Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the great Romance English poet knew the high value of drinking water when he wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The most famous line from his poem is “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
Fast forward to 2015 and we see the same dilemma but from a different angle. The world’s climate is heating up, the ice caps in the North and South Poles are melting, the level of the sea is rising, salt water is pushing inland and displacing the fresh water in the wells from which we drink and bathe.
“Nor any drop to drink,” might be the Rime of South Florida in the 21st Century.
Not only is the salt water starting to replace the fresh water in our wells but it will be causing flooding. You ask how can salt water intruding our aquifer cause flooding? It is raising the water table under our cities. As the water levels under our cities rise, the space between the water level and the surface of the land decreases.
When we experience heavy rains the land cannot absorb the water as there is far less space for the water to drain. Voilá, flooding.
Like the Ancient Mariner, lost in a sea of undrinkable water, we too in South Florida, as acknowledged by most environmentalists, will be afloat in sea water without a drop to drink. Worse of all, South Florida is acknowledged to be the most vulnerable area in the entire country with the greatest exposure to the sea taking over our land. What do we do? We put our local and state government to work figuring out how to defend our homes, our businesses and our futures.
Miami-Dade County to the rescue. Our county government, acknowledging that the problem exists, allocated $300,000 of our $6.8 billion budget to fight the impending catastrophe. It’s not that our county government isn’t aware of the coming disaster. After all Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez recently attended a White House summit meeting in Los Angles delivering a keynote speech on the subject where he said that “Miami-Dade continues to make necessary investments on environmental issues.”
We have allocated .00005 percent of our newly approved county budget to fight rising water, the flooding of South Florida. Last month environmentalists dominated the public hearing on the finalization of the 2016 county budget. When pressed for an answer as to why so little money is allocated for such a momentous problem facing our county, our mayor responded: “We don’t have a solution. So even if I had a billion dollars right now, we wouldn’t know what to spend it on. Because there is no solution right now.”
I completely disagree. What about a comprehensive revision to our building code? Must we still build 50 story buildings in Miami Beach and downtown Miami with street level entries? Don’t we realize that water runs downhill and pumping stations must be modified to meet this challenge?
A recent writer to the Miami Herald’s opinion page described how Venice, Italy has learned its lesson and is using stainless steel to prevent future erosion of footings. Are we to be known as “Miami, the Venice of America?” Do we really want to take a gondola to work on Brickell Avenue?
I was just looking at a drawing of the “new” Miami Beach Convention Center that recently appeared in the Herald. What surprised me was the entry is on ground level. And it sits on some of the most venerable sea intrusion land in the county. Might I suggest that the city consider keeping sea water out of the convention center halls a possible problem in the future?
My personal solution? Try and find a way to buy a building lot on the top of our South Dade landfill. You know that pile of trash covered with soil in Cutler Bay? I want to build a home so my grandchildren will have a roof over their heads without their feet in water.
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