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How do we prepare for rising seas?

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Salt water intrusion map

Scientists are certainly exploring steps that we can take on a global scale to affect the planet’s climate and reverse the conditions that are thought to melt the polar ice caps and contribute to rising seas. However, it is certain that any mitigation strategy of any magnitude will take many, many years to work. The consensus is that sea level rise will continue well beyond the end of the century and that it is sensible for the City of Fort Lauderdale to complete all planning based upon this assumption.

Engineers the world over have explored strategies for managing life with rising seas.  While there is no single adaptation strategy that will hold back the sea permanently, there are many exciting developments in city planning, urban design, public works, and sustainable construction that can contribute to resiliency.  Different strategies are appropriate for different coastlines.  Cities must work collaboratively, as we are with the South Florida Regional Climate Compact, to ensure that any strategies one city employs will not worsen the situation for others.   You can read about some of the innovations we are exploring for our City and region in other parts of our website.

One of the earlier issues we have to deal with is what the sea does to our freshwater aquifer that we depend on for drinking water, and to the infrastructure underground that channels that water to us. Incoming sea water adds salt at the edges of the Biscayne Aquifer and can infiltrate drinking water wells, puts pressure on pipes, increases the chance of breaks and requires additional maintenance. Infrastructure such as ports, schools, hospitals and landfills generally experience flooding at the borders and will require upgrades to on-site drainage systems. These issues are present with only a three to seven inch rise in sea level. However, as scenarios move from one foot to three foot projections, the risk and inundation increases.

Our Sustainability Division is working locally and with regional partners on a number of innovations to monitor and deal with Sea Level Rise. These include:

  • Vegetating sand dunes and creating new dunes to buffer from extreme storm or wave events;
  • Modernizing drinking water and sewage system piping;
  • Reducing the strain on our potable water system by reducing demand through water conservation methods including new technology, ordinance and policy changes, and community education and outreach;
  • Improving flood management infrastructure; and,
  • Employing innovative adaption area strategies. 

Whether you live, work, study, or visit Fort Lauderdale, you can do your part by focusing on water conservation, sustainable construction, emergency preparedness, and lowering your overall carbon footprint.

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