|What is Karst?
Karst is best described as a limestone region, characterized by sinkholes,
underground streams, and caverns. These underground conduits were formed
by acidic rain water dissolving the limestone over thousands of years.
Karst areas are typically devoid of surface water as all the water is
diverted through underground channels. The main theme in karst regions is
While it's difficult to look underground to tell if you live in a karst
area, you can check the surface for clues. If you live near sinkholes,
caves, sinking streams, or large springs then you live in a karst region.
Twenty percent of the land in the United States is classified as karst.
Karst is found throughout the US and the look varies from region to
region. Examples of karst include the huge clear springs of Florida, the
large and decorated caves of New Mexico, and the sinkhole plains of
Karst may not be a well known word, but it is a common feature across the
country as one fifth of the landmass of the United States is karst and 25%
of the nationís drinking water comes from karst aquifers. Karst regions
contain some of the largest and most productive aquifers that are capable
of providing large supplies of water.
On the downside, surface water in karst areas flows into caves and
sinkholes very quickly, receiving very little filtration. This water, and
the impurities it carries - human and animal waste, pesticides,
fertilizers, petroleum products, and other pollutants - often travel great
distances underground, contaminating wells, springs, and aquifers.
Karst areas contain some of the most fragile ecosystems on Earth. Many
endangered and threatened species are endemic to a single sinkhole or
cave. Pollution or disruption to one sinkhole could easily wipe out an