March 2009 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-New Reports
-Sea-Level Rise Impacts
-Business, Water, Climate Change
-Biggest Dry
-Water Disclosure
-Congressional testimonies
-Bottled Water and Energy
-World Water Forum

-In Brief

Recently Released Reports
Check out our latest research:




New Study Finds Impacts of Sea-Level Rise Threaten California Coast
Risks to 480,000 People, $100 Billion

Sea-level rise mapIn an analysis prepared for three California state agencies, the Pacific Institute estimates that 480,000 people; a wide range of critical infrastructure; vast areas of wetlands and other natural ecosystems; and nearly $100 billion in property along the California coast are at increased risk from flooding from a 1.4-meter sea-level rise — if no adaptation actions are taken.

The Pacific Institute report, The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast, 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 risks identified are to be reduced or avoided. Populations and critical infrastructure at risk are shown in detailed maps prepared by the Institute, available online here.

“People who are already in the coastal flood plain are going to see an increased risk in coming decades, and a number of communities, industries, and vital infrastructure will be exposed to new risks,” said Matthew Heberger, research associate of the Pacific Institute and co-author of the report.

The report also explores how vulnerability to sea-level rise will be heightened among Californians who do not have a vehicle, do not speak English, or who live near hazardous waste facilities. Low-income households and communities of color are over-represented in these more vulnerable groups.

Funded by the California Energy Commission, California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), and the Ocean Protection Council, the report was authored by the Pacific Institute’s Matthew Heberger, Heather Cooley, Pablo Herrera, Peter H. Gleick, and Eli Moore. On March 11, Gleick briefed senior staff of CalTrans, the California Energy Commission, the Ocean Protection Council, the California Resources Agency, and other state agencies on report findings.

“The results of this study give a snapshot of what we face along the coast if no actions are taken and it offers advance notice of some of the smart actions California agencies and planners can take to reduce the consequences we face,” said Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick. “California is leading the effort to offset the possible ravages of climate change and sea-level rise, but if we fail to respond, the consequences will be severe.”

Read the report.

In the News
Editorial: California must brace for climate change, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/15/2009

Could Rising Seas Swallow California’s Coast?, Time, 3/11/2009

Report Warns Businesses and Investors about Growing Water Scarcity Impacts from Climate Change
Climate Risks Mean New Problems for Vulnerable Sectors, including Electric Power, High-Tech, Agriculture, and Beverages

Global climate change is exacerbating water scarcity problems around the world, yet few businesses and investors are paying attention to this growing financial threat, according to a report recently issued by Ceres and the Pacific Institute.

Water is crucial for the global economy, yet decreasing water availability, declining water quality, and growing water demand are creating immense challenges to businesses and investors who have historically taken clean, reliable, and inexpensive water for granted. These trends are causing decreases in companies’ water allotments for manufacturing, shifts towards full-cost water pricing, more stringent water quality regulations, and increased public scrutiny of corporate water practices.

The report, Water Scarcity and Climate Change: Growing Risks for Businesses and Investors, concludes that climate change will exacerbate these growing water risks — especially as the world population grows by 50 million people every year. Already, China, India, and the western U.S. are seeing growth limited by reduced water supplies from shrinking glaciers and melting snowcaps that sustain key rivers. Meanwhile, agricultural and power plant production have been cut back due to more frequent and more intense heat waves and droughts in large parts of Australia, California, and the southeast U.S.

“This research sheds important light on the critical link between climate change and water issues. For businesses, addressing the risk factors of water scarcity and conflict is as urgent as addressing energy security and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jason Morrison, program director at the Pacific Institute and the report’s lead author. “With impacts of climate change on water resources already affecting businesses, this report provides a first-of-its-kind list of key questions companies and investors should be asking — and responding to — in an integrated way.”

Read the report.

