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Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Down the Drain: The Power and Potential of Improving Water Efficiency

    By Peter Gleick, President and Heather Cooley, Water Program Director

    July 9, 2015

    Debates about water in California, the western U.S., and indeed, worldwide, have traditionally focused on the question of how best to further expand water supply to meet some hypothetical future increase in water demand. And the solution frequently offered is to build massive new infrastructure in the form of dams and reservoirs, drill more groundwater wells, or expand water diversions from ever-more-distant rivers, in order to “grow” the supply available for human use.

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    Huffington Post: Laudato Si’ and Water: The Vatican’s Encyclical Letter and Global Water Challenges

    By Peter Gleick, President

    June 18, 2015

    The official text of the much-anticipated Vatican’s Encyclical Letter, “Laudato Si’” was released today. While considerable attention is being devoted to the sections of Pope Francis’s new Encyclical related to the threats of climate change, the letter also tackles many other environmental challenges, including biodiversity, food, and especially the critical issue of freshwater. Woven throughout is attention to the social and equity dimensions of these challenges and a deep concern for the poor.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: The Future of Desalination in California is Still in the Future: California, Israel, and Australia

    By Peter Gleick, President

    June 10, 2015

    It’s only natural that during a crisis we look to single, “silver bullet” technical solutions, after all, they are supposed to be effective against werewolves, witches, and other monsters. For monsters like the ongoing severe California drought, the current favorite silver bullet is seawater desalination.  And why not? California sits at the edge of the largest body of salt water in the world – the Pacific Ocean – and taking salt out of water is a successful, commercial, well-understood technology.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: The California Drought: Almonds and the Bigger Picture

    By Peter Gleick, President

    May 28, 2015

    California is a wonderful place to grow food. The climate is highly favorable; soils are some of the best in the world, it is located well to serve global distribution markets with major ports and other transportation infrastructure; and normally, some regions are relatively well-watered.

    Normally.

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    Huffington Post: Where Does California’s Agricultural Water Go?

    By Peter Gleick, President

    April 29, 2015

    Water plays a vital role in California’s agricultural sector, using 80% of the water used by humans in the state. In recent months, water challenges imposed by the current severe drought have brought this agricultural water use into the limelight, raising new questions about how the water is used. A new “Need to Know” brief authored by Heather Cooley and the Pacific Institute, provides essential background information on the state’s agricultural water use: in particular, the brief estimates total water applied for crops grown in California, the water intensity of those crops, and the economic productivity of water.

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    New Data Show California Cities’ Response to Drought Is Highly Uneven

    By Matthew Heberger, Senior Research Associate

    March 24, 2015

    As California heads into its fourth consecutive year of drought, and pronouncements about our water supply are increasingly dire, new data released by the state show that water use and water conservation efforts in cities across the state are highly uneven. Since June of 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board has required urban water suppliers to submit monthly reports of water use, in order to help track conservation efforts. As of now, the state has collected 8 months of data from about 400 water suppliers.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlog: The Impacts of California’s Drought on Hydroelectricity Production

    By Peter Gleick, President

    March 17, 2015

    California’s hottest and driest drought in recorded history has shifted the sources of electricity with adverse economic and environmental consequences. The Pacific Institute has just completed and released a report that evaluates how diminished river flows have resulted in less hydroelectricity, more expensive electricity from the combustion of natural gas, and increased production of greenhouse gas emissions.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlog: Tackling Global Sustainability: A Need for Integrated Systems Approaches

    By Peter Gleick, President

    February 26, 2015

    If there is anything that the past few decades of research and study of major global challenges tells us, it is that truly effective solutions to sustainability challenges require truly integrated approaches across disciplines, fields of study, data sets, and institutions. We are not going to solve 21st century global problems with 20th century tools.

    The planet is faced with a wide range of regional and global threats: air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, a rapidly changing climate and new risks from extreme weather events, energy and food security, conflicts over resources such as water, spread of diseases, and much more. These threats are interconnected, but are typically studied in narrow disciplinary ways.

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  • HRWS

    Knowing and Showing that Companies are Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation

    By Mai-Lan Ha, Senior Research Associate

    February 18, 2015

    The intersection of business, water, and human rights has a contentious past. From protests, to legal battles, to the suspension of business operations, addressing local community conflicts over water and sanitation issues is a business imperative. Last month, the Pacific Institute in its role as part of the Secretariat of the CEO Water Mandate launched the first comprehensive guide to help businesses meet their responsibility to respect the human rights to water and sanitation. The document Guidance for Companies on Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation: Bringing a Human Rights Lens to Corporate Water Stewardship provides companies with step-by-step guidance to know and to show that they are respecting the rights.

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  • California-precipitation-1-year-calendar-year-to-2014-400x240

    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: The State of the California Drought: Still Very Bad

    By Peter Gleick, President

    January 13, 2015

    The California drought continues.

    While we do not know yet what the rest of the wet season will bring – and while we hope for the major storms needed to recharge our rivers, groundwater and reservoirs – it seems increasingly likely that California will not see enough precipitation to get out of the very deep deficit that three years of drought (so far) have produced.

    There is, however, some misleading and confusing information out there. Some are already arguing that California’s rainfall is nearly back to normal or that because there may have been more serious droughts in the past we needn’t worry anymore. Most of these claims are based on misunderstandings of California’s hydrology, water systems, or current conditions, and on very narrow definitions of “drought.”

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