An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Water woes lurk as saltwater moves inland, upward

West Virginia has coal. Colorado has snow. Florida has lots of water, at least it did.

The Sunshine State gets nearly 5 feet of rain each year, which is just a few inches shy of what Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming receive combined.

But a century of drainage and development has crippled freshwater flows in the historic Everglades, possibly even changed summer weather patterns. Some scientists speculate that so much water runs off the landscape so quickly that there's not enough moisture in the air – during the wet season – to create daily afternoon rains.

"To a large extent (water) was thrown away to turn South Florida into what I call terraform upland, turning wetlands into (dry) lands," said Jim Beever, with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council. "Florida was a paradise and we tried to turn into the Midwest."

All that would be bad enough, but Florida's rapid growth means demand for fresh water to drink, not to mention clean, flush and sprinkle lawns with, is increasing even as supplies fall. The state's population is pushing 20 million, with most of those people centered on the coast. What was once a common, cheap commodity is now becoming harder to find, or getting much more scarce and expensive.