"Don’t let drought catch Florida by surprise” by Melissa Meeker, the former Executive Director of the SFWMD. A good constructive rumination. However, there is a shortcoming of it being somewhat narrow-minded in a sense that she is not considering / addressing / mentioning at all:
(1) SUSTAINABILITY – While technological advances are making the RO membrane processes somewhat cheaper, desalination technologies are invariably extremely ENERGY intensive. Their use makes us MORE DEPENDENT on conventional (oil) and controversial (nuclear ?) energy production. Reverse osmosis membranes are also hydrocarbon based. Moreover, the newer technologies (RO desalination, ASR, reuse) are still facing some challenges (brine disposal, arsenic contamination and water recovery, public acceptance, mismatch between supply and demand, etc.) when compared to using groundwater. Check the costs below. Like a proponent of seawater desal that she appears to be, Ms Meeker seems to somewhat suppresses the outstanding controversies.
While the word “diversification” is being used, let’s make that “sustainable diversification” !
(2) THE STATE IS not CONSERVING WATER – while public is exhorted to CONSERVE (SFWMD, FDEP, EPA campaigns). Water conservation is an extremely important factor.
How to explain to the public that during a wet year like 2013, instead of storing every drop of water, billions of gallons of freshwater are not only dumped to the estuaries but also causing immeasurable damages there.
What a double-whammy waste of our precious freshwater resource !
(3) CLIMATE CHANGE and SEA-LEVELRISE – real longer-term danger of inundation does loom on the horizon. While it is not even mentioned, it is already putting an extra pressure on FL fresh water supplies through (underground) penetration of salt water that poisons FL wells supplying the most dense populations of the East and West coasts.
(4) EVERGLADES RESTORATION – results in both natural aquifer recharging and water STORAGE. It is in progress and should be first on the list of remedial alternatives as it will
a) decrease the need for expensive water desalination,
b) recharge our aquifers during the wet years,
c) stop damaging freshwater dumping into the estuaries,
d) Liven up the tourism and economy in general through available clean water and clean oceans (a $4 return on each $1 so invested).
Obviously, this alternative would not provide freshwater for free. The costs involved are significant – but it has to be done if Florida is to remain habitable for the population that already arrived and settled in that requires fresh water to survive as a civilization.
The alternative is to evacuate 8.5 million people of South Florida.
JOB LOSSES due to water shortages are mentioned. What needs to be emphasized is the serious damage due to water shortages and pollution which are deadly destructive to the very heart of the Florida main economic engine – tourism.
The key two sectors with the highest use of our freshwater are public and agriculture. Floridians used an estimated 6.8 billion gallons per day of freshwater in 2005 and the forecast water demand is around 8.7 billion gallons per day in 2025, mainly subdivided between agriculture (around 2.5 BGD) and public water supply (around 3BGD). As the industrial/commercial sectors are not high water users, water related job losses in that direction would not be as dramatic compared to people leaving the state, or not visiting it, because of drastic water shortages and water/ocean contamination.
There is no “free fresh-water” – we end up paying for it one way or another.
As usual, not one, not two - but ALL factors contributing to the security of our fresh-water supply have to be considered, exploited and introduced to remedy the situation:
GW =Ground Water SW = Surface Water
RW = Reused Water WW= Waste Water
While the engineering and design of well chosen options should be bold and forward-looking, the economics of these alternatives has to be seriously worked out to provide for a solid decision making basis. SUSTAINABILITY in particular and CLIMATE CHANGE factors have to be also considered as part of the multifactorial, multifaceted and balanced action toward the optimal solution that we could afford as we must act.
There is no life and no economy without fresh water.