Published: February 2019 Authors: Heather Cooley, Anne Thebo, Cora Kammeyer, Sonali Abraham, Charles Gardiner, Martha Davis Pages: 54 Pressures on water resources are intensifying due to aging infrastructure, population growth, and climate change, among...»
Measuring Progress Toward Universal Access to Water and Sanitation in California: Defining Goals, Indicators, and Performance Measures
Published: September 2018 Author: Laura Feinstein Pages: 73 In 2012, California’s Human Right to Water was passed, calling for safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water for all citizens. Yet while this statute has served...»
Published: June 2018 Authors: Morgan Shimabuku, Sarah Diringer, and Heather Cooley Pages: 33 Stormwater has traditionally been managed to mitigate flooding and protect water quality. However, its potential as a local water supply has...»
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Two years later, in 2012, California became the first state in the nation to enact legislation recognizing the human...»
Published: April 26, 2017 Author: Peter Gleick Pages: 16 The severe five-year drought afflicting California between 2012 and 2016 was the driest and hottest in the instrumental record. Impacts of California’s Five-Year (2012-2016) Drought...»
Published: January 19, 2017 Authors: Douglas A. Barnum, Timothy Bradley, Michael Cohen, Bruce Wilcox, and Gregor Yanega Pages: 32 The Salton Sea (Sea) is an ecosystem facing large systemic changes in the near future....»
Published: January 9, 2017 Authors: Laura Feinstein, Rapichan Phurisamban, Amanda Ford, Christine Tyler, and Ayana Crawford Pages: 80 Drought and Equity in California is the first statewide analysis of the impacts of California’s five-year...»
Published: October 13, 2016 Authors: Heather Cooley and Rapichan Phurisamban Pages: 30 The Cost of Alternative Water Supply and Efficiency Options in California is the first comprehensive analysis to examine the cost of various...»
Published: September 22, 2016 Authors: Heather Cooley, Michael Cohen, Rapichan Phurisamban, and Guillaume Gruère Pages: 29 Despite being the United States’ most arid region, the US Southwest – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico,...»
California has a long list of unresolved and difficult water challenges, made more urgent by the severe drought that is gripping the state. As the state’s population continues to grow and climate changes...»
Published: February 2019
Authors: Heather Cooley, Anne Thebo, Cora Kammeyer, Sonali Abraham, Charles Gardiner, Martha Davis
Pressures on water resources are intensifying due to aging infrastructure, population growth, and climate change, among other factors. With vast expanses of water-intensive turf grass and large impervious surfaces, most urbanized communities are ill-adapted to these pressures.
This study finds that there are significant opportunities for the business community in California’s Santa Ana River Watershed to contribute to shared watershed goals through investments in sustainable landscape practices on their properties. These landscapes can improve surface water quality, flood management, and water supply reliability, while also reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon, improving ecosystem and human health, promoting economic activity, and enhancing community resilience. While focused on the Santa Ana River Watershed, the project approach and findings are relevant to urban communities around the world.
The project includes an interactive mapping tool that allows users to explore the potential benefits of sustainable landscaping practices across the Santa Ana River Watershed. This project is a collaboration between the Pacific Institute, California Forward, the CEO Water Mandate, and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority.
Read the full report here.
Read the Executive Summary here.
View the interactive mapping tool here.
Published: September 2018
Author: Laura Feinstein
In 2012, California’s Human Right to Water was passed, calling for safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water for all citizens. Yet while this statute has served as the touchstone for drinking water and sanitation efforts in the state, access to this basic right remains unrealized in many California communities.
This report from the Pacific Institute investigates what realizing the human right to water in California would mean in terms that are concrete, measurable, and aligned with prevailing laws and norms in the state. The approach the author develops is modeled after the service ladder framework employed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) for monitoring progress toward water and sanitation internationally. It offers a range of service levels as a way of measuring progress, and differentiating between the large numbers of people who experience moderate problems and the small numbers with acute problems. The ladders create broad classes of service levels that facilitate communication of broad patterns of variation and identify high-priority areas for policy interventions.
Read the Executive Summary here.
Read the full report here.
Watch the ‘Measuring Access to Water and Sanitation in California’ presentation by Laura Feinstein on youtube.
View the youtube presentation in pdf format here.
Published: June 2018
Authors: Morgan Shimabuku, Sarah Diringer, and Heather Cooley
Stormwater has traditionally been managed to mitigate flooding and protect water quality. However, its potential as a local water supply has gained recent attention in water-stressed areas. As climate change increases the risk of both floods and droughts in California, urban stormwater capture also offers a significant opportunity to enhance community resilience. Moreover, stormwater capture, especially when done with green infrastructure, can improve air quality, provide habitat, and reduce energy use, among other benefits.
