Calling it the “base of a Floridian identity,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said that Florida’s water was a “limited precious resource” that citizens are “burning through at too big a rate” during Friday’s 2011 Water Forum, held in Orlando. But touting the state’s “forward-thinking water policy” didn’t stop Putnam — like state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Ft. Myers, who also spoke at the event — from knocking a set of water pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“There’s not enough money in the state of Florida to comply with both Moreno and Gold,” Putnam said, referring to two Florida judges. “We’re playing four-dimensional chess on this. [The criteria need to be] science-based, peer-reviewed, driven by what’s good for Florida … not by something that comes from the back of a judge’s chambers.”

Putnam said that his main concern with implementing the numeric nutrient criteria is that other important projects might fall by the wayside as a result. Consistently starting new projects before others haven’t yet been brought to fruition, he said, could lead to an abandonment of innovative programs. “Don’t eliminate the innovative programs,” he said.

“That leads to … less creative, more regulatory, less innovative programs. … Some of the innovative issues are having to be walked away from in lieu of other things.”

Putnam argued that Florida still needs to work on strengthening water policy efforts — but should use approaches other than simply implementing the stringent nutrient standards: “We expose ourselves to greater federal intervention if there is a greater withdrawal on water policy issues on the state level.”

Another concern for Putnam is the seemingly overwhelming number of lawsuits piling up in Florida — many directed at water policy: “We have to get out of the litigation business in Florida’s water policy. It’s not good for the environment, it’s not good for economic supply.”

Referencing the overwhelming opposition to the criteria on the part of state lawmakers and the agricultural industry, Putnam said the effort to overthrow the criteria in the state was “mom and apple pie-caliber stuff.”

“Make no mistake … it’s not a question of ‘Will there or won’t there be numeric nutrient criteria?’,” Putnam said. “That conversation is over. The conversation is: ‘Will Florida make the right decisions for Florida or will the decision come from the back of a judge’s chamber … while the rest of the 49 states are off scot-free?’”

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