Miami’s rising water scarcity problem

Ilse writes*

Many cities around the world are facing water scarcity, and so is Miami. Although Miami may seem to have abundant water, it’s mostly salty Atlantic Ocean water. Miami actually gets its drinking water from groundwater aquifers. The Biscayne Aquifer provides 90% of the drinking water to Miami and surrounding areas.

Miami’s water scarcity is not due to overconsumption but environmental pollution. The Biscayne Aquifer is shallow and composed of very porous limestone, making it vulnerable to saltwater contamination from rising sea levels. The city’s water treatment plants cannot now desalinate water, and desalination is expensive, energy-intensive, and environmentally harmful.

Miami’s freshwater is also vulnerable to increasing rainfall and floods. Heavy rainfall has increased 7% since 1960, contributing to more and heavier floods that damage homes and roads but also carry toxins and pollutants from Superfund sites (contaminated locations in the USA that need long-term clean-ups) into the Biscayne Aquifer. Water treatment plants of limited capacities cannot handle heavy flows, resulting in raw wastewater discharges into waterways.

An environmental watchdog group stated that Miami’s water is badly contaminated compared to other US cities Using unpublished data from the US Environmental Protection Agency, EWG found ‘forever chemicals’ in the drinking water. These chemicals (perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS) do not break down in the environment, and their presence has been linked to liver damage, cancer, and other health problems.

Bottom line: Miami’s drinking water is threatened by rising sea levels, floods that carry pollutants into groundwater aquifers, and treatment plants unsuited of removing salt and pollutants. The government of Miami must take action to solve these issues.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

One thought on “Miami’s rising water scarcity problem”

  1. I think overall the blogpost is coherent and informative, but in order to make it more fluent to read I would connect the sentences a bit more, especially in the beginning. The used image is helpfull as it illustrates the issue of saltwater contamination of the aquifer quite well. I think it would have been nice if you added from which source the PFAS that enter Miami’s water are coming from if this is possible to find in the literature. It remained a bit unclear for me if the wastewater treatment plants are only not capable of filtering pollutants when there are heavy rainfalls, or if they generally can’t filter the pollutants out. Furthermore, you write that the government should take action, so I wondered if there are any possible solutions or if the government is taking any action already to solve the issue. Also, try to pay attention to avoid typos. These are only a few suggestions to improve your blogpost, but generally, I think that your blogpost is very interesting and that you did quite a good job.

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