Miami Water Quality: Yesterday
Native Americans referred to Miami as “May aimi” meaning “Big Water.” As the “Village of Miami” was settled in the 1840s, early residents enjoyed an abundance of fresh water from the Miami River. Settlers worked to transform the small village to a gateway for international trade by dredging and widening rivers, creating canals for trade ships, and extending the Florida East Coast Railroad to the city. Settlers also drained large parts of the Everglades to create fertile farmland for produce, like oranges, guava, and grapefruit.
By the 1940s, Miami had grown into a center for international trade and farming. Residents of Coconut Grove began to complain that their drinking water tasted salty. Post-World War II Miami’s population exploded further straining its drinking water supplies.
Finally in 1955, a U.S. Geological Survey explored the “salty” tasting drinking water and found that by that time the majority of Miami’s water came from the Everglades. The survey showed that before the city drained the Everglades, the head of freshwater was high enough to hold off the heavier salt water from the ocean, but draining the Everglades and Biscayne Bay allowed the salty water of the ocean to push inland, a trend that continues today.