April 2009 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-Water in India
-EPA Award
-Sea-Level Rise
-World Water Forum

-In Brief

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Institute Collaborates with Communities in India to Increase Water Security
More Tools for Information, Transparency, and Communication Needed

Water WomanWater managers throughout the world are grappling with changes to water availability due to climate change. In cities in developing countries, the problems are even more severe.

Growing populations, decreasing water availability, and more erratic precipitation are causing a crisis of water insecurity among the urban poor. There is a complex interaction among a host of different water managers including the government, private suppliers, and communities, who each access the water resource directly or indirectly. The formal water system only provides intermittent water supply to a limited portion of the population. In many places, individual homeowners supplement this supply with their own supply of borewell water, and often the poor are forced to procure their entire water supply from private water tankers at over ten times the cost.

TARUWorking with two other partner organizations, Meena Palaniappan, director of the Pacific Institute’s International Water and Communities Initiative, conducted an intensive series of group discussions with government agencies, NGOs, and communities in India to discover the kinds of tools different stakeholders need to plan for increasing water insecurity due to climate change.

From upper middle class communities with shared borewells, to slum communities and Muslim communities who lacked any source of government-provided water, Palaniappan, working with the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition and TARU, met with a broad range of groups in Indore, India. In each community, certain strategies, such as increasing in-house and community water storage capacity and increasing water-use efficiency, were identified as robust tactics to face increasing uncertainty in water supply.

“We found that for certain upper- and middle-class communities, tools around greater self-reliance in water would be useful, while for slum communities and other marginalized communities, tools to advocate for water supply from the government were needed,” said Palaniappan.

Based on these intensive discussions in Indore, the project team will be developing a framework for the different and specific kinds of tools needed to meet the demands of climate change and its impacts on water. They aim to further develop several key tools for communities, including tools on self-reliance in water and advocacy to demand basic water needs.

“Managing for the future of water supply will require more attention on the tools needed for increasing information, transparency, connections, and communication among the various stakeholders,” said Palaniappan.

EPA Honors Pacific Institute for Work on Water Conservation and Efficiency in California
Innovative Research Helps Prepare California’s Agricultural Community

EPA awardIn recognition of their commitment to protect the environment and sustainably manage California’s vital freshwater resources, Pacific Institute researchers Heather Cooley, Juliet Christian-Smith, and Peter Gleick were presented with a 2009 Region 9 Environmental Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Pictured from left to right: Heather Cooley, Acting Regional Administrator Laura Yoshii, Juliet Christian-Smith).

The Pacific Institute was specifically recognized for work that has altered how California approaches its water crisis, offering solutions that can help keep the state’s vital agricultural sector thriving while still helping to reduce groundwater overdraft and protect the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem. Forty groups and individuals throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Islands, and tribal lands were selected for their commitment and significant contributions to the environment.

Since the release of their report More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California – A Special Focus on the Delta last Fall, the trio continues to work with on-the-ground stakeholders to investigate and help implement practical solutions to pressing water issues, meeting with irrigation districts, farmers, and community members from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley to the Imperial Valley. From stimulating management discussion, to meeting with growers, to creating actual planning and policy recommendations, Cooley, Christian-Smith, and Gleick have been a catalytic force as California grapples with its freshwater management problems.

“California’s Secretary of Agriculture A.G. Kawamura and other leaders throughout the state have stated that doing nothing is not an option. We agree,” said honoree Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith. “We will continue our work helping keep California’s vital agricultural sector thriving, recognizing the need to reduce groundwater overdraft, prepare for the increasing threats of climate change, and respond to the state’s water crisis.”

Read more.
Read the report.

Report on California Impacts of Sea-Level Rise Makes Big Splash

Research Impacts California City Planning

mapFrom Mendocino County to San Diego, the Pacific Institute report The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast, which has been downloaded more than 84,000 times since its release last month, has gained attention throughout the state, bringing needed awareness to the need to prepare and adapt to a rising sea level.

The city of Mountain View, for instance, is taking the report and its findings into consideration as they revise their city’s General Plan.  While the Pacific Institute’s illustrative flood maps are not intended to replace official FEMA flood maps, the predictions have caught the eye of the city’s Planning Department.

“There been several of these maps that have been published,” said Planning Director Randy Tsuda in an article published in the Mountain View Voice. “One of the things any community needs to look at is the implications of climate change. If sea-level rise is a part of that, I think it’s our responsibility as city officials to look at what those implications are.”

The Pacific Institute report concludes that sea-level rise will inevitably change the character of the California coast and that adaptation strategies must be evaluated, tested, and implemented if the identified risks are to be reduced or avoided.

