After the year has passed, we have come to appreciate the recreational possibilities of natural Florida like never before. Three Sisters Springs is one of those breathtaking gems that people love to visit all year round. When you paddle or swim in this outing, the crystal-clear water and natural foliage give us a glimpse of âold Floridaâ.
The constant 72 degree waters of the springs year round make it a popular spot for manatee migration, which is why it is a designated refuge for manatees. The hundreds of manatees that come in the spring during the most intense winter months attract visitors from all over the world.
But our enthusiasm for nature can also lead to its deterioration. During the pandemic, more and more people sought outdoor activities. Three Sisters Springs saw its attendance increase by almost 1000%. Normally, the one acre entrance can accommodate a few dozen visitors at a time. But during the peak hours of the pandemic, more than 250 people crowded into the springs.
Visitors park kayaks and other paddle boats on the shores, eroding the shores. While walking on the shore, they often trample on vegetation. This kills plants that help maintain water quality, stabilize the shoreline, and provide habitat and food for a variety of animals. Visitors also climb and jump trees, damaging trees.
But there are simple steps we can all take to protect this natural treasure.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District has partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other local agencies to educate visitors on seven tips to remember to help protect Three Sisters Springs. They are:
- Get away from rocks and shore.
- Keep paddle steamers away from rocks, trees, and other vegetation.
- Tie up paddle steamers in the designated area outside the spring or use a vegetation-friendly anchor.
- Do not trample on vegetation or lift silt.
- Don’t climb trees.
- Disposable items and alcohol are prohibited in the springs.
- Don’t throw trash or leave anything behind.
By following these simple tips, you can help protect springs and many other natural systems that you may visit. You can find more information by visiting WaterMatters.org/ProtectTSS.
This year, Save Our Waters week puts a special emphasis on water conservation with the theme âFix Leaks, Save Our Watersâ. The more we conserve, the more safely we extend the available groundwater reserves and delay the need to develop expensive alternative sources.
Checking for leaks around your home can save water. For example, did you know that a dripping faucet can waste up to 8 gallons of water per day and a leaky toilet can waste about 100 gallons of water per day?
Leaking faucets can be fixed by replacing the washers or tightening the fixture. A variety of repair kits can be found at home improvement stores or online. Most kits contain detailed instructions and a list of necessary tools; or a plumber can do the repairs.
Toilet leaks can be detected by adding leak detection tablets or a few drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the tank is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 10 to 15 minutes.
If you think you have a leak and are unsure of the source, use your water meter to determine if there is a leak. Turn off all faucets and appliances using water. Remember to wait for the water heater and ice makers to fill, as well as for the water softeners to regenerate. Check your water meter and record the current reading. Wait 30 minutes, making sure that no one is using water during the test period, then read the meter. If the reading has changed, you have a leak.
For more tips, visit WaterMatters.org/Conservation. Protecting our water resources is a community effort. Let’s work together to protect our natural treasures.
Dr. Madison Trowbridge is the Springs Scientist and Springs Team Leader for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. She holds a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of South Florida.