Sunday, December 27, 2009

Florida's water supply: Stakes are rising as our resources dwindle

From an editorial by Leslie Lilly , president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, in the Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): Andy Reid's excellent article ("South Florida water fights resurface with dry weather," Dec. 12) on the arguments that continue over our water management is a sobering reminder that broad strategies are urgently needed to confront looming climate change, not tactical responses to immediate issues. If board members of the water district feel unjustly treated by accusations that they don't know what they are doing, clearly their reputation as water managers is not being enhanced by reactive short-term, week-to-week decisions to release water from Lake Okeechobee. These actions appear to ignore the critical, longer-term effects of water releases.

No one could characterize this kind of administration as long-term thinking. Unfortunately, incremental adjustments to our region's water predicament are by their very nature already proven insufficient, and the likely effects of climate changes ahead mean that basing critical judgments on past history may prove dangerously inadequate to protecting and sustaining precious water resources.

..A major shift in strategy is needed for dealing with chronic droughts and impending climate change. In a recent poll by the Pew Foundation, climate change ranked last among 20 topics important to voters. Because of the magnitude of revolutionary shifts promised by climate change, it should instead be a major topic of discussion.

…Despite the large rainfall we experience during hurricane season, the study notes that one of our central challenges is a chronic lack of water. There's the seeming paradox: Facing an unpredictable climate, will we be hit by drought or by flood? And will those tasked with managing our area's water be thinking imaginatively enough to protect us?

Lake Okeechobee from space. Those vigilant lenses at NASA again.