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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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    Moving from Theory to Practice: A Synthesis of Lessons about Incentive-Based Instruments for Freshwater Management

    by Heather Cooley, Michael Cohen, and Matthew Heberger

    February 8, 2016

    There has been growing interest in applying incentive-based instruments, such as pollution charges and tradeable permits, to address the twin challenges of accessing enough freshwater to meet our needs while also preserving the well-being of freshwater ecosystems. These instruments use direct or indirect financial incentives as motivation to reallocate water or to reduce the health and environmental risks posed by an activity. But what do we know about how they have actually performed?

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    Huffington Post: The Most Important Water Stories of 2015

    By Peter Gleick, Brett Walton, and J. Carl Ganter

    February 4, 2016

    Water was a Top Risk on the 2015 Global Agenda

    In early 2015, participants at the World Economic Forum, a who’s who of the political and business elite, ranked water crises as the top global risk. Water was also a key factor in the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint for international development over the next 15 years. Ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030 is one of six water goals for the SDGs. In December at the UN climate change conference in Paris, world leaders acknowledged the instrumental role that water will play in a warming planet. Water security was included in the response plans of most nations and was at the core of numerous debates and side agreements. 

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    Huffington Post: The Historic, Unprecedented, Landmark Climate Agreement

    By Peter Gleick, President

    December 15, 2015

    Historic. Unprecedented. Landmark. Also, the world’s greatest diplomatic success. A turning point for the world. This is some of the language used to describe the global climate agreement reached this week in Paris. The excitement about this agreement is palpable, for good reason. The Paris Agreement marks a fundamental turning point in the future of the planet, a conscious vote by the world community to acknowledge that climate change represents an “urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet” and to try, finally, to avoid leaving our children and grandchildren with a dangerously changed global climate.

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    Huffington Post: Climate Science in 1956 and 2015

    By Peter Gleick, President

    December 10, 2015

    Despite the apparent inability of many of our current policy makers to accept the scientific reality of climate change, the science is not new. Fifty-nine years ago, on October 28, 1956, the New York Times ran a story in their Science in Review section entitled “Warmer climate on the earth may be due to more carbon dioxide in the air.” The full text of that article is reprinted below and is available from the New York Times archive, here.

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    Huffington Post: Damn Dams

    By Peter Gleick, President

    November 4, 2015

    The history of water development around the world, and especially in the western United States, is really a history of the construction of massive infrastructure, particularly large dams. As populations and economies expanded, the need to control, channel, and manage water grew, and large dams offered a way to provide energy, relief from damaging floods and droughts, irrigation water, and water-based recreation.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Breaking Water Taboos

    By Peter Gleick

    October 26, 2015

    The recent severe drought in the Western United States — and California in particular — has shined a spotlight on a range of water-management practices that are outdated, unsustainable, or inappropriate for a modern 21st century water system. Unless these bad practices are fixed, no amount of rain will be enough to set things right. Just as bad, talking about many of these bad practices has been taboo for fear of igniting even more water conflict, but the risks of water conflicts here and around the world are already on the rise and no strategy that can reduce those risks should be off the table.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Impacts of the California Drought, Part 2: Net Agricultural Income

    By Heather Cooley, Kristina Donnelly, and Peter Gleick

    September 3, 2015

    Last week, the Pacific Institute published the first comprehensive analysis of the impacts of the drought on California crop revenue and agricultural employment through 2014. The study showed that during the recent drought California’s agriculture sector experienced record-high crop revenue and employment. Crop revenue peaked in 2013 at $33.8 billion, the highest level in California history, and declined only slightly to $33.4 billion in 2014 (all economic data have been corrected for inflation). Statewide agriculture-related jobs also reached a record 417,000 jobs in 2014, highlighting the sector’s ability to withstand the reduction of available water.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Impacts of the California Drought: Agriculture

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

    August 26, 2015

    California is in a severe drought – four years long now. But what does the drought really mean for the things we care about: food production, fisheries, industrial activities, rural communities? As part of the work of the Pacific Institute to evaluate both the impacts of water problems and identify smart solutions, we’ve just released the first comprehensive assessment of the actual impacts of the drought for California agriculture.

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  • Huffington Post: The New UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Fresh Water

    By Peter Gleick, President

    August 12, 2015

    For 15 years, the world community has worked to achieve a comprehensive set of goals and targets called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – launched in 2000 to tackle poverty, economic and environment inequity, and strategies for effective development. The MDGs concluded this year, and a new set of goals to replace them have been in design and negotiation for some time. These new objectives – now called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – are now final, offering global priorities for sustainable development beyond 2015. Figure 1 lists the 17 overarching SDGs. Each one is accompanied by specific targets and measured by specific indicators. Individual governments will be responsible for setting their own specific national targets based on their own priorities and circumstances.

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    New Data Show California Cities’ Progress towards State-Mandated Conservation Requirements

    by Kristina Donnelly, Research Associate

    August 4, 2015

    In response to the Executive Order Governor Brown issued in April, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation requiring 25% savings in urban water use across the state, with a goal of saving 1.2 million acre-feet over a nine-month period. Each water supplier serving more than 3,000 connections was given a conservation standard based on how high their residential use was in the summer of 2013; those with higher use (in gallons per capita per day, or gpcd) were required to save more (as a percentage of overall use) and those with lower gpcd were required to save less. Water suppliers have been working to reduce water use through drought surcharges, mandatory restrictions, rebates, education campaigns, and more.

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