November 2009 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-U.S. Water Use
-National EJ Conference
-Salton Sea
– Progress on Laguna Reach

-In Brief

Water by Numbers
Check out the latest posts on Water by Numbers, Peter Gleick’s blog, featured on San Francisco Chronicle’s “City Brights.”

California water bills. Is the new water legislation better than nothing?

oing desalination wrong: Poseidon on the public dole

Who is stealing California’s water?


Per Capita Water Use in the U.S. Drops
Improving Efficiency is Critical for Sustaining Water Resources, but Energy Demands on Water are Growing

Water Use 2005Released last week, new data from the US Geological Survey (USGS) shows that total water use in the United States dropped slightly in the five-year period ending in 2005 even while the nation’s population and economy grew. This improvement in the efficiency of water use continues a trend that began in the late 1970s, and total freshwater use in the U.S. is now lower than it was in 1975. Translated to water use per person, per-capita water use in the U.S. is down to 1383 gallons per-person per-day — a level not seen since the 1950s.

According to an assessment by the Pacific Institute, these dramatic changes in national water use are largely the result of improvements in efficiency, with biggest savings in Irrigated Cornindustrial and irrigation water use. But the Institute analysis also shows that water use for producing energy – already the largest component of U.S. water use — is growing. And while water use per person is dropping, population growth in hotter and drier regions of the country is putting more pressure on regional water resources. Click here to see the full assessment.

“Even with the improvements we’ve seen, our rate of population growth and regional water usage is not sustainable. In many regions we are past the point of peak ecological water use, where current levels are damaging the health of our rivers, lakes, and groundwater aquifers. We have the tools to further reduce our water footprints dramatically. We need the will to make the changes and rethink how we manage our freshwater resources at every level,” said Institute president Dr. Peter Gleick.


Pacific Institute Co-hosts Environmental Justice Groups
from around Nation

Groups Discuss Role of Federal Water Policy

EJ ConferenceThe Pacific Institute and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW) teamed up to host representatives from 12 organizations and tribes working on environmental justice and water issues around the country.

Held on October 15 and 16, the meeting was part of the peer review process for a Pacific Institute book on 21st century water policy. It also served as one of the first ever opportunities for organizations from across the country to convene to share ideas about the role of federal water policy in tackling local water and environmental justice issues. The group’s recommendations will be incorporated into the book and the network formed through this initial meeting will be involved in outreach surrounding the book’s release.

Pacific Institute researchers and meeting participants learned from each other’s stories of working for access to safe, affordable drinking water, protection of water rights, clean waterways, and other struggles for equity in water policy in their communities.

“It was very inspiring to learn from all the meeting participants who have devoted their lives to fighting for justice in the water-related issues facing their communities,” said Lucy Allen, Institute research analyst. “We look forward to continuing to work with this network of organizations on the important water policy issues that were highlighted.”

State Not Meeting Salton Sea Responsibilities
$20 Million Spent, Little to Show

Salton SeaIn an October 10 guest editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Senior Research Associate Michael Cohen discussed how, as part of a major water agreement made six years ago to reallocate billions of gallons of California’s share of the Colorado River, the State committed to take ultimate responsibility for the declining Salton Sea. Six years later, the State has spent some $20 million, but has nothing on the ground to show for it.

Click here to read how the state is not meeting its Salton Sea responsibilities.

Concerns about the decline of the Salton Sea and the State’s inactivity were mirrored a few weeks later in a November 1 editorial in the Palm Springs Desert Sun, which sourced Cohen about the lack of funding going to actually fix the Sea. Read the editorial.

Laguna Reach Restoration Resolution Unanimously Approved
Talk on Peak Water, China’s Water Problems Available Online

On October 28, Michael Cohen attended the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program Steering Committee meeting in Laughlin, Nevada, where the committee unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Laguna Division Conservation Area design and also supported a funding increase for the project.

These votes represent critical steps in the Institute’s participation in a multi-year effort to rehabilitate the degraded Laguna Reach of the Colorado River and will leverage millions of state and federal dollars toward the effort.

In Brief

Policy and Grant Makers Recognize Success of West County Indicators Project
The Pacific Institute’s West County Indicators Project is directly informing local decision-making, and has received national attention. In late September, the Richmond City Council held a study session to hear staff of project partner Neighborhood House of North Richmond present findings from a survey of city park conditions conducted by youth who were trained by the Pacific Institute. In addition, the Project was recently hailed “an amazing success” in an article in the Environmental Grantmakers Association national newsletter, titled “Minding the Justice Gap: Bay Area Organizations Offer a Model for Hard Times.”

Focus Group on Impacts of Water Contamination Held with Residents in the San Joaquin Valley
Pacific Institute Research Associates Catalina Garzón and Eli Moore co-facilitated a focus group at the Community Water Center in Visalia, Calif. on October 28 as part of a community survey project to document the real costs of nitrate-contaminated water. Ten community leaders from eight different communities in the San Joaquin Valley participated in the group interview, which was conducted in Spanish, providing insight into the range of ways that people are affected by water contamination and the diverse costs they incur as a consequence. The results from the focus group will be used to inform a survey questionnaire that will be used to document the impacts and costs of nitrate contamination for San Joaquin Valley communities.

