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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.

  • Fits and Starts at the Salton Sea

    By Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate

    May 16, 2016

    Daniel M. Edwards
    Daniel M. Edwards

    The fortunes and prospects of California’s Salton Sea have ebbed and flowed over the years. Currently, the Sea is enjoying renewed attention and funding, after almost a decade of neglect and indifference. The State of California is poised to dedicate $80 million to efforts to protect and revitalize (a small portion of) the Salton Sea, prompted in large part by a fast-approaching tipping point that will see a dramatic shrinking of the Sea, devastating its rich ecosystem and imperiling the health of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

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  • National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Global Droughts: A Bad Year

    By Peter Gleick, President

    April 27, 2016

    Populations around the world face many severe water challenges, from scarcity to contamination, from political or violent conflict to economic disruption. As populations and economies grow, peak water pressures on existing renewable water resources also tend to grow up to the point that natural scarcity begins to constrain the options of water planners and managers. At this point, the effects of natural fluctuations in water availability in the form of extreme weather events become even more potentially disruptive than normal. In particular, droughts begin to bite deeply into human well-being.

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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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  • 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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  • The Multiple Benefits of Water Conservation and Efficiency for California

    by Heather Cooley, Director of the Pacific Institute Water Program

    July 29, 2014

    California farmers have made great progress in updating and modernizing irrigation technologies and practices. For example, in 1990, more than two-thirds of California crops were flood irrigated. By 2010, that number had declined to 43% and is likely even lower today. During that same period, the percent of land irrigated with more efficient microsprinklers and drip irrigation increased from 15% to 38%. These improvements are one of the reasons that California remains among the most productive agricultural regions in the world, producing more than 400 different farm products.

    percent-irrigated-cropland

    Note: These data do not include rice acreage, which is grown using flood irrigation. If rice acreage were included, the percent of crop land using flood irrigation would be higher.
    Source: G.N. Tindula, M.N. Orang, and R.L. Snyder. 2013. “Survey of Irrigation Methods in California in 2010,” ASCE Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering 139: 233-238.

    But despite past efforts, great untapped potential remains to use water more efficiently. Water efficiency – defined as measures that reduce water use while maintaining the benefits water provides – has been shown to be a cost-effective and flexible tool to adapt to drought as well as address longstanding water challenges in California. Moreover, today’s investments in efficiency will provide a competitive advantage in the future and ensure the ongoing strength of the agriculture sector in California.

    Water-efficiency improvements provide multiple benefits. …»

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  • National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Why Has the Response to the California Drought Been so Weak?

    By Peter Gleick, President

    July 20, 2014

    In the past few weeks, I have had been asked the same question by reporters, friends, strangers, and even a colleague who posts regularly on this very ScienceBlogs site (the prolific and thoughtful Greg Laden): why, if the California drought is so bad, has the response been so tepid?

    There is no single answer to this question (and of course, it presumes (1) that the drought is bad; and (2) the response has been tepid). In many ways, the response is as complicated as California’s water system itself, with widely and wildly diverse sources of water, uses of water, prices and water rights, demands, institutions, and more. But here are some overlapping and relevant answers.

    First, is the drought actually very bad?

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  • A Tale of Two Farms: How Water Efficiency Could Help Drought-Proof California Farms

    By Heather Cooley, Director, Pacific Institute Water Program, and Claire O’Connor, Senior Attorney and Agricultural Water Policy Analyst, NRDC Water Program 

    June 10, 2014

    This article is cross-posted at the NRDC Switchboard.

    For many California farmers, this growing season has been the “worst of times”. While all of the state is in the midst of a severe drought, conditions are most acute in the state’s most productive agricultural region.

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  • Urban Water Conservation and Efficiency – Enormous Potential, Close to Home

    By Matthew Heberger, Research Associate, Pacific Institute, and Ed Osan, Senior Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

    June 10, 2014

    This post is cross-posted at the NRDC Switchboard.

    As California continues to face severe drought conditions, a new report released today by NRDC and the Pacific Institute tallies the huge potential to lower water use in virtually every community across the Golden State. Reducing water demand can help make our cities more resilient to future droughts, saves energy and reduces air pollution, and leaves more water in rivers and estuaries for fish, wildlife, and recreation. Compared with the water consumption levels of the last decade, urban water use can be cut by one-third to one-half using technologies and practices that are available today. We helped develop these estimates, and summarize the most significant of them here.

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