Rewind 2003: Progress Lays the Path for Sustainable Future

December 26, 2003, Oakland, CA: 2003 was a challenging year for those of us working on environmental issues, but a rewarding year for the Pacific Institute. Highlights would have to start with the MacArthur Fellowship awarded to Peter Gleick for his, and the Institute’s, work on water issues. More concretely, our work in California has led the state to finally acknowledge the risks of climate change, and to include the first realistic assessment of water conservation potential in planning efforts. The Pacific Institute is also trying to ensure a sustainable future for U.S. water resources by advocating for a new National Water Commission for theUnited States.

After years of negotiations, pioneering work by Senior Associate Michael Cohen has helped ensure that the Southern California water agreement, and related state legislation, will provide $300 million toward the rehabilitation of the Salton Sea, a critical step toward protecting this valuable habitat.

The Pacific Institute has also stayed active on water privatization. Dr. Gary Wolff, the Pacific Institute’s Principal Economist and Engineer, authored an independent review of Stockton, California’s proposed water privatization and we presented new research to the Third World Water Forum on privatization. Despite a weak Ministerial Statement, our work on water as a human right and water and climate change also found a receptive audience at the Forum.

We are also very proud of our work in West Oakland, led by Program Director Meena Palaniappan, which has helped reduce toxic air pollution and empower local residents. And this work is helping other communities: We are now working in Richmond, California to protect open space and reduce air pollution from refineries using the same tools we have developed in West Oakland.

Program Director Jason Morrison won an award for his work with Andrea Sumits on sustainability in New Zealand and how this can help California and the U.S. And we continue to be one of the only nongovernmental organizations directly involved with the creation of international environmental standards. The growing influence of these standards has led us to create an International NGO Network on ISO to ensure that environmentalists, labor organizers, and others concerned about global trade understand their implications (more on this project below).

Building on our successes, we are planning to continue to push governments to address unmet basic human needs for water, and to support principles and standards to protect the public interest in efforts to privatize water. By this summer we will publish the fourth volume of our acclaimed series, “The World’s Water.” In addition, we are expanding our work with vulnerable communities to ensure that everyone has access to clean air and a healthy environment, and we are beginning a major, new, cross-program initiative to craft a truly sustainable approach to water management.