Peak Water, China’s Water Crisis, Climate Change Impacts among Pressing Topics Examined by Pacific Institute

For Immediate Release: January 13, 2009

Peak Water, China’s Water Crisis, Climate Change Impacts among Pressing Topics Examined by Pacific Institute

New Work Addresses State of “The World’s Water”

(Oakland, Calif.)–Are we running out of water?

“Is there such a thing as ‘peak water’? There is a vast amount of water on the planet—but we are facing a crisis of running out of sustainably managed water,” said Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute. “Humans already appropriate over 50% of all renewable and accessible freshwater flows, and yet billions still lack the most basic water services.”

Gleick, a MacArthur Fellow and one of the world’s leading authorities on water, has for the past decade coauthored and edited the biennial series The World’s Water, examining global issues around use and misuse of our freshwater resources. The much anticipated sixth volume from the Pacific Institute, The World’s Water 2008-2009, addresses topics from “peak water” to climate change impacts, including a chart on “The Water Content of Things” —from potato chips to microchips—an eye-opener in terms of our own water footprints. (This chart, with selected book chapters and data tables, is available online at

Key to the discussion of water today is the concept of “peak water,” which Gleick and chapter co-author Meena Palaniappan redefine as “peak ecological water”—the critical point already reached in many areas, where we overtax the planet’s ability to absorb the consequences of our water use. A prime example is the water crisis in China, where water resources are over-allocated, inefficiently used, and grossly polluted by human and industrial wastes, with 300 million people lacking access to safe drinking water.

“China has developed a set of water quality and quantity problems as severe as any on the planet,” said Gleick. “Rivers and lakes are dead and dying, groundwater aquifers are over-pumped, uncounted species of aquatic life have been driven to extinction, and direct adverse impacts on both human and ecosystem health are widespread and growing.”

The World’s Water 2008-2009 explores these issues, including an update on China’s Three Gorges Dam, the largest integrated water project in history, and the problems it faces as it nears completion after a decade of controversy. Additional coauthors Heather Cooley, Michael Cohen, Mari Morikawa, and Jason Morrison weigh in on business reporting on water, water management in a changing climate, the progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, urban water use efficiencies, the Salton Sea, and the Tampa Desalination Plant. With 20 data tables on global water situations and the newly updated Water Conflict Chronology, the volume brings the urgency of the issues around sustainable water management to the fore.

The World’s Water 2008-2009 can be ordered online through Island Press ( or by calling 800.621.2736. Visit for more information and to access data tables and select content from the entire series.

For additional information and downloadable reports on a wide range of water issues, visit the Pacific Institute website at Based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute is a nonpartisan research institute that works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Through interdisciplinary research and partnering with stakeholders, the Institute produces solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity—in California, nationally, and internationally.