By Thais Lopez Vogel, VoLo Foundation
Any visitor to Florida learns that the state is blessed with abundant rivers, lakes, springs, wetlands, and more large streams than any other state in the country. They not only provide countless recreational activities, but help ensure the fresh water supply we count on for drinking, cleaning, and our everyday needs.
As World Water Day approaches on March 22, we must take stock of the perilous state of freshwater supplies across our state due to the climate crisis.
We’ve seen the devastating consequences in the Florida Everglades – “the river of grass”, in the iconic words of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas – when more than 40,000 acres of seagrass died in a couple of years, partly because of rising temperatures preventing fresh water from flowing south to Florida Bay.
As she famously wrote, “There are no other Everglades in the future…nothing anywhere else is like them.” The same can be said for Florida itself, which increasingly sees major natural freshwater sources that support life across the state, like the 82,000-square-mile Florida aquifer, under strain in part from saltwater intrusion.
Sustainable management of the natural environment is essential. Human well-being is dependent upon the health of the planet; continued environmental degradation will lead to worsened health effects across generations.
Researchers have identified southern Florida as particularly vulnerable in the years ahead, with sea levels projected to rise by more than 3 to 4 inches over the coming decade, depleting supplies of freshwater as saltwater intrudes into the natural ecosystem. We could see freshwater resources in the region decline from 28.6 million cubic meters in 2015 to 8.7 million by 2100.
This challenge mirrors broader challenges across our society. A Florida Climate Outlook report from our partner Resources for the Future, found that average summer temperatures across the state will likely rise above 83 °F over the next 20 years. What happens next will depend upon the boldness of the actions taken by our elected officials and business leaders in accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy.
There is a critical role for each of us to play as citizens in ensuring our voices are heard.
Consider steps you can take to help ensure the fresh water supply:
- Educate yourself about the science behind the erosion of our fresh water supply and the climate disruption taking place; attend events like the 2021 Florida Climate Week, a free, virtual summit featuring over 40 exclusive events addressing the effects that climate change is having in their communities and how you can become a part of the solution.
- Vote with your pocketbook; make it a priority to avoid products that contribute to pollution and strive to avoid stocks in fossil fuels.
- Learn where your elected officials stand on climate change and demand that they take the necessary measures to confront the climate crisis.
- Spread awareness to fellow voters.
As a mother and responsible citizen, I urge you to join me in acting now to ensure future generations have access to the same abundant resources past generations have taken for granted. On this World Water Day, let’s pledge to do all we can to protect our state and its abundant freshwater resources.