Southeast Florida traditionally has relied on fresh groundwater from the surficial aquifer system and surface water as primary water sources for urban, agricultural, and industrial uses. The Everglades provides groundwater and surface water recharge to the urban coastal communities, contributing to the water sup- ply throughout most of this region. In 2O1O, fresh groundwater accounted for 94 percent of potable water produced by public water supply utilities. The surficial aquifer system, including the Biscayne aquifer in the southern part of the Seven50 planning region, provides more than 1 billion gallons a day for utilities, as well as agricultural production, landscape irrigation, and other uses.
In recent years, limitations have been placed on additional allocations from the freshwater sources in the region to protect the region’s natural resources. As a result, use of alternative water sources has expanded. Utilities have diversified their water supply sources with development of alternative water supplies, including treatment and storage technologies, and water conservation programs. These alternatives include constructing brackish Floridan aquifer wells and reverse osmosis treatment plants, reclaimed water treatment and distribution facilities, and aquifer storage and recovery systems. Similar actions to increase water use conservation and facilitate the move to alternative water supply sources is occurring throughout Southeast Florida.
Sea level rise will also increase the need to diversify our water sources. Porous limestone and soil types underlying much of Florida makes the state particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Seawalls can’t block seawater from infiltrating underground, and the ocean is already contaminating freshwater aquifers. We must work to conserve the region’s water supply, especially as the cli- mate changes, and protect water quality by diversifying water sources.South Florida Water Management District includes six out of seven counties, in the Upper and Lower East Coast regions. SFWMD has worked to create long-term water management plans, including aquifer levels, access to water, and safety of drinking water, with regional plans updated every five years. The entire South Florida District contains over 1,1OO water testing facilities, allowing for consistent and thorough analysis of the water based needs of the community. SFWMD has worked to identify potentially impaired water bodies, meaning those that are either at risk of heavy pollution or of being drained too quickly. With this information, areas most vulnerable to economic degradation may be prioritized.