In The News
City to consider rising sea level in General Plan update, Mountain View Voice, 3/27/2009
Oceans Rising, Forum, KQED, 3/16/2009


An Inside Look at This Year’s World Water Forum

Last month, five Pacific Institute researchers attended the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey. Take an inside look at this year’s Forum as these five recount their experiences and comment on this year’s hot-topics:

Juliet Christian-Smith, Senior Research Associate
Christian-Smith BioThe beginning of the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul this March started with a bang–literally–as water cannons were used to disperse crowds of protesters. In a highly ironic twist, Turkish officials said that water was used because it is so cheap. The pricing of water was a central issue at both the official Forum, held in the cavernous halls of beautifully renovated former slaughter-houses along the banks of the Golden Horn, and at the “alternative” Forum, in a cramped ballroom of the Marmara Hotel. How much should people pay for water? Is there a universal human right to water? Is there a right to sanitation? Should companies and states be required to provide some level of water service to the public free of charge?

The final Istanbul Ministerial Statement came out on the last day of Forum without recognizing water as a human right, instead stating: “We acknowledge the discussions with the U.N. system regarding human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation. We recognize that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a basic human need.” In reaction, several countries have signed alternative declarations. One states: “We recognize that access to water and sanitation is a human right and we are committed to all necessary actions for the progressive implementation of this right.” So far, it has been signed by 25 countries. Another statement directly challenges the World Water Council’s legitimacy as an organizer of the World Water Forum.

In addition, the Istanbul Water Consensus, signed by all mayors and local/regional elected representatives meeting in Istanbul, states: “Access to good quality water and sanitation is a basic right for all human beings…Water is a public good and should therefore be under strict public control…”

In summary, this year’s World Water Forum, which had the motto of “Bridging Divides for Water,” actually did more to illuminate those divides than to bridge them.

MeenaMeena Palaniappan, Director of the Institute’s International Water and Communities Initiative
MeenaIn addition to being in the presence of 30,000 people who are passionate about water, the WWF offered many highlights, including:

  • The Forum’s initiative to be a “green forum,” providing numerous recycling and composting receptacles, as well as opportunities to offset CO2 emissions generated by attending the Forum.
  • The exciting focus on climate change and water and on innovative public participation strategies.
  • The opportunity to discover some corporate actors in the water sector who are taking positive steps toward ensuring access to water for all, including Manila Water and their successful bid to provide water to the urban poor.

However, the Forum also had a few disappointments, including:

  • The failure to reaffirm the human right to water in the Ministerial Declaration.
  • The extensive, oppressive presence of the police. The highly secured forum did not allow any dissenting protests and deported two Bay Area International Rivers protesters.
  • The huge corporate presence to sell big dams and big desalination plants, without enough counterpoint of other appropriate technologies–and continued foot-dragging in the corporate sector around water policy issues.

Heather Cooley, Senior Research Associate
ColleyOrganizers of the Fifth World Water Forum demonstrated a much broader understanding of the links between water and energy than in previous years. At the Fourth WWF in Mexico City in 2006, discussions about water and energy largely focused on hydropower. This year, however, there were numerous panel discussions on the water we use to produce energy and the energy we use to produce water. Nearly all panelists agreed that despite these linkages, water and energy policy are rarely integrated. Specifically, we are making energy policies without considering the implications of those policies on water resources. For example, efforts to increase biofuel production have had adverse impacts on water supply and quality. Likewise, seawater desalination is being pursued without concern about the energy use associated with these facilities. More tools are needed that allow policy- and decision-makers to evaluate the water and energy implications of their policies. The Pacific Institute’s Water-to-Air model, which can help water managers understand the energy and greenhouse gas implications of their water management decisions, is one such tool to help us better incorporate the water/energy link into our planning.

Jason Morrison, Director of the Institute’s Globalization Program, and Peter Schulte, Research Analyst
MorrisonAt the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul, we helped convene side events of The CEO Water Mandate, a U.N. Global Compact initiative aimed at advancing corporate water stewardship. Four separate events were held: a multi-stakeholder workshop focusing on corporate engagement in water policy, featuring representatives from endorsing companies, civil society, U.N. agencies, and the investment community; an endorser-only meeting pertaining primarily to governance, long-range work planning, and administrative matters; a public seminar on the Mandate’s Transparency Framework (found here);  and a public informational session to promote awareness of the initiative and garner input from a range of stakeholders.Schulte

At these sessions, feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with broad agreement that the initiative has made significant strides in transparency and stakeholder inclusiveness in the 18 months since its inception. The endorsing companies and Mandate Secretariat agreed to continue existing workstreams on transparency and public policy engagement and to continue to explore how the Mandate can address the human right to water in practical terms and promote a “rights-based approach” to water stewardship. The Mandate will hold its fourth working conference at World Water Week in Stockholm in August 2009.

Jason Morrison, pictured left; Peter Schulte, pictured right.

