Case study on river management: Everglades
Today, half of the original Everglades have been drained. Large quantities of fresh water have been diverted to drain land for agriculture and to provide flood control for coastal cities.
Almost 2.5 billion cubic metres (2 million acre-feet) of water are diverted from the natural system annually, damaging the ecology of the coastal estuaries. Polluted and nutrient-rich water flowing into Florida Bay is adversely impacting marine habitats including fragile coral reefs.
Saltwater intrusion has become a serious problem, making it necessary to drill deeper freshwater wells inland away from coastal urban areas.
Ironically, this has led to water-use restrictions in one of North America’s wettest regions.
The Everglades support major industries and provide South Florida’s drinking water, supporting the explosive development of one of the fastest growing and economically dynamic regions in the United States.
Due to massive diversions of fresh water, largely for flood control in areas that were formerly wetlands, the remarkable biological diversity and productivity of the entire South Florida ecosystem is at risk. Yet this diversity and productivity are at the very heart of the region’s vital multibillion-dollar tourism and fishing industries.
With South Florida’s population projected to double by 2050, a robust system of sustainable use is required if the Everglades are to survive the growing human pressure.