The delicate balance between a well-watered city and a desolate wasteland is upheld in Miami by the Biscayne Aquifer. The sea level is on the rise, and the plant is at constant risk of flooding and contamination – this poses the biggest threat to the city.
Further contamination risk is present from the layer of groundwater sitting below the surface that consists entirely of the runoff from many septic tanks installed as the city expanded much faster than its infrastructure going back a few decades. This layer is at risk of coming to the surface and rolling into the aquifer.
Many ideas about solutions are being discussed, but as Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
“The obvious solutions would cause problems of their own. Why not stop mining near the wellfields, for instance? Because the limestone from those mines goes into the concrete used to construct sea walls and build higher off the ground around Florida’s coast. There’s little disagreement about the need to get rid of the septic tanks, but which homes get help first? If a coastal neighborhood will have to be abandoned anyway, is it worth spending money on new sewers?”
Everyone in the discussion agrees: if there was enough money, the problem could be solved. The debate is who would be financing these ventures. Particularly because at this point, it is looking like desalination is the most viable option for the near future.
Bloomberg Businessweek concludes their report:
“Stoddard, the South Miami mayor, says the people who already have homes here will accept almost any price to stay. But those who would otherwise come to South Florida will start looking at the growing cost of protecting it—measured in water rates, in property taxes, in insurance premiums, in uncertain future home sales—and go elsewhere.
“People will hang on with their fingernails to keep what they’ve got,” Stoddard says. “But who’s going to move here? And that’s what’s going to kill us.”
Is there a solution that could encourage stable city growth and provide clean drinking water for the city of Miami? That remains to be seen.
The challenges Miami is starting to face are challenges worldwide for coastal cities. The Climate Adaptation Platform is a good resource for climate adaptation and mitigation ideas and solutions.
This platform collates and regularly publishes research, reports, and case studies on potential solutions, new research, and practices to help cities and communities adapt and mitigate climate change consequences.