How is climate change affecting South Florida? Water managers want to know
By Adriana Brasileiro and Alex Harris
For the first time, water managers set out to analyze exactly how climate change is affecting canals, pumps and the many structures that control water flows in South Florida.
The South Florida Water Management District on Friday presented an initial plan to develop its water and climate resilience metrics, a set of data that will help the district better protect cities from flooding while making sure that people, farms and businesses get the water they need.
The initial findings show what has been long known: Climate change is causing heavier rainfall, and sea rise is flooding communities more often, turning freshwater wells salty and forcing the aging system to work longer and harder to keep South Florida dry.
Because South Florida is so flat and has been severely drained and altered over decades, it’s challenging to keep saltwater at bay and control flooding. If water managers need to close gates to prevent sea water from moving inland through canals during high tide events, they have less flexibility to move water around to prevent flooding. The district is constantly working with these competing goals, and climate change is only making things more challenging.
District scientists also saw the fingerprints of sea level rise on the region’s water supply. As sea levels rise, the denser saltwater pushes inland and begins to contaminate freshwater wells in a process called saltwater intrusion.
“As sea levels are rising, the groundwater levels are definitely showing that trend also,” said Karin Smith, a principal scientist with the district’s water supply bureau.
Is this page useful?Yes No Report an issue on this page
Thank you. If you have 2 minutes, we would benefit from additional feedback (link opens in a new window).