State agencies have made major efforts to support stormwater capture, from adopting statewide stormwater use goals to clarifying the regulatory framework and dedicating funds for green infrastructure and multi-benefit stormwater projects. This report presents a summary of regulations, laws, and statewide initiatives that create the legal framework for stormwater capture in California. In addition, the report explores examples of successful stormwater programs, initiatives, and funding schemes from communities in California and beyond that directly and indirectly support stormwater capture and use. It concludes with a set of recommendations to overcome obstacles and expand stormwater capture in the state.
Read the Executive Summary here.
Read the full report here.
Published: April 19, 2018
Authors: Kena Cador and Angélica Salceda
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Two years later, in 2012, California became the first state in the nation to enact legislation recognizing the human right to water for consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes. This statute has served as the touchstone for drinking water and sanitation efforts in the state.
A Survey of Efforts to Achieve Universal Access to Water and Sanitation in California, by the ACLU of Northern California and the Pacific Institute, provides a comprehensive overview of efforts of state agencies and non-governmental stakeholders to advance implementation of the human right to water in California. It identifies challenges to universal access and explores potential solutions, including improving data collection on onsite wastewater treatment systems, such as septic, and making the right to sanitation explicit.
Read the Executive Summary here.
Read the full report here.
Published: April 26, 2017
Author: Peter Gleick
The severe five-year drought afflicting California between 2012 and 2016 was the driest and hottest in the instrumental record. Impacts of California’s Five-Year (2012-2016) Drought on Hydroelectricity Generation examines the costs to California of lost hydroelectricity during the drought, which stretched from October 2011 to the end of September 2016 (the official California “water year” runs from October 1 to September 30).
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. During the drought, reductions to state river flows that power hundreds of hydropower stations meant that natural gas became a more prominent player in the mix. This was an expensive change.
According to the report, the five years of drought led to an increase in electricity costs of approximately $2.45 billion. The additional combustion of fossil fuels for electric generation led to a 10 percent increase in the release of carbon dioxide from California power plants.
In addition, the report notes that the ability to expand California’s hydroelectric capacity is limited, as there are few undammed rivers, little unallocated water, and growing environmental, economic, and political constraints to adding new hydropower capacity. In an average year, hydropower provides 18% of the state’s electricity needs.
Comparatively, during the five-year period from October 2011 through the end of September 2016, hydropower generation averaged 10.5% of total electricity generation. In 2015, the driest year, hydropower provided less than seven percent of total electricity generated in-state, while in 2016, an increase in precipitation increased hydropower generation to around 12 percent.
Read the Full Report here.
Published: January 19, 2017
Authors: Douglas A. Barnum, Timothy Bradley, Michael Cohen, Bruce Wilcox, and Gregor Yanega
The Salton Sea (Sea) is an ecosystem facing large systemic changes in the near future. Managers and stakeholders are seeking solutions to the decline of the Sea and have turned to the scientific community for answers. In response, scientists gathered in Irvine, California, to review existing science and propose scientific studies and monitoring needs required for understanding how to retain the Sea as a functional ecosystem. This document summarizes the proceedings of this gathering of approximately 50 scientists at a September 8–10, 2014, workshop on the State of the Salton Sea.
Read more about the report and download a copy here.
Published: January 9, 2017
Authors: Laura Feinstein, Rapichan Phurisamban, Amanda Ford, Christine Tyler, and Ayana Crawford
Drought and Equity in California is the first statewide analysis of the impacts of California’s five-year (2012-2016) drought on California’s most vulnerable communities. This report provides information community groups can use to advocate for their own interests, as well as to inform policymakers and other decision-makers interested in crafting more effective drought response strategies, particularly to address the needs of the state’s most vulnerable communities.
The report finds that during the state’s five-year drought, water shortages and price hikes affected access to safe, affordable water for Californians, with substantial impacts on low-income families and communities burdened with environmental pollution. The report also examines the effects of a rapidly declining salmon population on commercial and tribal fishermen and finds that the decline and variability of salmon populations during droughts has impacted those dependent on the fish for income, food, and cultural traditions.
