As sea levels rise, many coastal communities are concerned that salty ocean water will contaminate water wells that provide fresh water to millions of residents. The loss of a fresh water source would be devastating to a city or town. Trying to find new sources, if it’s even possible, could be expensive. This issue should be of concern to real estate buyers in coastal communities.
The saltwater intrusion problem isn’t theoretical. For example, in 2007 researchers at Florida State University surveyed water planners to predict what would happen if seas rose 6-to-18 inches by 2057. Half the planners were concerned that their wells would be threatened by tidal salt water traveling up coastal rivers where water intakes and wells were located.
Kenneth Miller, an earth scientist at Rutgers University, told YaleEnvironment360 this week that the combination of heavy development on barrier islands with low elevations and broad exposure to ocean water puts New Jersey and other locations around the world at risk of saltwater intrusion.
South Florida residents could get a taste of the future this summer. The densely populated region is experiencing a deepening drought that’s forcing water managers to enforce watering restrictions and move water around in canals to prevent wildfires in the Everglades. As fresh water supplies are drawn down, there’s the risk that saltwater will try to fill the void, which could put wells at risk.
Whether salt water intrusion becomes a problem remains to be seen, but the situation certainly exposes a situation that many real estate buyers in coastal areas are not aware of that’s only going to get worse in the years to come. Clearly, knowing how secure a community’s supply of fresh water, or even a private well, is from saltwater intrusion is an important point to consider when buying property in areas near the sea.