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When Miami becomes Venice

December 18, 2009

With Miami receiving a recent downpour we have all realized just how delicate our storm water drainage system is.  The South Florida Water Management District constantly observes and directs our water flows from the Everglades to the Atlantic.  This system which has created canals and outflows throughout South Florida primarily relies on gravity to do the work.  However in midst of major storms and rising seas when will we be relying on pumps such as New Orleans, and when will Miami become the next Venice?

It has been calculated and reported that after a 1′ rise in sea level (expected around 2040) that 70% of our outflow production would be cut and we would need to rely on pump stations to do the work.  Already during a high tide in conjunction with a full moon there is noticeable street flooding.  (Alton Road in Miami Beach)  What most people fail to think of is when the sea level rises so will our water table as it searches for equilibrium.  With a higher water table we will have more frequent flooding in low-lying areas of Miami on top of shoreline flooding.

Moving forward….

We need to calculate the critical fail points of our storm water drainage and sewer systems.

We need to begin incentivizing developers to accommodate their own rainfall on site through water retention and permeable surfaces.

Finally, the question nobody wants to answer…

When do we begin devolving certain low-lying areas of Miami and moving residents to more urban settings on high ground close to mass transit?  Push back development from the shoreline?  Are low-lying parts of West Miami-Dade worth saving?  Is Miami Beach worth saving?  Who makes these decisions and on what criteria?

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