Disadvantaged communities (those with a medium household income of less than 80 percent of the state median) and cumulatively burdened communities (those that rank in the top quarter of census tracts in the state for environmental burdens and socio-economic vulnerability) were highly affected by water shortages. Drought-impacted public water systems were widespread, with at least one found in 39 of the state’s 58 counties, but were concentrated in the San Joaquin Valley, the North Coast, and the Central Coast. Of the 92 drought-impacted water systems examined, two-thirds served a disadvantaged community, and nearly one-third served a cumulatively-burdened community. Dry household wells were also a major problem for vulnerable communities. In Tulare County, for example, two-thirds of the approximately 1,600 reported dry wells were in a disadvantaged community, and nearly 90% were in a cumulatively burdened community.
View a map of household water shortages in Tulare county here.
The report also found drought charges exacerbated affordability concerns for low-income households. Many utilities use a model for drought charges that raises costs for low-income, low-water users that already pay more than they can afford for their basic water needs. The effect of these charges was most extreme for families earning less than $10,000, raising costs from 4.4% to 5.3% of household income. These households have little or no disposable income, and any increase in water costs poses a major challenge.
Says co-author Laura Feinstein: “Water supply shortages during the drought affected some of the most vulnerable populations in the state. Not all Californians have equal access to water, and those with the fewest financial resources faced the greatest problems during the drought.”
The drought exacerbated long-term declines in salmon populations in the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers. For centuries, Native Americans in California and the Pacific Northwest have relied on salmon not only as a source of sustenance, but also as an integral part of their spiritual and cultural traditions. The dwindling salmon population represents a loss of both physical and spiritual sustenance. For commercial fishermen, the drought worsened conditions for the salmon fishing fleet, which has declined by 80% since 1982.
Addressing the underlying inequities in how the state’s water resources are managed is all the more urgent because droughts are becoming longer, more frequent, and more severe due to climate change.
The report provides a list of recommendations for mitigating impacts of future droughts on these communities, including:
- Establishing a statewide quantitative metric for measuring water supply reliability for water systems;
- Identifying areas where water system consolidation can resolve supply problems;
- Ensuring drought surcharges are not applied to basic water use, preferably by calculating household water budgets based on household size;
- Targeting water conservation and efficiency programs to low-income households by offering, for example, point-of-sale coupons, targeted education and outreach, and direct-install programs;
- Expanding the goals of emergency drought responses beyond preserving endangered species to include protection of commercially-fished salmon species;
- Providing income assistance and insurance protection for fishing communities during drought emergencies; and
- Creating mechanisms for meaningful and timely tribal engagement with local, regional, state, and federal agencies.
Read the Executive Summary here.
Read the Full Report here.
Appendix 1A, Data Sources for Section 1: Drought and Domestic Water Shortages
Appendix 1B, Spreadsheet: Drought-Impacted Public Water Systems
Appendix 1C, Spreadsheet: State Reports of Household Outages, Aug 8 2016
Appendix 2A, Spreadsheet: Drought Charges
Appendix 2B, Spreadsheet: Affordability Analysis
Appendix 3A, Tribal Salmon Fishery Data
Published: October 13, 2016
Authors: Heather Cooley and Rapichan Phurisamban
The Cost of Alternative Water Supply and Efficiency Options in California is the first comprehensive analysis to examine the cost of various strategies throughout the state to augment local water supplies and reduce water demand in urban areas. The study uses methods developed in the field of energy economics to determine the “levelized” costs of each supply and demand management option.
The study finds that the cost of new supplies in California is highly varied. Large stormwater capture projects are among the least expensive of the water supplies examined, with a median cost of about $590 per acre-foot. By contrast, seawater desalination, with a median cost of $2,100 per acre-foot for large projects and $2,800 per acre-foot for smaller projects, is among the most expensive water supply option. Brackish water desalination is much less expensive due to lower energy and treatment costs.
Generally, the cost of recycled water is in between that of stormwater capture and seawater desalination. Non-potable reuse – which treats water for irrigation and other non-drinking purposes – is typically less expensive than indirect potable reuse due to the lower treatment requirements; however, the cost of building or expanding a separate “purple pipe” distribution system to deliver non-potable water may be such that indirect potable reuse could be more cost effective.
Nonetheless, the study finds that urban water conservation and efficiency are the most cost-effective ways to meet current and future water needs. Indeed, many residential and non-residential measures have a “negative cost,” which means that they save the customer more money over their lifetime than they cost to implement.
Ultimately, California should prioritize cost effective and sustainable solutions to create an effective portfolio of water solutions. While the cost and availability of these options will vary according to local conditions, the report provides guidance that allows for a cost comparison of alternative water supply and efficiency options and an indication of how to prioritize local, state, and federal investments.
View and download the full report here.
View and download the Executive Summary here.
View and download Appendix A here.
