Adam Putnam: Florida Needs a Statewide Water Plan

By: Jim Turner | Posted: February 19, 2013 10:30 AM

Green algae grows in Fanning Springs, part of the Florida aquifer.

The numerous regional fights over water rights across Florida continue to threaten the long-term sustainability of the state’s vital agriculture industry, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam warned state senators Tuesday.

Appearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Putnam listed the maintenance of water resources, along with expanding the "Fresh From Florida" promotion of Sunshine State produce both in schools and abroad, and the eradication of invasive species and diseases, among his legislative priorities for the 2013 session.

“There is not a corner of the state that’s not in some type of water scarcity conflict,” Putnam said.

“We’ve got to work our way and manage through those things, with a particular sensitivity to agriculture because it is such a foundation for our economy.”

He pointed to ecological and economic collapse facing Apalachicola Bay, to regional fights over spring sheds from Jacksonville to Central Florida, to the pressure of population growth on water supplies in the Southeast.

“For the past decade-and-a-half the Everglades have received the bulk of attention when it comes to water policy. I think that we need to have a statewide strategy for water, and that includes protecting our springs and the aquifer that feeds those springs, as well as our surface water issues,” Putnam said after the committee meeting.

The message isn’t anything new from Putnam, who has been sounding the alarm since taking office that Florida must increase its alternative water supplies and desalination plants and offer incentives to developers to help conserve water supplies.

With Florida expected soon to surpass New York as the third most populated state in the nation, the projections have been that the Sunshine State will need to increase its water production by 2 billion gallons a day by 2025, a task the state’s five water management districts have started planning for.

Also to help the citrus industry, Putnam told the committee he is backing a $9 million request for citrus greening research, to match the $60 million already invested to fight the disease by the state’s $9 billion a year citrus industry.


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (5)

1:31PM FEB 20TH 2013
For a recent article on desalination, google Desalination + LA Times.
Annette Long
1:03PM FEB 20TH 2013
The article doesn't talk about Fanning Springs. I'm glad the Commissioner has noticed, but Fanning Spring barely flows any more and is an underwater dead zone. It's nitrate level has exceeded the safe drinking water limit for nitrate nitrogen on occasion as well. What is the cause? Huge dairies and giant circles of irrigated row crops in its watershed. How will our Agriculture Commissioner address the flows and pollution that is killing Fanning Springs? Just curious. He has the power to make a difference.
8:50AM FEB 20TH 2013
"Florida must increase its alternative water supplies and desalination plants and offer incentives to developers to help conserve water supplies."

Instead of offering incentives to developers to conserve water, maybe we ought to demand it. What's wrong with requiring certain new development in water poor or strained areas have to meet the Florida Water Star guidelines? (In Colorado, any new development over 50 homes now has to show they can meet the water needs for that development.)
And it seems to me, with incentives to do what's necessary either way places the burden on families and businesses already here instead of putting it on the developers.

Also if we're going to consider relying on desalination, maybe we ought to figure out where, when, and how we're going to pay for them. They're expensive to build and operate. They make waste that has to be dealt with. And I think some due diligence is in order for where they'll be placed. (I once read in Australia they found the desalination plants near where their treated waste water was released did not filter out pharmaceuticals and other chemicals.)

Otherwise, while we have a lot of room for lowering our consumption, and making better use of water, at some point we will have to address the elephant in the room- population growth. Maybe we ought to take a look at what the carrying capacity of Florida is because if population growth is left to grow on its own, what do we do when the measures we're talking about today are no longer enough?

(It might be useful to take a page from Nevada's "water czar" Patricia Mulroy. She did a great job in lowering Nevada's consumption so that would be good to see how. It would also be good to see how failing to address population growth put them pretty much back where they started. )
7:47AM FEB 20TH 2013
so adam who has been the do boy for right wing politics for the last 2 yrs now decides he's for the protection of florida's resources. must be getting close to 2014. sorry putnam your concern is taken with a grain of salt. you need to go in 2014 along with your friend rick scott.
Mark Songer
9:41PM FEB 19TH 2013
With a growing population, we all need to focus on ways to reduce comnsumption.

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