MARCH 2007

Pacific Institute and Desalination on YouTube

Growing populations, polluted water sources, and changing precipitation patterns brought by global warming threaten tomorrow’s freshwater supplies. Desalination offers the potential benefit of a limitless supply of fresh water. But what are the costs?

Pacific Institute Research Associate Heather Cooley tackled this question from a California perspective in a segment of the TV interview show i on San Francisco. Drawing on the research she conducted for the report Desalination: With a Grain of Salt, Cooley explains that the price of desalinated water is quite high when one factors in the true economic, environmental, and social costs. The interview (in four parts) is now available on YouTube.

Coming to YouTube next month: Pacific Institute Senior Associate Meena Palaniappan discusses freight transport in California.

Institute Comments on Colorado River Restoration Project

On February 15, the Pacific Institute joined several other NGOs in commenting (PDF) on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s proposed Drop 2 Storage Reservoir Project. The proposed project would build a total of 8,000 acre-feet of new, re-regulatory storage adjacent to the All-American Canal.


The purpose of the project is to reduce the volume of water delivered to Mexico at Morelos Dam in excess of the U.S.’s obligations under the 1944 Treaty. To date, these over-deliveries have sustained the remnant Colorado River delta. Using Reclamation’s data, the Institute estimates that, had the proposed project been in place, there would have been no flow at all below Morelos Dam for 97% of the days from 2000 through 2004. Learn more

Climate Change and Water Resource Decisions

Pacific Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick testified before the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks & Wildlife at the informational hearing, “Climate Change and Water Resources” on February 20. In his testimony, titled “Incorporating Climate Change into Water Resource Decisions,” Gleick tackled four questions related to climate change and water resources:

Peter Gleick
  1. What has been done to deal with water-related risks of climate-change?
  2. What has not been done?
  3. What should not be done?
  4. What should be done?

Complex impacts on every sector of society, including our water resources and agricultural productivity, are now unavoidable, Gleick said. California’s water resources are especially vulnerable.

Download Peter’s testimony (PDF)

Related press:

Bay Area “Still Toxic” to Communities of Color

As part of the Pacific Institute’s continuing efforts to support environmental justice in the Bay Area, the Institute-coordinated Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative participated in the Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative’s (BAEHC) release of a new report highlighting environmental injustice. “Still Toxic After All These Years: Air Quality and Environmental Justice in the Bay Area” (PDF), reveals that people of color in the Bay Area’s 9 counties endure disproportionately high amounts of toxic exposure, regardless of income. The Center for Justice, Tolerance & Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz prepared the report.

"Still Toxic After All These Years" press conference

The Institute joined BAEHC in publicizing these findings at a February 20 media event near the Chevron refinery in North Richmond – one of the many areas that the report describes as being overwhelmed by multiple polluters. “We don’t want this report to simply be an example of environmental injustice,” said Swati Prakash, Pacific Institute Program Director and Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative coordinator. “These findings need to actuate a new approach to air quality management in the Bay Area.”

BAEHC members put faces to the report’s statistics, speaking of their personal experiences in the area’s environmental justice communities. Each demanded immediate action from state and local authorities. BAEHC will be discussing the report with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District at an upcoming meeting.

Download the report (PDF).

This Month at the Integrity of Science blog

Here are the past month’s highlights from the Integrity of Science blog

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“While reliability is an important benefit of desalination, alternatives can usually provide these same benefits with far fewer social, economic, and environmental costs. These alternatives, which include improving conservation and efficiency and accelerating wastewater recycling and reuse, should be implemented to the fullest extent possible before pursuing desalination.”

– Heather Cooley in a February 10 letter to the Marin Independent Journal


03/14/07. West County Indicators Project [Richmond, Calif.] The Institute is co-hosting the first steering meeting of the West County Indicators Project for Economic, Environmental & Community Health at St. Mark’s Church in Richmond (159 Harbour Way). For more information email or call 510-251-1600.

3/17/07. Freight Transport [Oakland, Calif.] Margaret Gordon and Swati Prakash will be speaking about community health impacts of port activities at a Town Hall Meeting in West Oakland. The newly formed Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports is sponsoring the meeting.

3/22/07. World Water Day

3/23/07. Integrity of Science [Cambridge, Mass.] Peter Gleick will be speaking with Knight Journalism Fellows at MIT on scientific integrity.

3/23/07. Water and Energy [Santa Barbara, Calif.] Heather Cooley will present “Energy Implications of Alternative Water Futures” at the First Western Forum on Energy and Water Sustainability, organized by the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

3/27/07. Salton Sea [Sacramento, Calif.] Michael Cohen will participate in the California Resources Agency’s Salton Sea Advisory Committee, to discuss the State’s preferred alternative for the Ecosystem Restoration Program.

3/29/07 Colorado River Delta [Yuma, Ariz.] Michael Cohen will meet with other stakeholders to discuss potential restoration designs for the Laguna Reach of the Colorado River, the northernmost extent of the river’s former delta.

Staff Announcements

Catalina Garzón is a returning Research Associate in the Community Strategies for Sustainability & Justice Program. A city planner by training, she worked at the Pacific Institute from 2003 to 2004 before returning to the University of California at Berkeley to complete a Doctorate in Environmental Science, Policy & Management. She has over 8 years of experience in multicultural leadership development, popular education, and policy advocacy on environmental justice and community economic development issues, and will be developing program workshops and leadership development activities.

