The great Floridan aquifer is an exhaustible renewable resource, meaning that with proper support, it can last us a long time. But at its current rate of use, we might have to rethink how we use our most precious resource.
What’s going on?
An exhaustible renewable resource is a natural resource that may be mined or used for an extended time given the proper extraction and recharge time.
The Floridan aquifer has been subject to overextraction, leading to saltwater intrusion, ground subsidence, and a low base flow.
Why it matters.
The Floridan aquifer is the largest in the southeastern United States, supplying most of Florida with drinking water and irrigation.
Because many wetlands have been lost due to development, the aquifer has experienced a reduction in recharge rates, and in combination with overextraction, this has led to a significant drop in the water levels within the aquifer.
This decrease in water levels has led to saltwater intrusion, a process in which salty sea water invades the aquifer and replaces removed freshwater.
Reduced baseflow is also a symptom of low water levels, resulting in a low discharge rate from the aquifer. This means that rivers and streams dependent on the aquifer will experience less water flowing through them.
With Florida’s swiss cheese-like karst terrain, the removal of groundwater can lead to subsidence which means the ground will cave in without proper support from underlying material. The aquifer provides structure to the ground, and when the water is removed, it can cause sinkholes and permanent damage to the landscape.
What you can do.
Over half of the water extracted from the aquifer for public use goes toward lawn maintenance. By researching xeriscaping, adding mulch to avoid evaporation, and using reclaimed water for irrigation, you can help conserve water and reduce stress on the aquifer.
The health of Florida’s environment is closely linked to its water. Promoting the wellbeing of the aquifer is related to preserving our quality of life.
Supporting water quality projects and backing the restoration of wetlands are also crucial for the aquifer to recharge itself again.
Information from Saint John’s River Water Management District, National Geographic, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.