Saltwater incursion into Miami’s aquifer may make city uninhabitable later this century

Rising sea levels likely to claim drinking water before land is under water.

September 12, 2018 |

The Miami metro region faces crises due to rising sea levels that threaten to make the area uninhabitable.

While the danger of flooding has been widely documented, the threat to the region’s drinking water supply has been less chronicled. In fact, salt water incursion into the region’s aquifer could be what threatens Miami’s viability for human habitation before the doomsday scenario of inundation of the land by the sea.

The Biscayne Aquifer, 4,000 square miles of shallow, porous limestone, has provided the region with an abundant source of fresh water that is inexpensive to access. The aquifer’s characteristics that make it easily accessible also make it vulnerable to fouling by saltwater and pollution.

How long southeast Florida can keep its water safe may be the key determinant for the long term. “If Miami-Dade can’t protect its water supply, whether it can handle the other manifestations of climate change won’t matter,” observes a recent Bloomberg article.

“Projecting the pace of saltwater intrusion is fantastically complicated,” the article says. One factor that might help slow saltwater aquifer incursion, a massive, still-unfunded pledge to restore the Everglades by the state and federal government, is yet to be implemented.

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