As a region, we need creative water management strategies and infrastructure improvements that can mitigate adverse impacts of climate change and sea level rise on our water supplies, water and waste-water infrastructure, and water management systems.
Climate change presents serious challenges for water managers— given its likely impacts on the quality and abundance of water supplies, water and waste-water infrastructure, and drain- age and flood control operations. An effective response will re- quire the coordinated efforts of governmental agencies and service providers and a holistic approach that treats water supply, disposal and management as integrated systems.
In Southeast Florida, climate change is predicted to influence precipitation patterns with both water supply and water management implications. Fewer storm events, drier winter and spring months, and an increase in local evapotranspiration rates (water lost to the atmosphere through evaporation and plant transpiration) will increase the frequency and severity of droughts while less frequent but more intense storms will tax water management systems causing both inland and coastal flooding. Impacts will be compounded by sea level rise with the loss of coastal well-fields due to saltwater intrusion and constraints on water management operations due to increases in groundwater levels and reduced discharge potential at canal water control structures. Addressing the impacts of climate change will require: finding solutions to consistently maintain high quality and adequate water supplies for all local communities, strategies to reduce the cost and energy demands of alternative water supplies, consideration of future conditions with respect to the placement of infrastructure, and investments in new and upgraded infrastructure to maintain essential drainage and flood control operations. Additionally, sea level rise resulting from climate change is threatening the Florida Everglades, the backbone of our natural resource system, highlighting the urgent need for restoration of the Everglades with improved delivery and distribution of water flow to provide both natural resources and water supply benefits.
Given these challenges, it is essential to identify practical solutions today to help mitigate the impact of climate change on our future water supply. The Regional Climate Action Plan proposes recommendations to provide regionally coordinated water management plans that address storm water use and disposal, traditional and alternative water supplies, waste-water disposal and reuse, water conservation measures, and continued support for Everglades restoration efforts.
A unified effort among government, businesses, and consumers is needed to implement near-term solutions and develop long- term strategies to mitigate adverse impacts of climate change on water supplies while developing new sources that add diversify our water supply. Efforts will require optimized use of all water resources, with conservation being paramount, along with development of new sources less vulnerable to changing climate conditions. The challenge will be to implement these necessary projects without marked increases in energy consumption, a difficulty that underscores the value of conservation as a priority strategy. Policy and regulatory changes, funding for infrastructure, development of alternative water supplies, and public education will all be necessary in order to make significant progress. The issues are vast and the investments to be great, with effective response requiring the collaboration of the public, financial participation of state and federal governments, and the exploration of new finance strategies.