7 Who’s Minding the Planet? SURFACE WATER STEVE WERBLOW South Florida Water Management District Uses Climate Change Models to Guide Planning South Florida is America’s test well for tracking the impact of rising oceans and flashy storms.The region’s 8 million inhabitants live in cities and towns that are, in some cases, just inches above sea level, and the flat landscape is especially prone to flooding. South Florida is at the end of a peninsula that is threatened by water on three sides, as well as from above and below.The skies inundate the region with more than 53 inches (134 cm) of rainfall per year, mostly between June and October. Hurricanes swirl through the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and crash into land. Fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, urban runoff and seawater wash over the fragile Everglades, the largest freshwater wetland in the U.S. And salt water quietly creeps into the leaky limestone bedrock to replace fresh water pumped out to supply an ever-growing population. South Florida is—quite literally—getting into deep water as the climate changes. As sea levels rise and storm surges push water ashore, the staff of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will be among the first to deal with it. Serving 16 counties from Orlando down to the end of the Florida Keys, the district manages flood control and water delivery in conjunction with dozens of state, county and local governments and utilities. It also coordinates environmental restoration in the Everglades. Every step of the way, an in-house team of engineers and scientists guides the district's planning and operations. Akintunde Owosina, chief of SFWMD's Hydrology and Hydraulics Bureau—who oversees the modeling unit—notes that using the district's technical capabilities to assist and coordinate with local governments and other stakeholders is just as important as using them to plan its own responses to sea level rise. "We are not just one organization stepping up," he says. "It requires many to affect something that is robust to mitigate sea level rise.We operate as one part of a three-tiered flood control system, and the other parts are run by others.There has to be tight integration to be able to come up with effective adaptation strategies." SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, SFWMD is a publicly funded entity that manages water for more than 8 million residents in a 16-county area from Orlando to Key West—a region that includes several of the state’s largest cities as well as the largest freshwater marsh in the U.S., the Everglades. Its wide remit ranges from flood control to water procurement, ecological protection and water quality. Rosette spoonbill in the Florida everglades