Water, like transportation, is critical to sustaining a growing economy. It is also the region’s life force. Although the region abounds in water, only a small portion is suitable for drinking. As Southeast Florida grows, that limited freshwater supply will become even more depleted. The region needs to conserve its freshwater, retain rain and ground water, and may eventually need to use salt and brackish water for its freshwater supply. Such strategies and others yet to be articulated will likely be more expensive than historic freshwater water supply costs because of the infrastructure and energy needed to conserve, retain, and make salt and brackish water usable as a freshwater water supply. Volatile commodity and energy prices could lead to an increase in the price of the region’s fresh water supply. Further, the use of energy to meet the region’s water supply needs may counter the region’s need to reduce greenhouse gasses. Additional issues to address are the region’s exceptionally low level of fresh water reuse and inadequate and aging water infrastructure. The number of communities on septic systems and the quality of outfall flowing directly into the ocean also presents problems. All will be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, specifically sea level rise, on the region’s water supply and its flood control and water infrastructure. Saltwater is already intruding into water wellfields and stormwater retention areas, and rising water tables are causing increased flooding in inland areas. Addressing those issues will require greater coordination among what today are fragmented utilities. The Partnership must identify how it will work with the region’s water providers, residents, and businesses to develop greater coordination and collectively create a water supply plan designed to address the region’s long-term water infrastructure needs and more sustainable use of its limited fresh water supply.
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