Maps: How Sea Level Rise Could Impact Miami-Dade County

Mar 12, 2013

Miami-Dade County is grappling with how to repair and replace parts of its aging sewage system, under pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Water and Sewer Department has drawn up a $1.5 billion plan.

However, the clean-water advocacy group Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper says the plan doesn’t take into account the potential for sea level rise at its three coastal treatment plants on Virginia Key and in North Miami and South Miami-Dade.

The group is suing the county and to try to prove its point, it commissioned maps from five experts at three South Florida universities that lay out various scenarios for flooding, based upon different levels of rise.

Miami Herald environmental writer Curtis Morgan takes an in-depth look at what impact sea level rise could have:

Drawn up by climate scientists as part of an environmental lawsuit, the maps indicate the plants in coastal South Miami-Dade, North Miami and Virginia Key would remain dry in coming decades. But they’d be reduced to shrinking islands as high tides flood land, streets and neighborhoods nearby. It could happen faster than experts predicted only a few years ago — with a damaging two-foot rise potentially coming in less than 50 years, not the next century.

The Herald put together a series of interactive maps based on the data.

Consider this "sobering scenario" starting with our current sea level:

A map of the current sea level in south Florida.
Credit Marco A. Ruiz / Miami Herald

Compared to where the seas are expected to be within less than 100 years:

This is what South Florida's coastline would look like with 5ft of sea level rise. Notice the projected timeline for this event.
Credit Marco A. Ruiz / Miami Herald

See for yourself what could be a very soggy future for our coast.