In Brief

Heberger Presents Research Findings to California Coastal Commission
On April 9, Research Associate Matthew Heberger gave an invited presentation to the California Coastal Commission at its monthly meeting in Oxnard, on the subject of sea-level rise and its impacts on California. The Coastal Commission is a state agency which regulates land use and public access on the California coast, and has been called “the most powerful land-use agency in the country” by The New York Times.

The Commission has long been concerned about climate change and sea-level rise. Dr. Dave Revell of Philip Williams & Associates, Ltd. presented information on risks due to accelerated erosion. Heberger described the half million people at risk and $100 billion in damages possible due to increased flooding, and discussed adaptation policies the state could adopt to help reduce these.

Following a brief public comment period, in an astonishing move, the Commission directed the staff to examine the feasibility of adopting all of the Pacific Institute’s recommendations.

Complete audio and video archives available here.

State Department Guests Visit Institute to Learn about U.S. Environmental Protection, Climate Change
State Department GuestsOn April 10, three Japanese guests from the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, which invites participants to look at environmental protection and climate change measures at the federal, state, and local levels in the United States, met with Pacific Institute researchers, discussing topics from climate change to energy alternatives to city planning. In addition, Ms. Kanae Musha, a researcher with the Kansai Institute for Social and Economic Justice; Mr. Rintaro Sakurai, a reporter with Asahi Shimbun; and Mr. Yohei Yasui, a policy coordinator with the Chubu Electric Power Company, met with state, local, and NGO leaders around the nation active in promoting innovative solutions to environmental problems.

Morrison Participates in Environmental Strategy, Global Reporting Initiative
Program Director Jason Morrison was in New York City on March 3 to participate in a stakeholder dialogue with Toyko’s Hitachi Group focusing on its long-term environmental strategy.
On March 12-13 in Boston, he participated in the second meeting of the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Report Content & Materiality Working Group, which is developing guidance on the decision-making process to include information  in Corporate Social Responsibility reporting. The guide is scheduled for release in late 2009.

Community Strategies Program Helps Develop Curriculum for Community Leadership Academy
Research Associate Catalina Garzón has been working closely with staff of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (EIP) to develop the curriculum for their Community Leadership Academy. The Academy’s purpose is to train and mobilize a cadre of community members to take a leadership role in problem-solving opportunities to reduce the impacts of Port of Oakland operations in West Oakland neighborhoods. An intergenerational group of nine residents including several youth and elders attended the first session on March 14, which engaged participants in a series of interactive activities to explore the relationship between their experiences with trucks and the history of freight transport in West Oakland. The second session of the Academy, held on March 28, focused on decision-making processes related to the land-use patterns that attract trucks into West Oakland neighborhoods. The remaining two sessions, to be held this month, will focus on demystifying decision-making related to trucks and opportunities to take action to reduce truck impacts in West Oakland.

Two Institute Researchers present at Association of American Geographers Annual Conference
Research Associates Catalina Garzón and Eli Moore presented a paper at the Association of American Geographers annual conference in March in Las Vegas. Reflecting on five past research projects involving the Pacific Institute Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program, Garzón and Moore analyzed how community organizations have chosen to participate at different levels during the different phases of research. The paper, “Participatory Research as an Approach to Environmental Justice Movement Research,” focused on how levels of community participation reflect the change strategies of the community organizations, and what outcomes of this participation were noted as strengthening the community groups’ change strategies.

Cohen Participates on Colorado River Panel
On March 13, Senior Research Associate Michael Cohen participated on the “Colorado River Augmentation – The Latest” panel at the Water Education Foundation’s 26th Annual Executive Briefing in Sacramento. With the Governor’s 20% by 2020 conservation goal, drought, climate change, and ideas on stretching the Colorado River supplies are just a few of the issues discussed at this year’s Executive Briefing.

Salton Sea Bill Passes Senate Committee, Heads to Next
The California Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Wildlife unanimously approved SB 51, the Salton Sea Restoration Council bill that would establish a governance structure for Salton Sea restoration and revitalize the state’s moribund efforts. On April 27th, the bill will be passed to the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, its next step toward passage.

Heberger Presents On Our Nation’s Water Crisis to Grinnell College
On April 15th, Matthew Heberger gave a talk at Grinnell College in Iowa titled “Facing the National Water Crisis.” He presented a series of case studies showing how mismanagement, sprawl, and over-allocation have led to insecurity over our most vital resource — posing threats to our health, environment, and economy. He followed with a discussion of the “soft path to water,” drawing on 20-plus years of research by the Pacific Institute, describing how we need to change the way we think about, use, and manage water in the 21st century.

The talk was part of a three-day symposium on water sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations & Human Rights, Center for Prairie Studies, and the Henry R. Luce Program in Nations and the Global Environment.

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