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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.

  • community-choices-system-8-13

    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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    Why Might Businesses Be Interested in Contributing to Sanitation Efforts?

    By Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    August 9, 2013

    Sanitation is quickly gaining prominence as one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. This status is well-deserved: 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation. Inadequate sanitation is known to cause chronic health and nutrition problems, prevent children (especially girls) from receiving education, and contribute to water quality/access challenges and ecological degradation. Children living in households with no toilet are twice as likely to get diarrhea as those with a toilet. In the Global South, around 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers, polluting freshwater sources used by communities, agriculture, and industry. …»

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  • ©Kelli Brosnahan

    Sink Spit and Shockers: Communications in the Water World

    By Nancy Ross, Communications Director

    August 6, 2013

    Confession: It’s only a couple years ago that I started turning off the tap while I brushed my teeth. Why so late? Muscle memory – because I learned how to brush my teeth standing on a little step stool with the faucet running. And I grew up in a Hudson River town, when knee-deep snow and plentiful rainfall were the norm, and I never thought about needing to use water wisely. …»

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    More Comprehensive and Coordinated Global Effort Needed to Meet Global Water Challenges

    By Heather Cooley, Water Program Co-Director

    August 1, 2013

    The world’s water challenges have largely been perceived of as local issues. Yet, the scope and complexity of water-related challenges extend beyond national and regional boundaries. For example:

    • At least 780 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, some 2.5 billion people lack access to safe sanitation systems, and 2-5 million people – mainly children – die from preventable, water-related diseases every year. Widespread scarcity and lack of access to adequate water supply and sanitation threaten socio-economic development and national security for countries around the world.
    • People around the world share and exchange water directly through connected river and groundwater basins and indirectly through global trade, i.e., virtual water.

    …»

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  • ssjm0730-mike-taugher-thumb

    Remembering Mike Taugher

    By Peter Gleick, President

    July 31, 2013

    California water science and policy are complicated. California water issues are contentious. And good California water reporting and journalism are rare. This is the world that Mike Taugher tackled, and tackled well. It is thus with dismay and sadness that I and my colleagues learned of Mike’s all-too-untimely death last weekend. His impact will not be forgotten.

    At the time of his death, Mike was serving as a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but before that he was one of the leading water journalists, writing for the Bay Area Newsgroup, with stories in the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, and San Jose Mercury News. …»

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  • earth-from-saturn

    You are Here. Don’t Mess it Up.

    By Peter Gleick, President

    July 24, 2013

    Floating somewhere in the vast emptiness of space is our little planet. Seen from a distance of nearly a billion miles away, it is a tiny blue dot – hardly noticeable. It appears blue, in large part, because of the presence of vast oceans of rare (in the grand scheme of things) liquid water and because of the way light interacts with the thin film of atmosphere coating the Earth’s surface like the skin of a peach. Without these two vital natural resources, there would be no life as we know it.

    Until the last few decades, we have not had the opportunity to see our world as a single, unified whole. The first image of the full Earth was taken from space on December 7, 1972 by the Apollo 17 astronauts and helped change the way we see ourselves. It also helped stimulate a nascent environmental movement by bringing home the stark fact that we are not just individuals, or ethnic groups, or nation-states, but a single, isolated planet. …»

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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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  • blog-water-infrastructure-KD-7-16-2013

    Financing Drinking Water Infrastructure – Updates from the Golden State

    By Kristina Donnelly, Research Associate

    July 16, 2013

    It should come as a surprise to pretty much no one that infrastructure in the United States needs serious, sustained financial investment. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) finds that one in nine bridges are structurally deficient; 240,000 water mains burst each year; 40% of major urban highways are congested; and 4,000 dams are structurally deficient, half of which would cause significant economic damage or loss of life if there were a collapse. And those are just three random facts I selected to make a point; think of all the other scary facts the ASCE could probably come up with.

    As if collecting scary statistics weren’t enough, ASCE also periodically grades our nation’s infrastructure. In what could marginally be characterized as “good news,” their 2013 report card increased the nation’s overall infrastructure grade from a D to a D+, the first increase in 15 years. This was due, in part, to a rise in private financing of public works projects, as well as improvements made using funding from the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. …»

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  • blog-7-16-2013-wine-bottles

    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Things Climate Change May Ruin: From Allergies to Wine

    By Peter Gleick, President

    July 16, 2013

    The evidence from real-world observations, sophisticated computer models, and research in hundreds of different fields continues to pile up: human-caused climate change is already occurring and will continue to get worse and worse as greenhouse-gas concentrations continue to rise.

    Because the climate is connected to every major geophysical, chemical, and biological system on the planet, it should not be surprising that we are learning more and more about the potential implications of these changes for a remarkably wide range of things. And while it is certainly possible – even likely – that climate changes may positively affect some things (like modestly reducing heating bills in colder regions), the planet’s ecosystems and human-built systems have evolved and been built around yesterday’s climatic conditions, not tomorrow’s. Overall, the evidence suggests the bad consequences will greatly – perhaps massively – outweigh the good.

    Continue reading

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  • Participants listed the various impacts of diesel trucks and trains, starting with the impacts on their bodies and scaling up to the impacts on community health and quality of life.

    What’s Freight Got to Do with It?

    By Ariana de Leña, Popular Education Associate

    July 11, 2013

    While a concept like freight transport can be overwhelming and full of jargon, starting with a simple question like “What do you feel, hear, smell, taste, and see when a diesel truck passes you on the street?” elicits a response from nearly everyone. It also creates an opportunity for people to be empowered by their own experiences and be more effective advocates for change.

    On June 21, over two dozen Bay Area organizers, health outreach workers, and community health advocates gathered at the Pacific Institute for a daylong “Training-for Trainers” on Popular Education Tools for Community Health. Co-hosted by the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, the training explored the relationship between each participant’s work and the chain of factories, ships, trucks, trains, and ports that moves products and raw materials around the world. The Pacific Institute developed the training activities and materials with members of the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, a regional coalition of community-based organizations, environmental advocates, and public health agencies working to reduce diesel pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area. …»

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