In the News
Water Scarcity: Hidden Risks to Business, Business Week, 2/28/2009

New push on water scarcity accounting, Financial Times, 2/27/2009

Water Crisis Cripples SE Australia, Circle of Blue Reports

Agriculture, Environment, Economy, and Culture Suffer Damage from Drought

circle of blueNot since the American Dust Bowl of the early 20th century has an industrialized nation sustained more damage from drought and water scarcity in its prime food-growing region than in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin, according to an extensive multimedia report published by Circle of Blue, the journalism and science project of the Pacific Institute.

In The Biggest Dry: Australia’s Epic Drought is a Global Warning, Circle of Blue reports that drought is damaging the nation’s ability to feed itself and the expanding hunger of the world; imposing profound changes on the land; pushing people out of their homes; aggravating long-simmering tensions between the government and Australia’s indigenous people; and causing mass die-offs of plants and animals.

Addressing this crisis, Circle of Blue has launched Idea Central, the groundbreaking online event for people to collaborate, share their thoughts, experiences, suggestions, and solutions about the Murray-Darling Basin and related global water issues. The limited-time Idea Central event runs March 17 – April 16. Hundreds have already pre-registered. Imaginatik, developer of collaborative innovation and problem-solving software and processes, is contributing its Idea Central software to bring together and organize Australia’s and the world’s best thinkers. The goal is to generate solutions to the Murray-Darling Basin’s water challenge from local and global perspectives. Results will help people facing similar problems in other parts of the world and will be published in the spring.

Participate in Idea Central now at:


Improved Co
rporate Water Reporting Needed
New Report Examines Companies Across 11 Sectors

Significant improvement is needed in the depth and breadth of corporate reporting on water, particularly regarding water issues outside of direct business operations, according to a major study released today.

Commissioned by the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, the report by the Pacific Institute, Water Disclosure 2.0 – Assessment of Current and Emerging Practice in Corporate Water Reporting,
finds better and more expansive disclosure is critical for understanding the true risks and impacts associated with companies’ water needs.

The report examines and analyzes corporate reporting on water sustainability for 110 companies across 11 water-intensive sectors. The assessment tracks the six key elements addressed by The CEO Water Mandate: Direct Operations, Supply Chain and Watershed Management, Collective Action, Public Policy, Community Engagement, and Transparency.

“As we realize the importance of full awareness of companies’ water footprint and the need for transparency in reporting it, we need to work to ensure more meaningful and consistent ways of conveying that information,” said Jason Morrison, program director at the Pacific Institute and lead author of the report. “With greater detail in reporting on individual corporate actions, these reports will be more useful as we work to more sustainably manage the world’s water resources.”

Read the report.

In the News

Global Release: Water Disclosure 2.0, The Financial, 3/12/2009

Gleick Testifies Before Congress in Support of Two Water Management Bills

Integrated National Policy Needed to Tackle 21st Century Water Challenges

GleickThis month Dr. Peter Gleick testified before Congress in support of two pieces of legislation both aimed at improving federal water planning.

On March 4, Gleick testified in support of bill HR 1145. Introduced by Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), the bill provides for coordination of national research and development on water and efforts to ensure adequate water supplies in the future.

Gleick’s message for Congress was that the time is ripe to implement an integrated and comprehensive national water strategy as we face new water challenges in climate change, new pollutants, and decaying infrastructure: “We know what we need to do; what is needed is the funding and effort to do it.”

On March 10, Gleick testified before a packed hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in support of a new bill that seeks to integrate the relationship between water and energy use into national policy decisions. Introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Energy and Water Integration Act of 2009 will charge the Department of Energy with developing a course of action for tackling the links between energy and water.

In support of the bill, Gleick explained how water and energy are linked, how limits to the availability of both resources are beginning to affect one another, and how recognizing this link when developing national energy and water policies can lead to many substantial economic and environmental benefits.

Read his testimonies on an Integrated National Water Policy and on Water and Energy policy.

New Study Reports Bottled Water Use 2000 Times More Energy Intensive than Tap

bottled waterIn a new research article in the February 2009 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters, the Pacific Institute estimates that the annual consumption of bottled water in the U.S. in 2007 required the equivalent of between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil — roughly one-third of a percent of total U.S. primary energy consumption.

