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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.

  • National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Diablo Canyon, Climate Change, Drought, and Energy Policy

    By Peter Gleick, President Emeritus and Chief Scientist

    June 24, 2016

    The announcement that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant when its current operating licenses expire in 2025 has caused what can only be described as consternation mixed with occasional conniptions among the nuclear industry and some strongly pro-nuclear groups.

    That’s understandable. Diablo Canyon is aging, but is not the oldest nuclear plant in the fleet and PG&E could have chosen to push for a renewal of the license to continue operations for many more years. Diablo Canyon’s two reactors are also California’s last operating nuclear plants, following the closure many years ago of Rancho Seco near Sacramento, and more recently, the last of the San Onofre reactors. As such, the closure is symbolic of the broader woes of the nuclear power industry in the United States, which has been unable to build new reactors and is seeing the current reactors being shuttered, one by one.

    …»

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  • Huffington Post: Water and Conflict in Syria

    By Peter Gleick, President

    May 28, 2014

    Drought, Water and Agricultural Management, and Climatic Conditions as Factors in the Syrian Conflict

    Starting in 2006 and lasting through 2011, Syria suffered the worst long-term drought and the most severe set of crop failures in recorded history. In a new research paper, I’ve looked at the role of regional drought, unsustainable water management policies, and climatic conditions in contributing to the severe conflict in Syria in the past few years (see the peer-reviewed paper “Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria” by Dr. Peter H. Gleick, coming out in the July issue — and here online — in the American Meteorological Society journal Weather, Climate, and SocietyA press release on this paper is now available, here). Many factors influenced the civil war in Syria, including long-standing political, religious, and ideological disputes; economic dislocations from both global and regional factors; and the consequences of water shortages influenced by drought, ineffective watershed management, and the growing influence of climate variability and change.

    …»

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  • Rural Water Systems Struggle in the Good Times and the Bad

    By Joe Ferrell, Communications Intern

    February 21, 2014

    The current drought is shaping up to be particularly damaging to small and rural communities. In mid-February, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that 17 rural communities face the prospect of running out of water within 60-100 days. These water systems serve populations ranging from 39 to 11,000 Californians. The CDPH is extending its assistance to these communities in an effort to both reduce water use and locate alternative sources, stressing the need for conservation and creativity.

    However, water systems in rural communities have been underfunded for years, something that has impacted their ability to maintain and upgrade infrastructure. The State will hopefully work to make infrastructure that is already in place more efficient, but as the drought continues, they will likely look to bring in water from elsewhere. This could be done by connecting smaller water systems to larger ones, drilling new wells, or hauling in water on trucks, among other options.

    …»

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  • Water Vlogged: Where There Is No Water Utility

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    September 27, 2013

    In cities throughout Indonesia, utilities employ some of the latest technologies to supply treated water to millions of residents. However, service still isn’t available to thousands of those who are living in informal neighborhoods (slums) or just outside service networks. How, then—and from where—do these residents get their daily water for drinking, bathing, and washing? Here are just a few examples of typical urban water sources in medium and large-size Indonesian cities. …»

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  • Hundreds of Thousands May Not Have Affordable Access to Safe Drinking Water in California

    By Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, Senior Research Associate

    August 28, 2013 

    In 2012, California made history by being the first U.S. state to legally acknowledge a human right to water. Yet, what does it mean, in practice, to ensure that all Californians have access to safe drinking water? And, how does the state measure who has access to safe water?

    A new study from the Pacific Institute in partnership with Community Water Center and Fresno State University, Assessing Water Affordability: A Pilot Study in Two Regions of California, addresses these questions and finds that over 100,000 households in two regions (the Sacramento metropolitan area and the Tulare Lake Basin) do not have access to what is considered “affordable” water. In addition, the study finds that the current metrics that the state is using to measure affordability would not capture many of these people. These metrics focus on water affordability at the water system level, which can encompass a variety of different socio-economic groups. …»

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  • Where Have We Reached on Our WASH Models Journey and What Impacts Have They Made?

    By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Affiliate 

    August 13, 2013 

    A month ago, I blogged on “Improving Access to Water and Sanitation: Is the Answer Individual Behavioral Change?” After several reflections, thoughts on “model journeys and changes we have seen as well as travelled on this road” keep coming to mind. The answer is still not clear. Hence the need to continue to ask, “Where are we on the model journey and what changes have we seen as we travel on these journeys?”

    Fresh from college, in the mid-1990s I had the opportunity to be part of a team to develop a participatory model of rural community water and sanitation supply in Ghana. Before the participatory model era, many communities in Ghana, especially in the northern part of the country, had received water supply wells that were financed and managed by the central government. Various types of hand pumps metamorphosed (from monarch, mono, etc. types) in order to reduce the frequent breakdowns and cost of repairs. Changes in hand pumps, however, did not result in any significant increase in communities’ independence, ownership, management, and maintenance of the hand pumps, since they still had to report repair and maintenance issues to a central point which took several days to months before any decision was made as to whether to repair them or not. …»

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  • Unleashing the Information Floodgates: the Right to Information in Water and Sanitation Provision

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    July 19, 2013

    Working closely with communities in Ghana, Indonesia, and India has given us firsthand, sobering insight into the problems affecting the 783 million people in the world without safe water and 2.5 billion without sanitation. Undeniably, the lack of safe and reliable water and sanitation services in low- and lower-middle-income countries impacts women, poor people, and other marginalized groups the hardest. They spend disproportionate amounts of time and money and risk health and safety for basic needs—a glass of water or use of a toilet—for which other people within the same borders yet of different socio-economic statuses and means don’t have to give a second thought (see infographic below). …»

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  • Improving Access to Water and Sanitation: Is the Answer Individual Behavioral Change?

    By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Affiliate 

    June 25, 2013 

    Born and raised in rural Africa where I spent my youthful life, open defecation was not only the norm but preferred to outhouses that were poorly ventilated and unbearably hot. We did not understand the consequences of exposing human waste around our houses. At that time, the best practice for sanitation and hygiene was to use a hoe to excavate the ground and bury our feces during the farming season so that the food we grew in the wild did not get contaminated. …»

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  • Notes from the Field: What We Know about Indonesian Urban Residents, Water Utilities, Local Government Agencies and NGOs at the Beginning of Our Third Year Developing WASH SMS

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    February 5, 2013

    Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. – Henry Ford.

    December marked the beginning of year three in the development of the WASH SMS platform through our pilot project in Indonesia. The Institute and our partners Nexleaf Analytics and PATTIRO have been developing two Indonesia WATER SMS systems …»

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  • Notes from the Field: Mobile Phones Within Reach

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    Septemeber 26, 2012

    Due to their ubiquity in low- and lower-middle income countries, mobile phones are being used throughout the developing world to connect the poor with a range of information and services that can transform their lives: education, election polling information, peer-group (mental health) support, health services, disaster relief, and micro-banking. Indonesia is ranked fifth in the world for number of mobile phone subscribers …»

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