The real problem with a prolonged dry spell is what happens to the big water picture. Wetlands systems dry up, said Cole. Drinking water suffers. Salt water intrudes into wells. Water from the lower Floridan, which has a higher mineral content and a general lower quality, creeps into the upper part of the aquifer. Minerals and pesticides creep into the water supply. Forests dry out and become prone to fires. Sinkholes proliferate. Those occasionally annoying water restriction s get really ugly.
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Short of putting up a 'closed' sign at the borders, is there anything people can do? Yes, in Stephenson's opinion: figure the cost of water use into land prices. The price would shoot up faster than water out of an artesian well in a non-drought year, but that's the point. Land would finally be at its true market value, he contends, and people would be forced to use develop - and use water - in a more responsible efficient manner.

The real cure for drought is rain - lots of rain. But we shouldn't expect any until May or June, when the summer thunderstorm cycle kicks in, according to weather forecasts. Even thunderstormsmay not be enough by themselves. Knowles wouldn't say the 'h-word,' but admits that a good, slow-moving tropical system wouldn't hurt.
It can take two or three years of average to above-average precipitation to get the system back to normal, he said. And that's precisely what happened in the past. But in the long, long, long run, drought may be a moot point anyway. Eons ago, when the earth was warmer and the seas higher, most of what is now Florida was under water. This latest, human-powered period of global warming is already affecting polar ice caps. Years from now -- a few millennia, anyway -- most of the state probably will be under water again.