Table that Water

The water table is the level of water in the ground. During times of low rainfall, the water table drops. This is true since the aquifer is dependent on rainfall to replace or recharge what is pumped out. Even during times of normal rainfall, if too much water is pumped from the aquifer, surface waters like lakes and ponds will drop or disappear. Groundwater wells may eventually go dry as well. But, That’s not the only problem.

When the water table drops, the risk of sinkholes is increases. Dozens of homeowners have experienced damage to their homes from sinkholes because water was withdrawn to satisfy growing demands. As groundwater levels are lowered, support for the limestone within the aquifer is also reduced, triggering collapse underground and sinkholes on the surface.

In Florida, we're lucky. We have the Gulf to our west, the Atlantic to our east and a number of winding rivers, pristine lakes and cool, clear springs in between. Living near so much water makes it easy for Floridians to forget that the supply of freshwater is not unlimited.

"I didn't really like that"

Judy Williams

It’s not so much that we’ll run out of water, but that there are consequences to taking too much water from the environment. That’s what happened in the Tampa Bay Region.

In the 1990s, devastating impacts to the environment led to heated debate over regional water policy. Residents, politicians and environmentalists questioned the wisdom of the water withdrawals that caused wetlands, lakes and ponds to disappear—some permanently.

Dry Lake Bed
Dry lakebed

"...we sucked until
it was dry..."

Ronnie Duncan

Eventually, a regional agreement to pump less groundwater and develop new sources of water was made. The hope was that by reducing the withdrawals, the environment would recover. Though the agreement was put in place in 1998, it is still too soon to tell if the plan will work.

Historically, the Floridan Aquifer provided 80 percent of the drinking water for west-central Florida. Aquifers are rock formations below the ground where freshwater is stored naturally. The Floridan Aquifer is made of limestone with lots of holes, caverns, and conduits. Water is replaced in the Floridan Aquifer by rainfall that soaks into the ground. This is referred to as recharge. Recharge doesn’t occur everywhere. Areas of high recharge occur where sand is layered over the aquifer. Sand allows rainfall to easily flow through it. The better the connection between the surface and the aquifer, the more impact and the more widespread impact groundwater withdrawals and changes can have.

Today, we are more aware of the consequences that can result from being too reliant on groundwater. The solution to the regional water wars was to reduce groundwater pumping by developing alternative sources. The effort to cooperatively implement solutions to these issues is ongoing, but not without controversy.

Karst Formation
Floridan Aquifer - Karst formation

"We have to work together..."

Ed Chance




Throughout this website, you’ll have the opportunity to play small videos of people who were involved in shaping Tampa Bay’s water policy. They include activists, elected officials, lawyers and experts. All of them were involved in what is called, “Tampa Bay’s Water Wars.” We thought you’d like to hear what they have to say in their own words. We think you’ll appreciate their very different perspectives.

Meet the Experts