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Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman September 10, 2010

Adam Putnam sounds alarm on looming water crisis

Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Adam Putnam is sounding the alarm about a critical water shortage he says Florida will soon be facing.

"The most important issue facing Florida long term is water -- whether you want to plant an orange grove, build a subdivision, save the Everglades ... it all boils down to water," Putnam, a congressman from Bartow in Polk County, said on Sept. 9, 2010, during an editorial board interview with the St. Petersburg Times.

"We've got to find 2 billion -- find, create, make, obtain through conservation -- 2 billion gallons (of water) between now and 2025. Per day."

Putnam told the editorial board members assembled that the state needs to invest in alternative water supplies like reclaimed water, and create incentives for developers to invest in alternative supplies as well. The state must also advocate for more conservation and efficiency measures, Putnam said, and continue to invest in desalination facilities -- which turn salt water into drinking water.

He wrote a policy position paper on the state's water supply issues, which you can read here.

In this fact check we're drilling down on Putnam's basic assumption, that Florida needs to somehow develop an additional 2 billion gallons of water per day in the next 15 years.

We turned to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the agency tasked to increase the state's available water supplies, for an answer.

Florida used an estimated 6.9 billion gallons of fresh water per day in 2005, the DEP said, citing the most recent U.S. Geological Survey report. By 2025, it is projected that the state will use 8.7 billion gallons a day. That's an increase of 1.8 billion gallon per day, or 27 percent. Close to what Putnam said.

We should note that the projected is based on the assumption that the state's population will grow to almost 25 million by 2025. Currently, the state's population is estimated to be around 18.77 million. The projection also assumes that the government will be responsible for providing water for everyone in the state. Both those assumptions could, of course, change between now and 2025.

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"As Florida continues to grow, pressure is put on the water resources of the state and the need to ensure these resources are available for future generations becomes increasingly important," the state wrote in its 2010 Annual Report on Regional Water Supply Planning. "Floridians have always enjoyed a quality of life that is inextricably linked to the health of our water resources. Tourists come here to enjoy pristine beaches, swim in our freshwater springs, and experience unique fishing opportunities. Florida's water resources also support large agricultural industries. If Florida did not maintain its high quality natural systems, the effects would be felt throughout the entire economy."

To be sure, the DEP and the state's five water management districts have been preparing for the uptick. The water management districts are required by law to develop and update regional water supply plans every five years.

And they have already identified, developed or are developing projects to help close the gap.

In 2005, the Legislature created the Water Protection and Sustainability Trust Fund and designated $100 million to be used to promote the development of alternative water supplies. The state set aside another $117 million over three years in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Legislature stopped funding the program in 2009, the DEP said.

The investment, however, helped water management districts provide funding assistance for 327 water saving projects, which will help create approximately 761 million gallons a day of "new water" available for consumptive use. That's close to 40 percent of the water expected to be needed by 2025.

Most of the projects focus on adding reclaimed water capacity or demineralizing brackish groundwater.

The work already being done by the state and water management districts is an important caveat when considering Putnam's comments because he makes it sound like the state has to find 2 billion gallons of water a day by 2025. In reality, the state already has projects on the book that get the state a portion of the way there.

Yet, Florida has a ways to go.

Putnam is right, based on the latest estimates Florida will use about 2 billion more gallons of water a day in 2025 than the state did in 2005. But the state and the five state water management districts have started planning for it, and already have identified water construction projects that will help meet some of the increasing demand. We rate Putnam's statement Mostly True.

Our Sources

Adam Putnam, interview with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, Sept. 9, 2010

Adam Putnam campaign, e-mail interview with Trey McCarley, Sept. 10, 2010

Adam Putnam campaign, water policy position paper, June 2, 2010

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, e-mail interview with Dee Ann Miller, Sept. 10, 2010

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Annual Status Report on Regional Water Supply Planning Florida, 2008

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Annual Report on Regional Water Supply Planning, March 2010

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Regional Water Supply Planning

USGS, Water Withdrawals, Use, and Trends in Florida, 2005

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Adam Putnam sounds alarm on looming water crisis

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