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Climate change means some coastal groundwater may soon be too salty to drink. What can cities do?


Cape May’s desalination is inside an almost-century-old building, and is due for an upgrade. (Alan Yu/WHYY) This story is from The Pulse , a weekly health and science podcast.

Cape May, New Jersey has a long history as a resort town with seafood, ballrooms, and Victorian-era mansions, dating back to the 18th century. The idyllic, seaside town is surrounded by ocean on three sides.

But in the 1950s , the city started to have a problem with its water supply, which comes from groundwater. Saltwater was seeping into wells, making the water undrinkable. The city had to abandon its old wells and drill new ones, over and over again .

This kept them going until 1995.

The U.S. Geological Survey and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told then-mayor Ed Mahaney the water supply would only last another three years. Tens of thousands of people in Cape May and the surrounding area count on the water supply in Cape May. Mahaney said the future of Cape May was at stake.

“We wouldn’t have tourism; tourism is 70 percent of our economy.”The only feasible solution was desalination, a process to take the salt out of salt water, which no town in New Jersey had […]

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