Florida is not facing a California-style water crisis — which is why Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says now is the time to begin setting long-range policies to protect water quality and ensure there’s enough of it for the state’s growing population and economy.
“You have to fix it before it’s a problem,” Putnam, considered a likely Republican candidate for governor in 2018, said Thursday at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch that drew about 600 people.
“Now that runs counter to most politicians’ aims because they want credit for the problem that they solve. But when it comes to something important like water, if it gets to the point where we’re in conflict, it’s too late and we look like California. And they’ve lost billions in economic impact because they didn’t get it right.”
Putnam didn’t mention any cost estimates but discussed improving reservoirs, fixing or replacing old septic systems, pressing the federal government to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and enacting measures to conserve water and use reclaimed water more wisely.
“This is eminently solvable,” Putnam said. “We can have lush lawns and great golf courses and conserve water.”
While not putting a price tag on the state’s long-range water needs, Putnam said Floridians should change the way they think about water costs.
“None of us bat an eye at the cost and the need to add additional lanes or how much the price of a new interchange has risen to and what a new bridge to the island is going to cost,” Putnam said. “We’ve all internalized mentally what surface transportation infrastructure costs. We’ve got to accept that in many cases the best thing that we can do for our environment and for our economy is also to invest in water infrastructure.”