The Ozarks are a region of Missouri and Arkansas with unique geological features. The limestone bedrock of this region is marked with many caves, cracks and sinkholes that allow rainwater to filter to underground storage areas called aquifers. This groundwater later comes to the surface as springs. Natural springs are found throughout the area. The Ozarks have among highest densities of springs in the world. Some of these springs are also among the largest in North America. The largest, Big Spring, has an average flow of around 286 million gallons per day. That is enough water to fill about 430 Olympic sized swimming pools.
The springs in this area are at risk of contamination. Porous rock allows contaminants to flow from the surface through the springs. Development and growing human populations in areas nearby are a major source of these contaminants.
We track the effect of contaminants through our study of water quality and the health of plants and animals in the springs. Changes in our findings over time can indicate problems in the watershed.