COSEE Florida in Miami explored drinking water during their science café held May 27th, 2015 at The Grove Spot in Coconut Grove, Miami. The guest panelists included Dr. Virginia Walsh, Chief Hydrogeologist from the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, Troy Bernier, PhD Candidate from Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Geosciences, and Julia Wester, PhD Candidate from University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Policy. We explored where Miami gets it’s water from and concerns for the future.
Dr. Virginia Walsh informed us of all the work the county is doing. She made it very clear that although Florida State may not be preparing for climate change, Miami-Dade County is taking climate change preparation very seriously. Miami-Dade County has invested $25M to research ways to keep Miami’s water safe from sea level rise. This along with another $10M from the United States Geological Survey totals to $35M invested in Miami’s drinking water. The technology used in Miami-Dade County to track and monitor our drinking water is the most cutting-edge network in the country!
But it turns out south Florida is lucky enough to have the “champagne of water” as Dr. Walsh puts it. The Miami limestone filters the water for us, so that there is very little treatment that actually needs to be done. Dr. Walsh said the water is safe to drink straight out of the aquifer, however it’s so mineral-rich most people wouldn’t like the taste. Miami’s limestone also plays a huge part in the aquifer’s productivity. The limestone is so porous that water moves so fast it cannot be accurately modeled using traditional hydrologic mathematical models. To fix this, the county is collaborating with Dr. Michael Sukop from Florida International University to create brand new formulas specifically designed for south Florida’s Biscayne Aquifer.
Part of south Florida’s water is dependent on the Everglades. Troy Bernier, one of the guest panelists, is helping to perfect a new sampling method that would help accurately track how water cycles in the Everglades. He’s specifically focusing on using stable isotopes to track evapotranspiration. With his new method, stable isotope cycles could be monitored by the second! The precision of this method can shed new light on the complex hydrology of the Everglades.
Our final guest panelist, Julia Wester, is actually a social scientist. She researches how people feel about their water and how to influence people’s actions around water. She shared with us a very different type of case study, a drought-riddled Wichita Falls, Texas. In Texas they’ve been in a 10-year drought and have needed to start drinking recycled water, which is wastewater that has been treated well enough to be potable. Julia shared with us that the local news was actually an integral part of getting people to drinking the recycled water. Texas created messages that were so basic anyone could connect to. One great example of a message that got people in northern Texas to accept recycled water was: without recycled water, there’d be no water to put your house out if it were on fire.
During the science café we started to brainstorm simple messages that would help south Floridians connect to the environmental issues here. One example was “Do it for your children”, which connects people to the idea of family legacy and that our actions today affect our children tomorrow.
What would be your simple message be for Floridians?
If you weren’t able to make it out to this event and want to find out what was discussed, check out the storified twitter-convo.
For more science café events, follow COSEE Florida on Twitter @COSEEFlorida, on Instagram @COSEEFlorida, or on Facebook at COSEE Florida. Or search #COSEEMIA on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for events in Miami.
Stay tuned for details on the next COSEE Florida #COSEEMIA science café coming June 30, 2015!