Putnam, who is expected to run for governor in 2018, said the state should consider cost-sharing programs with local governments to ensure clean drinking water and clean beaches for residents, as well as for the health of economic development, real estate and tourism.
"It is everybody's problem, not just one municipality or county," Putnam said Wednesday while addressing the Florida Chamber Foundation's "Future of Florida Forum" in Orlando.
Putnam added that the state can't afford to find itself having to fend off negative media similar to the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where drinking water was contaminated with lead.
"You couldn't print enough money to recruit a company to Flint, Michigan," Putnam said. "There isn't an economic development person in the world, not since P.T. Barnum has there been an economic development official who could persuade you to move your corporate headquarters to Flint, Michigan, because they failed at the most basic function that local government should provide."
Florida has pumped money into Everglades cleanup efforts the past few years. However, it now is dealing with a sewage spill in Pinellas County and a massive sinkhole south of Lakeland that sent toxins into the aquifer. Those issues have joined concerns over pollution-filled releases from Lake Okeechobee into waterways on the east and west coasts, along with the declining condition of Apalachicola Bay and the state's natural springs.
"If they [Pinellas] can't afford to make those [sewage] improvements, how are Glades and Hendry counties going to make those improvements?" Putnam said.
Part of an approach Putnam revived is the establishment of a long-term roadmap for addressing different water issues, similar to the Florida Department of Transportation's five-year work program, which prioritizes funding for highway and bridge projects.
Florida must be even more proactive financially with local governments as water crises grow, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said this week.