The U.S. Geological Survey and Miami-Dade County have mapped out the extent of saltwater seepage into our groundwater. The last comprehensive look was in 1995, and the good news is it hasn’t moved much since then.
South Florida is constantly battling against salt: keeping salty ocean water from getting into our groundwater.
The front in our battle, or the saltwater front keeps moving, mostly inland. As of 2011, it’s moved about 460 square miles inland in Miami-Dade. That is about 9 times the size of the city of Miami.
Both sea-level rise and our pumping of groundwater contribute to saltwater intrusion. Freshwater is less dense than saltwater and will float on top. But with sea-level rise, saltwater pushes in and seeps into the freshwater aquifer. With withdrawals of groundwater, we lower the level of freshwater so there's less of it keep saltwater out.
If we were to create a fictional story based this week's top five stories, it might go something like this:
Traffic engineers use funds from parking meters to build the Orlando-Miami rail line. The colorful yellow meters do not actually pay the city for parking and were supposed to fund Florida’s desalination facilities. One outraged citizen got a hold of public-radio host Ira Glass, who is now producing a radio story for “This Floridian Life.”
Alas, none of those are stories. Here are the non-fiction versions:
The good news from last summer's rains is that South Florida's water supply is running above average. But that doesn't ease the concerns of those responsible for finding, protecting, cleaning and distributing freshwater to the more than six million people from Pam Beach County through Key West.
They tell us there is no "average" year for water supply. It's either too wet or too dry. And while it's technically the dry season, there's plenty of water.
Florida -- and Miami in particular -- should prepare for habitat destruction, loss of cropland, increased salt-water intrusion, worsening coastal flooding, and a host of related disasters if climate change and sea level rise patterns continue, according to findings in a federal "draft climate report."