An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Saltwater intrusion, an emerging water quality issue below our feet

The beautiful beaches, warm weather and abundant recreational opportunities bring new residents and millions of tourists to Southwest Florida annually. However, saltwater intrusion is a hidden threat to this idyllic landscape and culture.

Saltwater intrusion is associated with increased demand for groundwater consumption and rising sea levels, resulting in limited drinking water supplies. Due to Florida’s distinct underground karst topography and interconnected passages of mass water flow potential, saltwater intrusion is simply a hydrologic imbalance involving the removal of underground freshwater and replacement by inflowing salt water. This vacuum effect heightens the risk to coastal and even inland communities reliant on drinking water from private wells.

The increased probability of mixing saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico with our freshwater aquifer supply is causing concern as it poses a risk of contaminating our underground drinking water sources. In addition, the increase in sea level has been linked to saltwater intrusion into wells, leading to the unsuitability of groundwater for various purposes, such as drinking, irrigation and maintaining the natural balance of freshwater ecosystems.