The article, Energy Implications of Bottled Water, by researchers Peter H. Gleick and Heather Cooley, is the first peer-reviewed analysis of its kind. Gleick and Cooley find bottled water is up to 2000 times more energy-intensive than tap water. Similarly, bottled water that requires long-distance transport is far more energy-intensive than bottled water produced and distributed locally.

Read the article.

In the News

Drink Up, Energy Hogs, Science Magazine, 2/26/20009


Institute Report from World Water Forum

Kicking off Pacific Institute participation in the 6th annual World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, the first day of The CEO Water Mandate’s third working conference, focused on businesses engaging in public policy to advance sustainable water management, was held Monday, March 16.

Organized by Program Director Jason Morrison and Research Analyst Peter Schulte, day one of the three-day conference featured a discussion around water footprints, the human right to water, and the role of the business sector within public policy.

On Tuesday Juliet Christian-Smith spoke about climate change adaptation and the agricultural sector, with a focus on efforts to improve on-farm efficiency.

Heather Cooley will present on Wednesday on the links between climate, water, and energy. The focus is on water conservation and efficiency as an adaptation and mitigation activity and the use of the water-to-air model to assist the water sector in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Meena Palaniappan’s session later in the week addresses adapting to climate change in water resources and water services. She will also present Indore, India as a case study for the relevance of demand management and soft supply strategies in developing country urban contexts.

The World Water Forum, held every three years, provides water communities and decision-makers from around the world the opportunity to collaborate on finding solutions to increase water security. Look for more first-hand details from Pacific Institute researchers in next month’s Online Update.


In Brief

Gleick Presents on Critical Water Issues
This month, Peter Gleick will give two lectures, each featuring some of today’s most critical water issues. On March 24, Gleick will discuss the concept of peak water as he gives the 2009 Young Environmental Symposium lecture at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Click here for more information.

On March 26, Gleick will give a lecture on “Ways of Water” at Rutgers University Libraries in New Jersey, where he will explore the connections between access to water, gender, security, and environment and human rights.

Dozens of Community Leaders Attend Workshop on Using Data in Advocacy
Over two dozen community leaders came together to build their skills in integrating data and research findings into advocacy at Using Data for Change, a March 2 community workshop held at the Nevin Community Center in Richmond, Calif. Workshop participants shared their experiences using data in advocacy, analyzed findings from the upcoming West County Indicators report Measuring What Matters, practiced techniques through role playing, and applied their knowledge by creating presentations using data on issues around which they are organizing for change. For more information, contact Eli Moore.

Institute Discusses Water Transfers at Canadian Symposium
In early March, Institute senior research associates Heather Cooley and Juliet Christian-Smith presented at the symposium “WATER: How Alberta Can Do More with Less – A Symposium Exploring International Experience, Policy, and Practice in Dealing with Water Scarcity” in Calgary, Canada. Cooley presented data on water transfers in California, while Christian-Smith discussed case studies that highlighted some of the challenges and complexities associated with water transfers.

Cohen Presents on Colorado River Issues to Key Decisionmakers
On March 13, Michael Cohen participated on the “Colorado River Augmentation – The Latest” panel at the Water Education Foundation’s 26th annual Executive Briefing. Held each spring in Sacramento, the Foundation’s annual Executive Briefing features speakers from stakeholder groups, the Legislature, and governmental agencies that play important roles in making policy decisions about water. For more information, click here.

Heberger Discusses Climate Change and Coastal Adaptation
On March 8 Matthew Heberger participated in a panel discussion on coastal adaptation to climate change at the Blue Vision Summit in Washington D.C. — a conference designed to demonstrate to the new Obama administration and Congress that there is a strong and diverse constituency ready to work for ocean and coastal protection and restoration.

Morrison Discusses Business Implications, Water Stewardship
On February 4 at the U.N. Global Compact Network meeting in Berlin, Germany, Program Director Jason Morrison presented on the business implications of the changing global waterscape. On February 26-27 at the Corporate Water Footprint Summit in Miami, he participated on the keynote panel “New Water Measurement Tools and Current Thinking about a Framework and Standards for Water Stewardship.”

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