Often when we think of water security, it seems many of us are predisposed to immediately think of critical issues such as droughts, water shortages, water contamination, and accessibility concerns. However, just as troublesome as not having enough water can be having too much water. This past month has ushered in devastating flooding across the globe. In China, over 60 rivers are on the brink of overflowing. Fifty-six people have died, twenty-two are missing, and over 1.2 million residents have been forced to evacuate portions of southern China. The last several days have been marked by over 20 inches of rainfall. The Yangtze River, the world’s third largest river, and many of its tributaries are overflowing or close to overflowing their banks. In addition to millions of displaced individuals, the flooding has wreaked havoc on levies, croplands, and tourism. Currently, Chinese officials estimate the economic loss and damages at $1.22 billion. Thus far, over $103 million in emergency funds have been dispersed by the Chinese government.
Within the United States, south Florida has received exponential amounts of rainfall. In
the Everglades National Park, rising water from record amounts of rainfall is concerning. The Everglades, not only known as a biodiverse habitat for many endangered species, is also the main source of drinking water for millions of residents. Approximately 1 out of every 3 Florida residents’ water supply is sourced from the Everglades. Ecological areas, such as the Everglades, provide critical ecosystem services such as water filtration, water storage, and buffer zones. Unfortunately, rising water levels are threatening the status of the Everglades. Commissioner of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Ron Bergeron, remarked, “It’s an emergency in the Everglades, if we don’t pull this trigger, there may be nothing left to save.” Bergeron is referring to the pumping of mass amounts of excess water north into Lake Okeechobee. This water carries heavy nutrient loads from agricultural lands and will exasperate the ongoing pollution problems in Lake Okeechobee. In addition, as this water is pumped north, it will also spread both east and west further polluting coastal regions on both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico sides.
All too often we hear tragic stories of the devastation and destruction that occurs when
water displays its powerful side. Whether it be torrential rainfalls causing mass flooding and landslides or storm surges from Class 5 Hurricanes, water is one of Mother Nature’s most powerful resources. So, what is the solution? It seems often we are more concerned with what happens when we do not have water, but what about when we have too much? With better infrastructure, law, and policy these tools could be used as consumption smoothing mechanisms. We need to strive for a system that can alleviate the pressures and damages of too much water and harness the power of overcapacity for times when water is needed the most.