Last week I was honored to serve as lead moderator at the 2015 Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) Water Forum held in Orlando, Florida. As moderator, I led dynamic conversations on a wide range of water-related issues, including water supply, water quality, and implementation of Florida’s Amendment 1. The Forum featured Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam as the keynote speaker. Panelists included key legislators on water issues, as well as leaders from the state’s manufacturing, utilities, water management, and engineering communities. Several hundred of Florida’s government, civic and business leaders convened at the Forum to discuss this critical Florida policy issue.

The consensus of both the panelists and the conference attendees was that Florida should enact a water policy reform bill during the 2016 Florida legislative session—which bill would likely be similar to the water policy bill that almost passed during the previous legislative session. Likely reforms include stricter timelines for addressing water quality concerns and restrictions in areas where water supply issues have been identified. The hope is that this would spur more immediate action to reduce water consumption, increase infrastructure upgrades, and encourage implementation of additional “Best Management Practices” for agriculture.

There also seemed to be a consensus that additional public funds should be used to enhance infrastructure to expedite the enhancement of the state’s water quality and to improve water conservation, including exploring additional cost share opportunities with the agriculture community.

As the immediate past Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, where I served under current Florida governor Rick Scott, I can tell you that:

A robust supply of clean water is essential for our environment, our people and our businesses. This forum is critical to continue to advance that conversation throughout the state of Florida.