The Florida Department of Environmental Protection purchased 599 acres of land along the Suwannee River Tuesday in an effort to protect Florida springs.
The agency bought the land from the Damascus Peanut Company, located near Anderson Springs, for $2.2 million.
Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet approved the purchase as part of Florida Forever, a conservation- and recreation-lands acquisition program.
“This investment shows their commitment to buying critical lands for water quality improvements,” Scott said in a press release.
Florida Springs Institute Director Bob Knight said the purchase alone won’t have any significant effect on springs protection.
Knight said about 2,000 tons of nitrate-nitrogen flow down the Suwannee River per year as a result of agricultural operations.
“It’s a very high load,” Knight said.
He said the spring shed – the area that contributes water to these springs – is made-up of about 5 million acres.
“A 600-acre step is a step in the right direction, but it’s unfortunately insignificant in changing the quality of the spring or the Suwannee River,” Knight said.
Florida’s springs are important for good-quality drinking water, Knight said, as well as a recreation that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to North Florida each year.
To make a “real difference” in the quality of Florida’s springs and rivers, Knight said there needs to be a reduction in water-use permits for agricultural purposes.
“Every time they issue one of these permits, they’re basically facilitating the input of more fertilizer into the Florida aquifer, which is contaminating the groundwater with nitrate and affecting these springs,” Knight said. “Issuance of those permits should be stopped.”