Clear, Cold, but not Pure

We put a great deal of emphasis on appearances in our culture. There are endless opinions out there on our obsession with physical appearance, but we also tend to focus on other forms of outward appearance. Our attitude, disposition, car, house, or circle of friends can project our version of what is at our core. These appearances can be honest. Happy people will obviously appear happy. Those who are confident and optimistic will likely be well-groomed and dressed nicely. However, these projections can often be misleading. Countless times I have spoken to friends or family member who are struggling with things I never could have suspected, problems long hidden from anyone else. The outward appearance is not always representative of the inward condition.

Our region is rich with caves, sinkholes, and notably springs. When I was a child, we would sometimes drink water from springs, straight from the ground. Generations before us had done the same thing and told us it was safe. Cities (like Springfield) were built around these springs and wells where clean water flowed freely. Our springs are still beautiful attractions, but as in people, appearances are not always what they seem.

Sander Spring at Valley Water Mill Park

Tom Aley of the Ozark Underground Laboratory wrote a song about our Karst geology (the type of geology characterized by caves, springs, and sinkholes). The song is called “Clear, Cold, but not Pure” and this sentiment is exactly what we find in many groundwater sources today. The water is crystal clear, very cold, but may contain nutrients from fertilizer, bacteria from livestock, or even chemicals from nearby buried oil tanks or dumps. Our groundwater connects to the surface in many places, through sinkholes and caves. This path enables a pollutant from the surface to reach water hundreds of feet below the ground. This special geology, full of connections and passages, requires special care from those who inhabit it. Many people do not recognize that the trash they dump into a sinkhole will come out of a spring somewhere, possibly miles away.

The good news is that there are many things we can do to keep our groundwater clean. If we work to clean up the messes people before us have made, and prevent further pollution, our springs will be clean, cold, and clean. For more information on groundwater, springs, or karst, visit our website:

For Tom Aley’s song, visit

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.