Matthew Heberger is the Institute’s new Research Associate, working primarily with the Pacific Institute’s Water and Sustainability Program. He holds a BS in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Cornell University and an MS in Water Resources Engineering from Tufts University in Boston. Matt spent two years with the Peace Corps as a water and sanitation extension agent in Mali, West Africa. Most recently, he spent three and a half years with the consulting firm of Camp, Dresser, and McKee (CDM) in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a water resources engineer, performing hydraulic, hydrologic, and water quality analyses and modeling.

David Briggs is the Institute’s new Communications Intern. In his final semester at the University of California at Berkeley, he will be earning a BA in Rhetoric and a BS in Environmental Science. David also currently works as an ecology researcher in Berkeley’s Welter Lab, a position he has held for two years.


What to expect if bay waters rise by a meter San Francisco Chronicle, 2/1/07

The World Responds to Climate Change Earthbeat, 2/2/07

Oakland port’s greener trucks: A ‘baby step’? Oakland Tribune, 2/12/07

Melting polar ice would drown parts of San Francisco Bay Area Contra Costa Times, 2/18/07

Consequences of a Rising Bay San Francisco Chronicle, 2/18/07

Water fund seeks to quench investor thirst Globe & Mail, 2/22/07

Science Panel Outlines Roadmap for Reducing Risks from Climate Change Yahoo! News, 2/27/07


2/1/07. Global Change [San Francisco, Calif.] Peter Gleick delivered a presentation on the implications of climate change for water managers and utilities at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Climate and Water Summit.

2/1/07. Water [D.C.] Michael Cohen co-chaired a breakout session on Water and Health at the 7th National Conference on Science, Policy and Health.

2/1/07. Healthy Cities. MIT Press released “Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice, and Regional Equity,” edited by Robert D. Bullard. Institute Program Director Swati Prakash contributed the chapter “Beyond Dirty Diesels: Clean and Just Transportation in Northern Manhattan.”

2/5/07. Global Change [San Francisco, Calif.] Peter Gleick presented the impacts of sea-level rise on San Francisco Bay to the Bay Area Economic Forum.

2/6/07. Asthma Disparities [Berkeley, Calif.] Swati Prakash spoke at the statewide conference on “Solutions for Asthma Disparities in California,” hosted by California Breathing.

2/7/07. Salton Sea [Ontario, Calif.] Michael Cohen participated in the California Resources Agency’s Salton Sea Advisory Committee preferred alternatives workgroup, discussing the selection of a preferred alternative for the Ecosystem Restoration Program.

2/16/07. Environmental Justice [San Francisco, Calif.] The Pacific Institute co-sponsored “Celebrate and Consolidate Environmental Justice Victories.” The reception included a presentation of new findings on the 20th Anniversary of the landmark 1987 study, Toxic Wastes and Race, by Dr. Robert Bullard, Dr. Beverly Wright, and Dr. Robin Saha, and the opportunity to be in solidarity with Youth United for Community Action in its struggle against Romic in East Palo Alto. More information at

2/16/07. Water Efficiency [San Francisco, Calif.] Peter Gleick presented “Water Crisis in Agriculture: How to Produce More with Less” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.

2/20/07. Environmental Justice [Richmond, Calif.] The Institute-coordinated Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative co-sponsored the launch of the landmark study “Still Toxic After All These Years: Air Quality and Environmental Justice in the Bay Area.” See HEADLINES.

2/20/07. Global Change [Sacramento, Calif.] Peter Gleick testified before the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks & Wildlife on the subject of climate change and water.

2/20/07. Water Privatization [Indianapolis, Ind.] Ian Hart presented the findings of “Beyond Privatization: Restructuring Water Systems to Improve Performance” at the Indiana Section AWWA 99th Annual Conference.

2/22/07. Colorado River [Sacramento, Calif.] Michael Cohen participated on the Colorado River – Status Report on a River Reoperation Plan panel at the Water Education Foundation’s Executive Briefing.

2/26/07. Freight Transport [Long Beach, Calif.] Swati Prakash and Margaret Gordon presented the findings of the “Paying with Our Health” report at the annual “Faster Freight, Cleaner Air” conference co-sponsored by the U.S. EPA and industry associations.

2/27/07. Salton Sea [Sacramento, Calif.] Michael Cohen participated in the California Resources Agency’s Salton Sea Advisory Committee, to discuss next steps for the Ecosystem Restoration Program, including funding options and the construction of ‘early start’ habitat.

2/28/07.  Colorado River Delta [Yuma, Ariz.]  Michael Cohen met with other stakeholders to discuss potential restoration opportunities in the Laguna Reach of the Colorado River, the northernmost extent of the river’s former delta.

2/28/07. Colorado River [Washington, D.C.] The Bureau of Reclamation released its draft EIS on “Development of Lower Colorado River Basin Shortage Guidelines,” available online.

3/1/07. Water Conservation and Efficiency [Raleigh, North Carolina] Heather Cooley participated on a panel on valuing water at a conference organized by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. The conference was entitled “The Future of North Carolina’s Water: Strategies for Sustaining Clean and Abundant Water in a Rapidly Growing State.”

3/1/07. Desalination [Huntington Beach, Calif.] Ian Hart presented the findings of “Desalination, With a Grain of Salt” at a public meeting sponsored by Residents For Responsible Desalination.

BAEHC Press Conference photo by David Briggs.

© 2007 Pacific Institute,

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