February 2016

Report Reveals Costs of Hydroelectricity Loss During California Drought
New research by the Pacific Institute reveals that four years of drought led to more than $2.0 billion in increased electricity costs. The additional combustion of fossil fuels for electric generation also led to a 10 percent increase in the release of carbon dioxide from California power plants.
 
“The impacts of the California drought — which is the driest and the hottest in 120 years of instrumental records and one of the worst in history — has had widespread impacts on all water users, including farmers, industries, cities, and natural ecosystems,” said the report’s author, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick. “And in fact, all California ratepayers are affected by the drought as they pay for electricity that is both dirtier and more expensive than in non-drought years.”
 
Under normal conditions, electricity for the state’s millions of users is produced from a blend of many sources, with natural gas and hydropower being the top two. Since the drought has reduced the state’s river flows that power hundreds of hydropower stations, natural gas has become a more prominent player in the mix.

The Most Important Water Stories of 2015
In 2015, the World Economic Forum listed water crises as the top global risk, while around the world, extreme hydrologic events — floods and droughts — dominated the news. Conflicts over water continued, especially in the Middle East, where water was caught in the crosshairs of ongoing violence, civil war, and regional tensions. Meanwhile, the unsustainable use of groundwater supplies became an international story. 
 
A recent Huffington Post blog by Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick, Circle of Blue Director J. Carl Ganter, and reporter Brett Walton explored these and other important global water stories of 2015. Read the blog here.

Incentive-based Instruments for Freshwater Management
A recently released synthesis report, interactive tool, and digital collection from the Pacific Institute and the Foundation Center provide key lessons from the review of hundreds of case studies, evaluations, journal articles, and white papers about incentive-based approaches to the management of freshwater resources.
 
Commissioned by The Rockefeller Foundation, this synthesis is an effort not only to better understand the conditions for successfully implementing these approaches but also to inform future initiatives and investments with already existing, practice-based knowledge from nonprofit practitioners, funders, and researchers. All of the results from this project are freely available for funders, practitioners, and researchers to use, contribute to, and build on in their work.

The Risks of Fracking in California
In recent years, domestic oil and gas production has increased in the U.S., with California the third-highest oil-producing state. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, in California is different than in other parts of the U.S., with its own set of risks to human health and the environment.
 
Fracking in California tends to occur in wells that are vertical and shallower than those used in other states, increasing the risk of near-surface groundwater contamination. Wastewater disposal methods are also a concern, including the use of unlined percolation pits where most of the water percolates into the ground, potentially polluting soil or nearby groundwater. Three issue briefs explore the risks of fracking in California and suggest stronger regulation of the industry and better wastewater handling and management in order to prevent pollution and protect human health and the environment.

Water Conflict Chronology Updated
Ed Kashi/VII
The Pacific Institute recently released an update to its online chronology of water-related conflicts. In 2015, the key locus of conflicts was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Middle East, where years of civil war, ethnic and religious violence, and ideological conflicts have taken a harsh toll. Among the countries with recent water-related conflicts are Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan, including cases involving the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in exactly the same region of Mesopotamia as entries from 2500 BC. Additional examples involving Russia, Ukraine, Somalia, and Colombia were also added in 2015.
The creator of the chronology, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick, expressed concern regarding the recent trends. “More pressure by governments, the United Nations, and international agencies is needed to prevent fights over water and to call attention to violations of human rights and other international laws when water systems are targeted by combatants or used as weapons of war.”

The Interactive Database of the World’s River Basins Launched
The CEO Water Mandate, with the Pacific Institute acting in the role of Secretariat, and in collaboration with World Resources Institute, has developed an interactive database of the world’s river basins. The database — currently a beta version — will facilitate meaningful location-specific reporting. As an extension of the CEO Water Mandate’s Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines, the interactive Database of the World’s River Basins allows companies to identify the river basins their operations are in and the boundaries of those river basins. Alternatively, companies can use interactive maps to manually locate their facilities to learn more about the river basins where they are located. The database was created as a response to companies’ common practice of using various names for river basins when reporting on their operations’ water management, thus creating confusion among stakeholders.
 
We anticipate that feedback from CEO Water Mandate endorsers and other stakeholders on the database’s beta version will ensure it becomes a useful tool. If you have suggestions for the database, please contact Pacific Institute Research Associate Stefanie Woodward (swoodward@pacinst.org).

Update on the California Drought  
The Pacific Institute Drought Response Team continues to provide biweekly updates on the California drought. To learn more, visit www.californiadrought.org.  
 
The most recent drought update includes reporting on state reservoir conditions and information from a new study that found drier conditions are becoming a “new normal” for southwestern states. Read the latest drought update here 

News 
The Pacific Institute helps shape critical debates on water management and use through articles and stories from some of the top media outlets in the world. Here are some of the most recent articles:
*The Huffington Post Drought Costs Californians An Extra $2 Billion In Electricity Expenses
*The New York Times Storm Water, Long a Nuisance, May Be a Parched California’s Salvation
*The Christian Science Monitor As California Enters a ‘New Era’ on Water, Cities Seek Their Own Solutions
*Public Radio International Sierra Snows Ease, But Won’t End California Drought 
*Mother Jones Flint Is Still a Disaster, But Obama Just Proposed a Giant Cut to Water Funding
*The Desert Sun Saving the Salton Sea 
*The Guardian UAE Banks on ‘Rainmakers’ to Secure Future Water Supply
*The New York Times A Step Toward Measuring California’s Water 
Read more news stories here.

Blogs
Pacific Institute staff contributes to the Pacific Institute Insights blog, with detailed conversations and critical analysis on sustainable and equitable water management. Here are the most recent entries: 
Read more staff blogs here.

In Brief  
Pacific Institute Experts’ Outreach
In January and February, Pacific Institute staff gave talks and presentations at a variety of public events. For example, Jason Morrison represented the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate at the 24th meeting of UN-Water’s Senior Program Managers. Read the full list and more details here.

Your Gift Supports Equitable Water Solutions
The Rapid Response Fund is a powerful way to support our ability to quickly respond to water challenges both local and global. With your tax-deductible donation, we will continue to shape the debate calling for equitable and safe drinking water for all. 
 
Sustainable water policies are a must for a world in which society, the economy, and the environment have the water they need to thrive, now and in the future. With your support, we can continue our work to make this vision a reality.