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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.

  • Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, courtesy PG&E

    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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  • 2015-11-04-1446657130-4274344-FloodingStPeters-thumb

    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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  • hydropower-generation

    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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  • 2014-10-18-Westlandsgwuseduringdrought

    Huffington Post: When Our Responses to Drought Make Things Worse

    by Peter Gleick, President

    October 18, 2014
     

    In a new study just published by the journal Sustainability Science (Springer), analysis from the Pacific Institute shows that many of the fundamental responses of California water users to severe drought actually make the state’s overall water conditions worse — that in the end, many of these actions are “maladaptations.”

    Water is a complex resource; and water problems are an equally complex mix of natural resource, technology, social, economic and political conditions. When water is limited, such as in water-short areas or during extreme events such as droughts, society puts in place a variety of responses. The Institute evaluated the major responses to water scarcity during multi-year droughts — in particular the recent 2007-2009 drought — by the energy and agricultural sectors. (A follow-up analysis of the current drought is in preparation.)

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  • These signs are common along Highway 5 in California’s Central Valley, especially where junior water-rights holders have land that won’t get water during droughts. Ironically, this one is placed right in front of a newly planted almond orchard.

    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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  • private-sector-engagement-slide

    Can We Reasonably Expect the Private Sector to Advance Sustainable Water Management? Should We?

    By Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    June 16, 2014

    Over the past several years, the CEO Water Mandate has articulated to businesses why and how they can advance sustainable water management by making their own operations more efficient and by contributing to watershed efforts to promote sustainability. This is a proposition that some, especially a segment of the NGO community, are skeptical of. Many of these concerns are outlined in a paper from the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) entitled Conflicts, Companies, Human Rights and Water—A Critical Review of Local Corporate Practices and Global Corporate Initiatives.

    This week, the Mandate released a discussion paper – in collaboration with WWF International – that tackles these claims and shines a light on why we believe they are largely not true.

    Let’s go through these contentions one-by-one: …»

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  • featured-image-blog2-6-10-2014

    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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  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    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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  • NRDC-drought-blog-6-10-2014

    NRDC Switchboard: Making the Most of California’s Rain – New Report Shows How Capturing Stormwater Can Help Make Our Water Supplies More Reliable.

    By Noah Garrison, Attorney with the National Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

    June 10, 2014

    This post originally appeared at the NRDC Switchboard.

    For much of California, 2013 was the driest year since the state started keeping records more than 150 years ago.  In May, measurements of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which normally provides about one-third of the water used by the state’s farms and cities (as well as by natural ecosystems) as it slowly melts through the spring and summer, were at only 18 percent of average for that time of year, and the state reported that it “found more bare ground than snow as California faces another long, hot summer.”  Statewide, the average rainfall in 2013 was only 7 inches, far less than its long-term average of 22 inches, and the lack of precipitation poses a serious threat across the state—including placing communities at risk of running out of water (though this risk was thankfully reduced by rain, still below average, in February and March).  Capturing that water when it does rain in our cities and suburbs can help communities increase their water supply reliability—so they have the water they need when it doesn’t.

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  • ca water supply solutions fact sheet 2

    Huffington Post: The Untapped Savings in California’s Water Supply

    By Steve Fleischli, Senior Attorney & Water Program Director, NRDC

    June 10, 2014

    This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post on June 10, 2014.

    California is facing a historic drought. But a new report from NRDC and the Pacific Institute highlights a lot of ways we can help protect ourselves from water shortages while using water more wisely.

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