The Lost Artesian Wells of the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Man next to artesian well, IRL. "Mr Doug Witham allowed me to copy this photograph he purchased over eBay. It is of an unidentified man in St. Lucie Gardens. That is the huge subdivision of land Sir. Edward Reed purchased from Hamilton Disston. Since the notation on the back was written at Walton it is probably some place pretty close to the Indian River Lagoon. Sandra H.Thurlow 8-15)---Used with permission/purchased on Ebay by Doug Whitam and shared via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Man next to artesian well, IRL. “Mr Doug Witham allowed me to copy this photograph he purchased over eBay. It is of an unidentified man in St. Lucie Gardens. That is the huge subdivision of land Sir. Edward Reed purchased from Hamilton Disston. Since the notation on the back was written at Walton it is probably some place pretty close to the Indian River Lagoon.” Sandra H.Thurlow 8-15)
Plat map St Lucie Gardens, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Plat map St Lucie Gardens, along IRL. Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

“Artesian well…”

The words hold such poetry for me…something from a time long, long ago when Florida was wild and pure. In all honesty, I don’t know much about artesian wells, but throughout my life I have heard stories that have intrigued, and yet sometimes confused me. It is of these wells that I will write briefly on today.

When I was growing up, my historian mother told me stories of artesian wells made by simply hammering a pipe into the ground right here along the Indian River Lagoon. They would just flow and flow and both people and animals would drink from them. Many of these wells were made for irrigating farmland and for supplying the needs of pioneer families. My brother, Todd, recently told me of an artesian well located in the shallow waters off of Hutchinson Island that the pirates and sailors would stop to drink from to refresh themselves on their long and dangerous journeys…it was created by pressure under the earth by Nature. Not man-made but natural.

So an “artesian wells” can be natural or man-made. Apparently in 1957 the state started capping them as there were so many they were lowering the ground water level, and in some cases allowing salt water intrusion.

Most of them are gone today. I definitely consider myself someone who supports water conservation, and I still have memories when I take a shower of my parents yelling up the stairs to us as kids:  “turn off the water while soaping up!!!!” Nonetheless, the romantic image of a free-flowing well on a wild Florida piece of land is a beautiful image indeed…. 🙂

Artesian well on Bud Adam's Ranch in St Lucie Lucie County. Photo L to R Tom Thurlow, my father, and Dr and Mrs Powers long-time,good family friends. (Photo by Sandra Thurlow, ca early 2000.)
(I added this photo my mother shared on 8-17-15.) Photographed is an artesian well on Bud Adam’s Ranch in St Lucie Lucie County west of Ft Pierce. Photo L to R Tom Thurlow, my father, and Dr and Mrs Powers long-time,good family friends. (Photo by Sandra Thurlow, ca 2007.)


Document to cap Florida Artesian Wells, 1957






Mr. Ernest Mitts, Director

Florida State Board of Conservation

Tallahassee, Florida Dear Mr. Mitts:

I respectfully transmit the final report on an inventory leading to the enforcement of Sections 373.021-373.061, Florida Statutes, 1957, prepared by Charles W. Hendry, Jr.

and James A. Lavender of the Water Investigations, Florida Geological Survey.

This report published as Information Circular No. 21, together with the interim report published in 1957 as Infor- mation Circular No. 10, Florida Geological Survey, illus-

trates as completely as possible the situation that now exists among the freely flowing wells of the State.


Robert O. Vernon, Director

An abandoned 8-inch well flowing in excess of 800 gallons per minute. This well is located in section 32, T. 7 S., R. 30 E., St. Johns County,




AN ACT to protect and control the Artesian Waters of the State; providing duties of certain State and county officers in regard thereto; and providing a penalty for the viola- tion of this Act.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. Everyperson, stockcompany, association or corporation, county or municipality, owning or controlling the real estate upon which is located a flowing artesian well in this state, shall, within ninety (90) days after the passage of this act, provide each such well with a valve capable of controlling the discharge from such well, and shall keep such valve so adjusted that only such supply of water shall be avail- able as is necessary for ordinary use by the owner, tenant, occupant or person in control of said land for personal use and in conducting his business.

Section 2. The owner, tenant, occupant or person in control of an artesian well who shall allow the same to flow continuously without a valve, or mechanical device for check- ing or controlling the flow, or shallpermit the water to flow unnecessarily, or shall pump a well unnecessarily, or shall permit the water from such well to go to waste, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the penalties provided by law.

Section 3. For the purposes of this act, an artesian well is defined as anartifical hole in the ground fromwhich water supplies may be obtained and which penetrates any water

bearing rock, the water in which is raised to the surface by natural flow, or which rises to an elevation above the top of the water bearing bed. Artesian wells are defined further to include all holes, drilledas a source of water, that penetrate any water bearing beds that are a part of the artesian water system of Florida, as determined by representatives of the Florida Geological Survey.

Section 4. Waste is defined for the purposes of this act to be the causing, suffering, or permitting any water flowing


from, or being pumped from an artesian well to run into any river, creek, or other natural watercourse or channel, or into anybay or pond (unless used thereafter for the beneficial purposes of irrigation of land, mining or other industrial purposes of domestic use), or into any street, road or high- way, or upon the land of any person, or upon the public lands of the United States, or of the State of Florida, unless it be used thereon for the beneficial purposes of the irrigation

thereof, industrial purposes, domestic use, or the propaga- tion of fish. The use of any water flowing from an artesian well for the irrigation of land shall be restrictedto a minimum by the use of proper structural devices in the irrigation


Section 5. The state geologist, assistant geologists, or any authorized representative of the Florida Geological Sur- vey, the sheriff or any deputy sheriff, shall have access to all wells in the state with the consent of the owner.

