Florida’s waterbody building: how fit have we become?
From Water Damage Restoration to Water Conservation
A century ago, in the 1920s, Florida was living the real estate boom which set it on a path of growth and identity creation as a leisure destination. People moved in rapidly to seize the opportunity of becoming a landowner, putting down savings of a lifetime supported by abundant credit. Ambitious young men envisaged a bright future in the real estate market as the landscape started to shape around new builds. Together with land, water also started to be reshaped in this process so it could serve new human needs. Solid ground was built in the Biscayne Bay where once there was only water and marshland. Carrying on, major hurricanes and flooding events hit Florida in parallel with the persistent effort of people, the government and the army to build back. The plan has always been to be better equipped to engage with events that were naturally part of the state’s identity.
The waterbody building greatly counted on the black Bahamians workforce and included digging long canals to channel free-flowing water, lowering water to deeper levels and paving over wetlands. While this workout helped to shape a geography that could welcome a growing population, it has also affected the ecology of Biscayne Bay and the quality of the water. In particular, many new areas were built only a few feet above sea level and the wet-season groundwater table. This drainage system means to use the force of gravity to get excess water flowing down but requires constant management to maintain the needed water flow and volume. Major flooding events followed and led to the creation of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District in the late 1940s and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) in 2000 with the purpose of keeping the water system safe and healthy for people, the economy and the environment. The job includes looking after flood control, water supply planning, water quality improvement and restoring the ecosystem. Given the fact that South Florida’s drainage system is interconnected, flood control is a shared responsibility between the District, county and city governments, together with local drainage districts, homeowners associations and residents.
The size of the water management task is quite big with approximately 2,179 miles of canals and 2,131 miles of levees/berms, 87 pump stations and more than 785 water control structures and 621 project culverts to manage throughout the year. The work is done in constant engagement with natural events, be it a typical summer rainstorm, a high tide, a hurricane or drought, as well as in response to man-made impacts including sea level rise. The latter is easily noticeable through the more frequent “King Tides,” or sunny day flooding, as sea levels are now nine inches higher than they were in 1930.
These facts and figures help to illustrate the scale of South Florida’s achievement to build a water system from scratch which today services a population of over 21 million people. A system that is challenged by natural forces and by the increasing demand of a growing population. They also show how managing water in South Florida is not only a big task, but is also a task that can only be achieved with the participation of all those who are impacted by it.
The SFWMD estimates that over 3.5 billion gallons of water are used every day in central and southern Florida for public and domestic uses, as well as for commercial, agriculture and power generation activities. It also projects future water needs to increase to approximately 4.1 billion gallons per day by 2040, or two Blue Cypress Lakes. Every day.
Water conservation is one of the most effective ways to build in resiliency and security of water access, as withdrawing less water from aquifers helps to prevent saltwater from an inland movement which increases the risks to water supply. Water conservation is also an accessible way to join efforts with those who preceded us in getting our waterbody system to today’s shape. At Water Security System we are on this mission with Florida, leveraging over 100 years of expertise in water conservation to provide homes, businesses and industry with affordable cutting-edge technology solutions to mitigate water loss and damage. As we have the luxury of a strong waterbody structure today in Florida, we are proud to be part of the waterbody building community that believes we not only can keep our system fit, but can also make it smarter and avoid the environmental losses that we are no longer able to afford.