View and download Appendix B here.
Published: September 22, 2016
Authors: Heather Cooley, Michael Cohen, Rapichan Phurisamban, and Guillaume Gruère
Despite being the United States’ most arid region, the US Southwest – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah – is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Yet nearly 75% of total cropland in the region, and an even higher percentage of total agricultural productivity, depends on supplemental irrigation. Meanwhile, climate change and increased water demand are putting pressure on the region’s limited water supplies and raising concerns about the viability of agriculture in the region.
The Pacific Institute, in coordination with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), recently completed a case study on the possible impacts of future water risks on agriculture in the US Southwest by mid-century. The report finds that while the Southwest will likely continue to be a major agricultural producer for the next 50 years, it will be impacted by more variable and uncertain water supplies and increased water demand. Additionally, total irrigated area is likely to decline due to limits on water supplies and urban encroachment, with lower value, water-intensive field and forage crops likely to experience the greatest reductions.
Livestock and dairy are economically important to Southwest agriculture and are especially vulnerable to water shortages and climate change. Feed prices are likely to rise, thereby increasing costs for producers, while climate change is likely to alter the location and productivity of pasture and rangeland, the distribution of livestock parasites and pathogens, and the thermal environment of animals. Trade and employment may also be affected, although projections remain uncertain.
These projected changes will be less disruptive if meaningful steps are taken to mitigate economic losses, protect ecosystems, and invest in productive strategies, and the report provides several key recommendations: increasing urban water-use efficiency to reduce the pressure to take water from agriculture; increasing agricultural water-use efficiency to help maximize the productivity of limited water resources; and shifting from higher water-use to lower water-use crops to keep agricultural land in production with less total water demand.
Additionally, improving groundwater management and developing water banks can reduce vulnerability to more variable surface water supplies, while the use of recycled wastewater could be expanded, especially close to urban areas. Lastly, water transfers can also play a role, although they must be conducted within a clearly defined system, have explicit goals, and acknowledge and adequately mitigate possible adverse impacts.
Download the report here.
Published: March 9, 2016
Authors: Heather Cooley, Peter H. Gleick, Kristina Donnelly, Jeff Loux, Tim Worley, and David Sedlak
California has a long list of unresolved and difficult water challenges, made more urgent by the severe drought that is gripping the state. As the state’s population continues to grow and climate changes become increasingly apparent, the pressures to identify and implement solutions to these critical challenges have only intensified.
Recognizing an urgent need for serious changes in the way water is managed and used in the state, a broad array of stakeholders saw an opportunity to move beyond the traditional rancor and conflict by coming together to identify pragmatic and achievable solutions to urban water challenges.
During 2015, the Pacific Institute, in partnership with the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association, UC Berkeley Water Center, and UC Davis Extension’s Collaboration Center, coordinated a series of in-depth Where We Agree meetings. This unique effort provided participants opportunities to set aside differences and explore water technologies and policies that would have broad support. Together, they generated a set of practical recommendations for policymakers, municipal water managers, businesses, and community groups.
“It’s time to put disagreements aside and concentrate on implementing solutions that we know work and launching innovative approaches to managing the state’s water resources,” said Pacific Institute Water Program Director Heather Cooley. “I am delighted with the progress this group made to create and advance a wide range of positive, on-the-ground solutions to California’s water crisis.”
The group was comprised of representatives from water utilities, trade associations, nonprofit organizations, academia, foundations, and the business sector. The meetings identified key ways to improve urban water management in California. Some key areas of agreement identified by the group include:
- Expand indoor and outdoor water conservation and efficiency efforts that target residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional users;
- Increase water reuse at a variety of scales, from a more decentralized building-scale system to a more centralized municipal scale, by adopting a suite of policies to make it more affordable and convenient;
- Adopt stormwater policies, guidelines, and incentives to facilitate stormwater capture and use;
- Improve resilience for future droughts by enhancing planning and data collection and reducing constraints on short-term water transfers during droughts, provided they are protective of ecosystems and communities;
- Improve the reliability and adequacy of funding for water infrastructure;
- Integrate water management activities to foster innovative solutions that result in projects that provide multiple services and benefits;
- And invest in groundwater storage and develop an integrated strategy for maximizing the potential of these projects.
“Despite the perception of unresolvable water conflicts in California, there is broad consensus on many of the key strategies needed to tackle our water resource challenges. The outcome of these Where We Agree meetings offers a roadmap for sensible solutions that have a strong likelihood of public and political support and if implemented, could dramatically shift the way Californians use and manages water” said Cooley.
Download the full report here.