Should any well be not provided with a valve as required in section one (1) of this act, or should any well be allowed to flow in violation of section two (2) of this act, then and in such event, the state geologist, assistant geologists, or any authorized representative of the Florida Geological Survey, or the sheriff or any deputy sheriff shall, upon being informed of such fact, give notice to the owner to correct such defect, and if the same be not corrected within ten (10) days there- after, shall have authority to install the necessary valve or cap upon such well and control the flow therefrom in accord with the provisions of section one (1) and two (2) of this act. The cost of such installation of such valve and the control of the flow from such wells if made by such officials shall be at the expense of the owner, and for the payment thereof, the agency or party incurring the expense shall have a lien upon the lands upon which such well is located.
duly recorded in the public records in counties wherein such lands are located and may be enforced by foreclosure in the circuit courts of the circuit wherein such lands are located. In such foreclosure proceedings,
reasonable attorney’s fee to the plaintiff for the preparation and recording of such lien and the legal proceedings incident to the foreclosure of same. Such liens shall be assignable.

Artestin well program SJRWMD: (

What is an artesian well? (
Hamilton Disston: (

12 thoughts on “The Lost Artesian Wells of the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

  1. The lion loves a drought when all the creatures are weak and have to craul to the water hole. In is not in his best interest when the rains come and all the creatures are strong and healthy and he has to fight to make a kill risking his life. The Lagoon is allways making the front page of our paper so I stopped by and gave a guy your blog . One thing I have noticed is everyone who gives information to the paper are sucked up on taxpayers money and(like the lion) it is NOT in their best interest if everyone has a freezer full of good eating fish .

  2. NO I DONT. I think it is just like it was growing up. If you gave the state bribe money you could KILL EVERYTHING and the small fisherman had many laws to fallow. I do think the real rotten people surround themselves with good people who will NOT rock the boat. I had a rotten boss one time and the customers could tell what type of person he was as soon as he opened his mouth so he surrounded himself with good honest people. Boy did that guy ever get over on people. I am sorry I have to be the negative person in this room all the time but it is a fight to save the lagoon and it could be an easy fix . The man with a big bank account is like a lion with a full belly —a threat to no one–just a big house cat— But threaten to take away the mans money or the lions food and see how they are.

    1. So who in your your opinion are today’s “worst people?” Another subject, yes, I know from some family members here that the fishing community really lost a lot. We all also overfished too. Not trying to be tough but the situation is messed up 360 degrees. Thank you Brent. I do appreciate you being such an advocate and promoter of your calcium replenishment work.

  3. Thank you Facebook friends for comments! Especially Patty Childs who lived at EDEN along Indian River Drive:
    Nancy Anderson, Paul Sullivan, Rick Langdon and 11 others like this.

    Mark Hill
    August 17 at 9:04am

    When I was young, we used to surf a break in Brevard. It had an artisan well pipe about 30-40 ft from the high tide line. Fresh clean water to rinse and drink. It was 68-70º and had a twinge of sulfur smell.. Sponge harvesters in the early 1900’s used to stick hollow reeds in the shallow bottom of Biscayne Bay to have fresh water to drink during their time on the bay…

    reply: Way cool! JTL

    Jim Menendez Thanks for the post
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · 21 hrs

    Patty Childs The Lily Pond, which we considered the heart of Edenlawn no doubt for the life-giving treasure of fresh water, was located to the right of the driveway “in” hidden from view from the Drive by a bamboo hedge…The pond was artesian-fed and reportedly a frequented stop by the Indians long ago…Duke as an elderly man took time to set awhile there every day as did all of us when we had a moment. It’s where the swans, William and Mary lived together with the Canadian geese, Pierre and infamous Margaret, and the beautiful wood ducks…Such a wonderful and yes, romantic memory…
    Like · Reply · 3 · 21 hrs

    Linda McLendon Thank you for reminding me of Edenlawn and things I loved as a child in Jensen
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 19 hrs
    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

    Write a reply…

    Fred Mars Living Off-The Grid is cool, but living Off The Grid with an artesian well is the bomb.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 21 hrs

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch smile emoticon !
    Like · Reply · Just now
    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

    Write a reply…

    Katie McCarthy Michael Mccarty
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 21 hrs

    Jerry Smith Water is Life!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 20 hrs

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Patty Childs that is a complete wonderful recollection. Definitely “Eden.” I want Sandra Thurlow to see.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 15 hrs

  4. Email comment from my mother–interesting:
    “You will probably get a lot of feedback from people who know about wells like Jon Chicky. I think an Artesian well goes deep. The water that gushed up when I pipe was bludgeoned into the ground was surface water because the water table was so high. I don’t even know about the fresh water springs that were right along the Indian River at the fort in Fort Pierce and near the Eden School. Artesian wells usually have salts and a Sulphur smell. You should look at photos of the free flowing Artesian well on the Adams Ranch. So much to learn. It is all so interesting.”

    Sandra Thurlow

  5. If you have an open well here is some info to help and thank you T.R.

    Hi Jacqui.

    Should your recent blog cause rise to questions regarding the legal process of installing and abandoning wells, please feel free to refer the calls to me. We are contracted with the SFWMD to implement the well construction program in Martin County. This includes permitting and inspecting the construction and abandonment of wells, including artesian wells.

    Thanks, Todd

    PHONE: 772.221.4090 FAX: 772.221.4967

  6. I wrote before how I believe ground water pressure could be brought back up to what it used to be. Thanks for the always interesting blogs

  7. The State of Florida has a loooog history of blameing and punishing people instead of searching for engineering solutions to solve problems which is why I believe we are in the mess we are today

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