A stethoscope, or thermometer, for gauging the health of groundwater systems is springs. This is because springs and oasis, natural outlets of groundwater flow, are often taletellers of groundwater depletion and even pollution, and many such environments are currently under heavy stress. The paper ‘Fellowship of the Spring: an initiative to document and protect the world’s oases’, by Fensham et al. takes a global health check on springs and oases in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world, along with early global mapping. Springs have immemorial significance for communities and livelihoods, and the health of unique aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems with endemic and yet to be protected biodiversity. Making the ties between the economic as well as existential values of springs gives us the levers to protect groundwater in these threatened systems, but we need to better understand, appreciate, and articulate these assets as we go forward.