THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE will begin its annual 60-day legislative session on January 12, and I’m working closely with members of the Legislature to address one of the state’s greatest challenges: water.
I consider water to be our greatest long-term challenge. Based on assessments of the state’s supply and usage, we will face a more than one-billion-gallon-per-day shortfall of fresh water by 2030. While we have made great progress in restoring the health of our water supply and conserving our water resources, Florida’s population continues to grow and imposes stress on our natural resources. In order to meet the needs of this growing population and continue to support a thriving economy, while balancing the needs of our natural environment, we must invest more in water-supply planning and alternative-supply development.
I have worked with the Legislature, key stakeholders in the agriculture industry, and environmental advocates to develop and implement comprehensive water policy that will help ensure we have a healthy and abundant supply of water.
The proposed legislation, championed by Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, Rep. Matt Caldwell, and Sen. Charlie Dean, builds on the solid foundation in Florida law to accelerate the protection and restoration of Florida’s water bodies. It relies on science-based approaches that will have the strongest measurable impact. And, it requires an annual assessment of water resources and conservation lands to identify gaps and modify water supply planning efforts accordingly. In addition, the legislation eliminates duplicative permitting requirements on businesses and landowners.
To support our efforts to restore the health and protect the supply of our water, I’ve requested the Legislature to invest more than $25 million in water-related projects next year. These funds will assist landowners in adopting best-management practices to reduce their impact on the environment, as well as implementing nutrient reduction and water-retention projects. I’ve also requested an additional $25 million to support Florida’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, a program focused on maintaining the agricultural land base and protecting Florida’s landscape from development through the purchase of conservation easements.
The ideal time to advance this policy and invest in the sustainability of our natural resources is when we are not in a reactionary mode to an active hurricane season or a particularly severe drought, but rather to move forward at a time when we can make the best possible decision in a non-reactionary, thoughtful way.
Water is Florida’s “golden goose.” It is vital to every industry in every corner of our state. We need to put the policy in place to do this right, and we need to do it now.
article by ADAM H. PUTNAM, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture
Posted January 1, 2016