July 26 Symposium Will Explore Sea Level Rise

With sea levels on the rise and saltwater threatening to seep into Florida’s drinking supply, community leaders and environmental experts are looking for solutions.

On Friday, July 26, the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades, along with the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County and the Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches, will host the Sea Level Rise Symposium 2013 to address the issues.

The event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Oxbridge Academy, will host 45 expert speakers who will participate in presentations and workshops. The speakers vary in their specializations, from oceanographers and engineers to business and community leaders.

John Marshall, chairman of the Marshall Foundation and the Florida Environmental Institute, said the issue should be of concern to everyone.

“It’s going to significantly affect our water supply as we see saltwater intrusion,” he said.

As sea levels rise, saltwater seeps into the freshwater supply, meaning that it will need additional treatment before it can be used for drinking.

To mitigate the problem, Marshall said that interns at the Marshall Foundation have drafted a proposal using Everglades restoration to counter saltwater intrusion.

Marshall explained that flowing water down through the Everglades will help filter it, as well as mitigate the saltwater intrusion.

“Flowing water back down the center of the state will refill aquifers, cut down on saltwater intrusion, and the water will also be flowing back against the saltwater that is flowing in,” he said.

This process of reverse osmosis and desalinization was used by New York City to help treat its water supply, Marshall said.

“They realized that if they used the Catskill watershed, they would save $1 billion letting nature do the filtering rather than spend $6 billion on a water treatment plant,” he said.

Another consequence of sea levels rising is additional water in an already-overflowing water system.

“Where do you put it? Lake Okeechobee is already almost full,” Marshall said. “The estuaries are trashed. One of the good consequences of Everglades restoration is that you have more water flowing south.”

At the event, participants will have the opportunity to learn more about the issue and ways to mitigate the problems.

“We’ve tried to take this down to the basics,” Marshall said. “We hope to take this issue to the younger generation and to the general public to get more understanding on the street. We don’t feel there is a lot of information out there.”

Marshall said he hopes young scientists will look into the issue, as it probably will affect the future of South Florida’s water systems. But, he said, everyone can help make a difference with sea levels rising, as well as in other environmental issues, across the world.

“A key in the global situation is carbon reduction and carbon emissions reduction,” Marshall said.

He noted that people can choose to drive an electric or hybrid car, bicycle, walk or take public transportation, among other things, to cut back on those harmful effects. “Everyone has the potential to reduce carbon emissions,” Marshall stressed.

Marshall said that the 200 spaces for the symposium are filling up quickly, and all the information will be available online. The registration fee is $30. To register, or to get more information, visit www.artmarshall.org or call (561) 233-9004.