system to your house.
There are over 1000 permitted wells in Seminole County. This number does not include small private wells for homes, golf courses, agriculture, livestock watering, etc. that are too small to be permitted.
The populations of both Florida and Seminole County continue to grow rapidly. More people means more demand for water.
Will we start pulling more water out of the Floridan Aquifer than nature is putting in? What would happen? Will we run out of water?
The Floridan Aquifer won't run out of water. In some areas it is 2,000 feet deep. But we have a realistic probability of impacting the aquifer, and impacting those who depend on the aquifer.
The Dangers of Taking Too Much Water
Impacts to Lakes, Springs, and Wetlands
Increased groundwater withdrawals could impact the lakes, springs, and wetlands. These valuable natural resources depend on the groundwater. Lake levels could drop, spring flow could slow or stop, and wetlands could recede.
Who depends on lakes, springs, and wetlands?
- Water skiers
- Wind surfers
- Nature lovers
- Snorkelers and scuba divers
- People with waterfront property
- Tourism companies
- Water sports businesses
Are you on this list?
There are countless plants and animals that depend on lakes, wetlands, and springs; from amoebas to alligators, from cinnamon ferns to cypress trees.
What special Florida mammal is dependent on springs? The manatee won't be able to survive without spring water to stay warm in the winter.
What else could happen if we pull out more groundwater than nature is putting in?
The frequency of sinkhole development could increase. Sinkhole formation is a natural occurrence, but when heavy withdrawals from groundwater remove water from underground caverns, sinkholes are more likely to form.
A layer of salty groundwater underlies the fresh groundwater in the Floridan Aquifer. When the fresh groundwater is pumped out at too high a rate, the salty groundwater will get drawn up toward the wells. If we withdraw too much fresh water, the aquifer becomes polluted with salt water. We can't drink salt water. This saltwater intrusion is irreversible except on a geologic timescale. The salt water level is over 2,000 feet deep in some areas of the county, but is as little as 200 feet deep near the St. Johns River.
Decreased Water Quality
The groundwater from Seminole County wells is high quality and requires little treatment. Saltwater intrusion is only one example of how water quality and quantity would degrade. If we overuse the aquifer, we would eventually end up withdrawing lower quality water that would require additional treatment. Construction and maintenance of new water treatment facilities and the cost of chemicals would show up on your utility bill as a significant increase in the cost of water.
Alternative Water Source
Seminole County is fortunate to have a large and reliable alternative water source in the St. Johns River and Lake Monroe. The down side is that treatment of surface water to meet drinking water standards is expensive. One cost estimate puts delivery of treated surface water at $2.30 per thousand gallons, a substantial increase to your water bill.
Impacts to Our Valuable Natural Resources
Property Damage from Sinkholes
Degraded Groundwater Quality
Expensive Water Bills
Is there an alternative????
Water conservation is the easiest and most inexpensive way to address water shortages. Water conservation can be as simple as developing the habit of using a little less every time you use water. If we each save a little, we all save a lot. Our Water Conservation web pages are packed with water saving ideas.