Sea-level rise and resiliency

Ocean waves crashing at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Sea-level rise, increased severity of tropical storm events, and shifting rainfall pattern are effects of a changing climate which is expected to impact Floridians, property and the state’s natural resources. These increased risks pose many challenges to state and local governments, including utilities.

The St. Johns River Water Management District is committed to assisting communities and utilities to become more resilient in preparing for and adapting to these changes. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from disasters and to adapt to future conditions such as sea-level rise. Resilience planning, while complex, can be simplified into the steps below. These steps can be incorporated into all areas of planning, no matter how small or large.

  1. Identify current conditions— Identify nearest tide gauge and project/infrastructure elevations. On the larger scale, take inventory of assets and determine what is at risk.
  2. Evaluate planning horizon — Identify lifespan of project. Consider which assets are most vulnerable based on historic impacts and potential consequences (how critical, economic, etc.).
  3. Conduct risk analysis— Identify a range of sea-level rise projections and design alternatives; compare to project lifespan and severity of impacts (economic, public safety, number of people, critical infrastructure, adaptive strategies, etc.).
  4. Make an informed decision — Evaluate potential impacts, adaptive strategies, design alternatives and lifetime costs for project. Also, evaluate holistic or systems impacts/plans (e.g., is this project part of a larger plan).

Coastal and low-lying areas are not alone in their adaption planning for climate change. Communities and utilities can utilize district resources to help increase their resiliency. Some of the frequently utilized resources the district provides are:

Funding
The district has utilized its cost-share program to partner with many local governments to ensure the completion of shovel-ready stormwater/flood protection projects designed to reduce flooding risks and improve water quality. These cost-share projects have allowed for the retrofitting of stormwater outfalls with tidal backflow prevention valves, reconstruction of weirs, construction of watershed management collection and stormwater treatment systems, and stormwater management system expansion and reconstruction.

See cost-share projects

Technical assistance
The district offers technical assistance to communities that are interested in water resource issues.

Technical assistance includes:

  • Work on flood modeling preparation and the inclusion of sea-level and temperature rise in our model scenarios.
  • The Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) program establishes minimum flows and levels to prevent damage to water resources, including saltwater intrusion.
  • Development and refinement of adaptive management strategies for MFLs which can be enhanced to better protect the environment with the potential climate uncertainties of the future.
  • Participation in regional, local and statewide resilience groups.

Data
The district has various water resource-related data available for use by communities in their resilience planning activities. This includes the utilization of groundwater monitoring performed by the district and consumptive use permit (CUP) holders to develop trend maps for saltwater intrusion in the coastal areas to be used in the water supply planning and CUP programs.

SJRWMD Current conditions

NOAA Digital Coast

Sea-level rise projections

Flood projections

Streamflow

Aquifer

Tides and currents

Integrating resiliency daily
District staff practice resiliency planning every day in their individual programs by identifying, developing and completing projects for the sustainability of the district. They:

  • Evaluate resiliency elements at the “conceptual” phase of district project development to ensure all possibilities are explored and implemented.
  • Continue restoration projects which restore natural areas on district lands to reduce how quickly water runs off, improving flood protection and aquifer recharge.
  • Continue restoration of coastal wetlands to enhance their ability to capture sediments, absorb storm events and keep up with sea-level rise. Examples include the district’s Flagler County Wetland Restoration Project, a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Park Service.
Silver Springs riprap project
Lake Norris monitor equipment
  • Continue to reduce the energy consumption at our facilities.
  • Reduced required site visits to our monitoring stations through improved data connectivity.
  • The agency completes many infrastructure mitigation projects to reduce flood risk. To be successful, these efforts must be coordinated not only locally, but also regionally, with other state and local governments.
  • Proactive in implementing prescribed burning in order to mitigate wildfire risk.
  • Develop and distribute educational materials to the public and local governments encouraging water conservation.

Local communities are developing plans and strategies to make affected areas more resilient.

These resiliency efforts often involve both regional and local stakeholders. Throughout Florida, local governments have been partnering with Regional Planning Councils (RPC) to develop a framework for collaboration across their region. The RPCs in the district with active resiliency efforts are:

To find out more information on how resiliency is being addressed in your region and community, please contact your local government or regional planning council.