Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today participated in WATEC Israel 2015. The biennial conference and exhibition brings together government officials and business leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges facing the world’s water supply. The event also features the latest innovations and technologies to develop new fresh water supplies.
Commissioner Putnam participated in a discussion on the “Implementation of Water Scarcity Solutions Worldwide – Lessons Learned from Different Regions.” The following are excerpts from his remarks:
“The diversity of this panel, from every corner of the world and varying degrees of conflict over water supply and water quality, reflects the global nature of this challenge and the need for us to focus on it.
“What I have attempted to do in the state of Florida is to challenge our leadership to take action on water policy when we are not in 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.
“Our flat topography, explosive growth and competing demands between people and the environment have created a situation where water is the biggest long-term problem facing Florida. And after listening to a number of remarks around the world, I think most people would agree that this is a global challenge requiring all of our attention.
“At the same time we are witnessing growing conflict over water, we are witnessing growing conflict over food. Florida is the winter fruit and vegetable basket for the United States, and the United States in general is a very agriculturally blessed land in that it serves as the breadbasket in the heartland. We are blessed with great soil characteristics that are high-yield, highly productive soils. But as the world’s population reaches 10 billion by 2050, our agricultural industry in the United States and around the world will be stressed in ways that we haven’t seen before if we’re going to meet the needs of that global population.
“Projections indicate that population around the world will grow by 80 million people per year, the equivalent of adding a new Germany every year. And as a growing middle class continues to develop around the world, the first thing that changes is diet and the addition of fruits, vegetables, nuts and proteins to that diet further stresses agricultural productivity around the world. By 2050, we will need to produce 69-percent more calories than we did in 2006. That will require the equivalent of another green revolution.
“We need to not only plan for the future needs of the people, but also the future needs of the natural resources. During the 20th century, oil was king. It was the source of power; it was the source of tension; it was the source of conflict; it was the source of wealth and wealth disparity. And in the 21st century, that oil conflict may very well be replaced by water. It is an essential resource. It is finite, but reusable and the struggle to allocate that water pie and involve new water technologies may well determine conflict—or the lack of conflict—as we struggle to meet the needs of that 10 billion population.
“As we look to the next green revolution, we have to find new methods that rely less on water and less on resource-intensive inputs, and modify those factors to reach the productivity gains that would be required by our growing planet.
“Our focus is on increasing productivity for people and reducing our impact on the environment. In Florida, we have Best Management Practices, and they are standard on many of the 47,000 farms and ranches in the state of Florida. We have mobile irrigation laboratories that travel the state, assessing water usage on the farms and ranches on site. To give you a sense of the progress, in 1980, 300,000 acres in Florida, or 16-percent, of irrigated land had micro irrigation. By 2010, that number was nearly 700,000 acres, or 40-percent, of irrigated lands that adopted micro irrigation techniques.
“We’ve installed over 180 weather monitoring stations throughout the state that give growers real-time data to make decisions on whether to crank pumps or not crank pumps, particularly on weather-related events, like cold nights. Growers now have more tools to make better decisions that not only save water, but also save fuel.
“They’ve integrated the ability to remotely control their devices to manage their already efficient irrigation systems. Because of the new technologies and best practices that these farmers have adopted in our state alone, the industry of agriculture is saving the equivalent of 12 billion gallons per year, or 33 million gallons of water per day.
“Florida’s signature crop, citrus, has completely transformed itself by adopting these new techniques, where now 95-percent of growers are using drip irrigation technologies in that industry alone, which occupies a footprint of 450,000 acres in the state. Just the citrus industry is saving 4 billion gallons of water per year.
“But it’s not just on the backs of farmers and ranchers. All sectors of water users are making strides to be more efficient. Through water conservation, through the development of new technologies inside and outside the home, as well as the development of alternative water sources, we continue to reduce our overall consumption of water. Fresh water withdrawals for public supply, agriculture, and commercial, industrial and mining all decreased over the last decade. We’ve constructed nearly 500 domestic wastewater treatment facilities that provide over 700 million gallons of water per day of reclaimed water that can be put back in the system.
“We have to get out of the habit of using water only once. We’re recycling 45-percent of the state’s total wastewater flows, recycling more water than any other state in the nation. Per capita use of water in the state of Florida is lower than it has ever been and continues to decrease statewide despite the continuous population increases in the state. Despite the fact that 800 new residents per day are moving to the state of Florida, we are using less water per capita.
“No one has a monopoly on solutions to this global crisis, and to the extent there are ways for us to collaborate and to partner with one another to meet the needs and to tailor those needs from Florida to California and from the rainforests to Brazil to the arid climate of Azerbaijan, this is an important forum for people who are looking into the future and seeing less coming.”