Morrison Shares Research on Corporate Water Stewardship with Beverage Industry
On October 7, at PepsiCo’s headquarters in Purchase, New York, Senior Research Associate Jason Morrison participated in a stakeholder dialogue session of the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER). Joined by Chris Williams, Director of Freshwater Conservation at WWF-US, Morrison presented the Pacific Institute’s corporate water stewardship research, as well as the organization’s work in support of The CEO Water Mandate.

Pacific Institute Hosts Strategic Retreat on Framing International Standards and Certification

Twenty-five leading experts in social and environmental standards gathered in New York to discuss the challenges and roles of voluntary standards systems in advancing sustainability. The strategic retreat, held at the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund on Sept. 30-Oct. 2, was a part of the Pacific Institute’s Framing International Standards and Certification Project, and was co-hosted with ISEAL Alliance. The participants representing civil society groups, standards initiatives, think tanks, and intergovernmental organizations had a two-and-half day discussion about the role voluntary standards systems can effectively play, the impacts they are achieving, and their contribution to evolving patterns of sustainable consumption and production and trade governance. Through the intensive face-to-face discussion of leading experts, the retreat laid groundwork towards a coherent and coordinated strategy and plan of action to address key emerging issues relating to international standards and sustainability.

Pacific Institute Presents Research Findings on Ethical Trade Claims

Jason Morrison presented the findings of Pacific Institute-led research to investigate the nature and impacts of false or confusing ethical trade claims and labeling at the multi-stakeholder roundtable in The Hague, Netherlands on October 12-13. The roundtable was a part of the Ethical Trade Fact Finding Process established in 2008 in response to concerns raised by consumer organizations about inaccurate or false claims associated with ethical trade and labeling. While such concerns have led the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to consider a new international standard for ethical trade, it has become evident that more factual information is needed to determine whether moving into standardization could have significant benefits in the area of ethical trade. More information on the Ethical Trade Fact Finding Process can be found here.

The Institute served as independent experts for the project to clarify the nature and extent of inaccurate or false ethical trade claims and the problems such claims present for consumers. The feedback received at the multi-stakeholder roundtable will be incorporated into the final report of the project to be published in December, 2009.

Cohen to Participate in Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference
On Dec. 10, Michael Cohen will participate on the panel “Every Drop You Take: The Need for Augmentation” at the Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference in Las Vegas. He will question the need for new capital-intensive augmentation projects, highlighting the tremendous potential for additional water conservation — especially in urban areas-to meet the needs of growing populations.

Peter Gleick Takes Water on the Road in October
Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick hit the road in October, speaking on world water issues from Minnesota to Germany. On October 1, he spent a day at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, talking with students in classes and delivering an evening lecture on global water issues. He was at Hope College in Michigan as part of the October 6 Critical Issues Symposium; he delivered the keynote address, “Solving the World’s Water Crisis: No Time for Complacency” to an audience of 2000. The next day Gleick traveled to Michigan to deliver the keynote address at the Gustavus Adolphus College 45th Annual Nobel Conference. He spoke to a crowd of 5000 people on the topic “Water for the 21st Century: New Thinking.” You can download the video of this lecture here.

From Minnesota Gleick went straight to Windsor, Ontario to address the 2009 Biennial Meeting of the International Joint Commission, whose task is to assist the governments of the United States and Canada in handling issues around the vital rivers and lakes that we share. He was in Karlsruhe, Germany on October 12-15 for the Joint International Conference of the United States National Academies, the German National Academy of Sciences, and the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie, speaking on water and sustainability. Back home, Gleick spoke on “Water and Philanthropy” at a panel for the Legacy Works Foundation in Palo Alto, California. On October 29 in Berkeley he delivered a lecture on “Peak Water” at the University of California’s Environmental Engineering Seminar. Gleick wrapped up the month with an interview with Radio Nacional de Colombia on “Water and Conflict.” Listen to this interview in both English and Spanish (click on “Escuche Aquí”).

Heberger Discusses Water Issues with Local Groups
On October 10, Matthew Heberger gave a lecture on “Local Impacts of Climate Change,” at an educational event organized by NOAA and held at Chabot Space and Science Center. Heberger also spoke on October 23 at the Annual Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary Water Quality Workshop organized by NOAA at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory. On October 27, he discussed the national water crisis, the soft path to water, and elements of a national water policy with the students of the Marin Environmental Forum, now in its 37th year.

Institute Welcomes New Staff Member Terry Asbury
Terry Asbury has joined the Pacific Institute in the role of executive assistant to President Peter Gleick and Globalization Program Director Jason Morrison. Before working at the Institute, Terry was employed by HSBC Bank for 36 years at various locations throughout the United States. She most recently served as the Human Resources Assistant and Executive Assistant for HSBC’s Northern California Headquarters located in San Ramon, Calif.

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