Tuesday, September 6, 2011

water, too little

What if tap water was as expensive as gasoline? This was the premise of a report on WLRN radio this morning, and in the Miami Herald last week. Towns in South Florida face increasing difficulty drawing fresh water from the Biscayne Aquifer – the only source of drinking water for four and a half million of us in Dade, Broward and parts of Palm Beach Counties – which is suffering from increasing intrusion of salt water from the bay and ocean. (And it's far worse in Texas, where the drought is killing crops and helping the spread of wildfires.) The problem grows from a confluence of issues:

Population growth creates greater demand for drinking water, lowering the amount of fresh water that produces a natural barrier against sea water intrusion along the coast.

Draining the Everglades for agriculture and development reduces the supply of fresh water that replenishes the aquifer, again preventing the natural replenishment of the aquifer.

Rising sea levels push more salt water into the aquifer.

What can we do? We don’t know much about public policy regarding water use in South Florida, but clearly water conservation and wetlands restoration are good ideas that need to be enacted on a bigger scale.

At the scale of the home, there are several specific steps we’re taking at tin box to reduce our use of municipal water by up to 66%. As we’ve noted in previous posts, we will harvest rain water off the upper roof and filter it for potable use in the house, we’ll use low flow fixtures to minimize how much we use, we’ll install a gray water system to reuse bath water for flushing toilets and irrigating plants, and we’ll use native plants as much as possible to reduce the garden’s demand for water.

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