FL - Florida Farmers Battle Rising Water and Salt as Sea Water Floods Fields
Ocean water is moving in laterally, brackish water is pushing upwards from underneath and more frequent and intense hurricanes are ruining once-prosperous coastal farms.
John Alger parked his dusty cotton-white Ford F-350 crew cab truck near a corn field at the northwest corner of Exit 9 along the Florida Turnpike near Homestead. He opened the driver’s side door and held back his two female English Cocker Spaniels, Suzie, a chocolate colored 6-year-old and Prissy, a 2-year-old piebald. Alger rents this 22-acre field from a local hospital and has farmed it for 10 years.
“If we had a bigger storm surge this could all be affected out here,” he said while walking along the western edge of the property on a 90-degree winter day. “You can see the water table,” he said while bending down and pointing to a football sized hole in the ground. “This is still at the natural level. And right now this is good water.”
The water table is literally 2 feet beneath the surface here, and Alger has already lost a 350-acre farm field to saltwater when massive Hurricane Irma pushed ocean water from Biscayne Bay up into the canal drainage system and onto the field.
He farms within a few miles of the coast and within a few feet of the groundwater, which is constantly battling with ocean water as saltwater continues to assault the surficial aquifers along the Southeast coast of Florida.
Oceans waters have been pushing inland for decades here, and conditions are expected to worsen as sea levels continue to rise and larger, more powerful tropical storms and hurricanes pound the region.
Saltwater is chasing people like Alger and seeping and slamming into Florida with more regularity, threatening drinking water supplies, farm fields and the largest ecological restoration project on the planet.