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Global Warming's Wake-Up Call: More Water Scarcity in the Sunshine State

November 21, 2008

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) says it has a wake-up call for the Southeast. The organization's new report predicts an increasingly uncertain water supply caused by global warming, and a return to historical patterns of drought. For nearly 50 years, droughts were rare, water was abundant, and development rampant. Since 1960, Florida’s population has tripled, and its water use has increased nearly 200 percent.

Dr. Amanda Staudt studies climate change for the NWF, and says global warming is intensifying natural water cycles.

"We're seeing a return to cyclical drought periods that were typical in the early part of the 20th Century and going further back. This means we need to approach the system in terms of making it more reliable and more resilient."

Staudt believes Florida communities need to take action now, as many scientists predict global warming will cause the sea level to rise between 3 feet and 7 feet by the next turn of the century. This rise in the sea level could result in a fall in the water supply, according to Staudt.

"What happens if the sea level rises is that you would have more salt water moving further inland underground and contaminating our fresh water reserves underground."

Staudt points out that Florida is already under water restrictions, and is fighting with neighboring states over the use of water from rivers. NWF recommends ways to guard against water shortage, beginning with reducing greenhouse gas pollution by a recommended 2 percent per year to lessen the effects on climate change. Everyone can lend a hand in water conservation, says Staudt.

"Those kinds of actions, in addition to reducing our water use wherever possible, are also looking for places where we can improve the resiliency of our system."

Those who question the theory of human-caused global climate change argue the changes could be explained as the natural ebb and flow of temperatures that have existed historically on Earth, and do not require extreme measures.

The report, More Variable and Uncertain Water Supply: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call
for the Southeastern U.S., is at">

Gina Presson/Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL