November 2008 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-Farm Tour
-Perchlorate Regulation
-Yuma Desalting Plant
-BENNY Award
What’s New

Welcome to the new look for the Online Update! Watch this section for profiles, facts, and stories that bring you even closer to the work of the Pacific Institute.

“All human beings have an inherent right to have access to water in quantities and of a quality necessary to meet their basic needs. This right shall be protected by law.”

-Peter Gleick,
Pacific Institute

Upcoming Events

Nov. 12
Freight Transport 101
San Francisco, CA

Ditching Dirty Diesel hosts a regional “Freight Transport 101” workshop. This workshop provides an overview of the regional health impacts of freight transportation. Held Nov. 12, 5:30-8:00 p.m., at Centro Del Pueblo, 474 Valencia Street, San Francisco, 94103. For more information, contact Christine G. Cordero, Ditching Dirty Diesel Freight Transport Committee Coordinator, at 510.655.3900 x307.




Institute Researchers Tour California Farms

Farmers Lead the Way with Water Use Improvements

Farm TourFrom the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley to the Central Coast to the Imperial Valley, Institute Senior Research Associates Heather Cooley and Juliet Christian-Smith are meeting with California farmers, farm bureaus, and irrigation districts, gathering further input from the agricultural community for the Institute’s statewide agricultural water conservation and efficiency report, to be released in early 2009. On the heels of a September release of the section on the California Delta, which brought the critical conversation on the potential for water savings in the agricultural sector to the forefront, the state report will focus on how to remove barriers growers face in working toward water savings.

Christian-Smith and Cooley kicked off the farm tour in October, meeting with farmers and community members in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley, which was organized by Mike Wade of the Agricultural Water Management Council. On November 6, they traveled to the Central Coast and met with farmers to discuss the barriers farmers are encountering when trying to improve their water-use efficiency.

“Farmers are the vanguard of change. They are among the first impacted by drought and climate change, and they are seeking solutions,” said Christian-Smith. “We have met amazing farmers who are leaders in terms of on-farm water conservation and efficiency. Water is the scarce and critical resource here, and statewide we have to work to find strategies and policies that continue to help us grow more food with less water.”

Next stops on the tour: Montna Farms in the Sacramento Valley and the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and other North Coast farms on November 21 and the Imperial Irrigation District and Coachella Valley Water District on December 4.

Read the Pacific Institute’s initial report on Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in the Delta.

EPA Decision to Not Regulate Perchlorate in Drinking Water Not Adequate
Institute Comments on EPA Preliminary Decision

perchlorateIn early October, the EPA issued its preliminary determination not to regulate perchlorate levels in our nation’s public water systems. After reviewing the determination and relevant literature, the Pacific Institute submitted a public comment expressing disagreement with the EPA’s decision.

The comment noted that the EPA does not adequately address the vulnerability of breast-fed infants, will leave remediation efforts to a patchwork of regulations, and will result in no future monitoring of perchlorate in public water systems.

“Perchlorate is persistent in our environment and continues to be used for military purposes. It is not going away, yet without a federal regulation, not only will thousands of people remain exposed at unsafe levels, but potential future contamination will remain unmonitored and unregulated,” said Institute Research Analyst Courtney Smith. “We hope the EPA reverses its preliminary decision and fulfills its duty to protect the public health of the thousands of individuals currently exposed at unsafe levels.”

Read the Pacific Institute’s public comment.

*Image: Map of Known Perchlorate Manufacturers/Users as of April 2003, Source: EPA

Institute Criticizes Fast-track of Yuma
Desalting Plant Re-operation

Schedule Slowed to Look at Environmental Impacts

Yuma Desalting PlantIn early October, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation signaled its intention to fast-track the re-operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant in Arizona. The Pacific Institute and many other organizations criticized the lack of a careful look at the likely impacts of running the desalting plant, the largest reverse osmosis desalting plant in the world. In response, Reclamation has now decided to take a closer look at these impacts, and has retreated from its aggressive schedule to re-operate the plant.

Read the Institute’s comments.

*Image: Aerial view of Yuma Desalting Plant Complex, Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Pacific Institute Shares BENNY Award

Awarded for Efforts in South African Water Rights Decision

BENNYThe Pacific Institute, along with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, recieved the 2008 Business Ethics Network BENNY Award for its work resulting in a groundbreaking legal decision in South Africa this past April on the human right to water.

The Business Ethics Network cited the legal victory CALS secured for all plaintiffs in the right to access sufficient water in both physical and economic terms: people in lower-income areas (Phiri, Soweto) no longer are unfairly singled out to endure punitive prepayment water meters that automatically disconnect the water supply when the water credit (purchased in the form of vouchers) runs out — and the city must now provide, for free, the minimum amount of water required for human needs. Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick submitted an amicus brief that was quoted extensively in the judge’s decision addressing the constitutional right to have basic water needs fulfilled.

“The tenacity of CALS in pursuing the legal rights of the people of South Africa produced a seminal moment: the first time the constitutional right to water has explicitly been recognized by the High Court of South Africa. As a result, our longstanding work on basic human needs and the right to water has been translated directly into policy,” said Gleick.

Read more on the Pacific Institute’s work on the human right to water.

In Brief

Gleick Brings Water Conversation to Key Audiences at Home and Abroad
Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick was airborne this fall: in China, briefing the JPMorgan International Council on global water issues, with a focus on growing water problems in China, and in Dubai, participating in the Global Water Council of the World Economic Forum. He presented the York Lecture to 2000 people at the 2008 Joint Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, the Geological Society of America, the Soil Science Society of America, and other related organizations in Houston, and provided the keynote address to the Siebel Scholars Conference on Water in Chicago. He spoke on global water issues at the San Diego Museum of Natural History as part of their fall lecture series and new exhibit on water.

In the wake of the September release of the Pacific Institute report on agricultural water conservation and efficiency, Gleick gave the keynote address on water to several thousand people at the annual conference of the Irrigation Association in Anaheim, California, as well as meeting with key California legislators to brief them on the report’s recommendations.

He will be in Washington, D.C. on November 22 as a member of the water panel at the annual Sigma Xi meeting (The Scientific Research Society).

Sootbusters to Hold Final Meeting to Prepare Testimony for Oakland City Council Meeting
On October 1, the West Oakland Soot Busters Project convened the workshop “Soot Buster Advocacy” with residents of West Oakland to develop advocacy tools and to practice their delivery. A final convening of the Soot Busters Project at the end of November/beginning of December will allow residents to prepare testimony for the December Oakland City Council meeting for the release of the City Auditor’s report. The workshop and coucil testimony are among the strategies residents came up with at the Oct 1st workshop to address the impacts of trucks in their neighborhoods.

Morrison Participates in Water Stewardship Certification and Voluntary Use of International Standards Meetings
On October 1-2, Program Director Jason Morrison participated in the third Australian Water Stewardship Forum, which was attended by some 60 people representing a range of interests, including primary agricultural producers; industrial, beverage, and processing interests; commercial and institutional water users; water suppliers and infrastructure providers; conservation groups, researchers, and scientists; the finance industry; and a range of state and federal government bodies. The stakeholder consultation focused on elements of the nascent water stewardship certification initiative including the conceptual framework for the stewardship standards and the verification and branding approaches. Read a summary of the event.

On October 15, Morrison attended a multi-stakeholder conference in Geneva, Switzerland focusing on government use of voluntary international standards. With the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL) serving as the lead organizer, the event was structured around ten case studies exploring the ways governments rely on private standards initiatives to achieve policy objectives. Morrison served on a panel that evaluated governments’ various motivations for engaging in such initiatives. Click here to learn more about the event or to read the case studies.

Prakash Presents Impacts of Frieght Transportation on Asthma to Health Care Community
On October 30, Program Director Swati Prakash presented to an Asthma Peer Group of 100 physicians, pharmacists, and asthma care practitioners affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Her presentation focused on the impacts of freight transportation and diesel exhaust on asthma in Northern California, and the role that the healthcare community can play in supporting efforts to reduce these asthma impacts. View her presentation.

Cohen Speaks on Colorado River
On November 7, Senior Research Associate Michael Cohen participated on the panel “Colorado River: Peace on the River, But for How Long?” at the California Water Policy 18 conference in Pasadena, California. For more information, click here. On November 18-20, Cohen will participate in the Water Education Foundation’s “Coming Together: Coordination of Science and Restoration Activities for the Colorado River Ecosystem” symposium in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information, click here.

Palaniappan Discusses Peak Water at Planning Association Conference
On November 6, Initiative Director Meena Palaniappan gave the keynote address on Peak Water at the Utah American Planning Association’s annual conference in Utah. She discussed the concept and possible definitions of “peak water,” how relevant this idea is to actual hydrologic and water management conditions, and the implications of limits on freshwater availability for human and ecosystem well-being. Her talk addressed a new paradigm for water management in the face of decreasing water availability — the soft path for water — which manages water resources for efficiency, productivity, and equity.

Project 12898 Holds Final Workshop
The final workshop for Project 12898 (freight transport impacts) will be held on November 20 from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. in West Contra Costa County. Participants will prioritize the solutions developed by community residents to address the sources and impacts of trucks and trains in West County neighborhoods; decide on actions to take to move forward the priority solutions through Project 12898’s Solution Working Groups; and learn about tools, information, and resources that can support the working groups as they take action to move these solutions forward.

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