Special Report on Florida's Environment
A Rising Concern: The impact of sea level rise on Florida
Forget the argument over what may be causing it — if we take seriously the idea that the sea level could rise by more than seven inches in the next 30 years, what should Florida communities be doing about it, and how much will it cost?
If sea level rises three to seven inches by 2030, it won’t mean every oceanfront condominium and home will have water lapping at its doorstep or that all of Key West will disappear. But even a small amount of sea level rise has side effects beyond how much shoreline ends up disappearing:
» Storm surges from a hurricane, for example, that 30 years ago would have been seven feet might be closer to eight feet, sending water farther inland than in the past.
» Both sea level rise and climate changes that produce more rainfall are expected to strain drainage systems. As a result, vital facilities and infrastructure in low-lying areas, such as roads, fire stations, police stations, water utilities and schools, may need to be elevated or relocated.
» Saltwater intrusion will worsen, with more ocean water leaking into Florida’s underground aquifers. Water management districts, utilities and local governments will have to relocate wells farther inland and find alternative sources of water or build desalination plants.