The next governor’s water policy?

Rick Scott’s restless ambition likely will cause him to run for U.S. Senator in 2016 or 2018. Regardless, his term as governor will end with the inauguration of a new governor in January 2019. If Adam Putnam, the current Commissioner of Agriculture, runs for governor as predicted-and wins-what would be his key water policies?

To his credit, Putnam frequently includes in his speeches a section on the importance of effective water policies. Last Friday, for example, he repeated his call for a “unifed” set of water policies and promised that with the right policies, Florida can have “lush lawns and great golf courses and conserve water.” We can have it all.

He appears not to have objected to Scott’s assaults on the water management districts. Five years ago, Putnam was forecasting a shortfall of two billion gallons of water a day by 2025. Nowadays, he thinks it will be more like a billion gallons a day by 2030. This dramatic reduction in the water supply problem seems not to have affected his speeches.

In regard to water quality, Putnam was a strong opponent of EPA pressuring Florida to adopt numeric nutrient criteria for water.  He also joined the chorus of opposition to the EPA “Waters of the United States” rule. He proposes to divert Land and Water amendment money to buy vehicles and for state forest road repairs.

Although the Commissioner routinely calls for far-sighted water planning, his own Department of Agriculture’s “Strategic Plan” summary is out-of-date and lacks any specific deadlines for task accomplishments. His “Office of Energy” Annual Report somehow fails to include the words “climate change,” “global warming,” “Deepwater Horizon,” and “offshore.” That report also refers to “growing” demand for energy in Florida but includes no statistics in support of such a trend. According to the Energy Information Administration, fossil fuel use in Florida actually was about the same in 2014 as in 2000.

It is too early to predict what kind of a “water policy” governor that Commissioner Putnam might be. On the evidence to date, he might not be all that different from the current governor.

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