Setting Site Water Targets Informed by Catchment Context: A Guide for Companies

Author: Tien Shiao, Ross Hamilton, Cora Kammeyer, Jason Morrison, Christina Copeland, Cate Lamb, Kari Vigerstol, Naabia Ofosu-Amaah, Paul Reig, Alexis Morgan, Rylan Dobson, Peter Koefoed Bjørnsen , ()
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The world’s water resources are under growing pressure from rising water consumption, pollution, weak governance, and climate change, exposing businesses to increased water-related risks caused not only by their own water use and discharge, but also by the catchment context in which they operate.  

This guide outlines how companies can set site water targets that maximize impact and improve water security by simultaneously addressing shared catchment challenges and aligning corporate water strategies with societal goals, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By accounting for catchment conditions, companies’ water targets can drive informed actions at the local level, address shared water challenges, and catalyze collective action. This helps companies act as leaders and sites become more resilient and adapt to water challenges.

The guide was developed by the United Nations Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, for which the Pacific Institute is co-secretariat, along with CDP, The Nature Conservancy, UNEP-DHI Centre for Water and Environment, the World Resources Institute, and WWF.

Plumbing the Depths: Californians Without Toilets and Running Water

Author: Laura Feinstein and Gabriel Daiess, ()
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California’s Human Right to Water law states that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” But to date, the policy discussion on meeting California’s Human Right to Water has largely overlooked the failures of water and sanitation service that emerge because of a lack of household plumbing.

This report fills that gap by measuring the number of Californians without toilets and hot and cold running water because of incomplete household plumbing and homelessness. To achieve full realization of the Human Right to Water in California, the authors propose that the state address the problem of inadequate plumbing within California’s larger policy framework of the Human Right to Water.

 

Key Findings

Key findings of the report include:

In 2015, 208,000 Californians had inadequate access to toilets. 88,000 people lived in a household without a private indoor flush toilet. Another 120,000 people experiencing homelessness were also unlikely to have adequate access to a toilet.

In 2015, 211,000 Californians had inadequate access to hot and cold running water. 91,000 people lived in a household without hot and cold running water. Another 120,000 people experiencing homelessness were also unlikely to have adequate access to hot and cold running water.

Incomplete plumbing was a problem throughout the state, in both urban and rural areas. Counties with the highest rates of housing without toilets were San Francisco (2.3 percent), Humboldt (0.89 percent), and Imperial (0.60 percent), while counties with the highest rates of housing without hot and cold indoor piped water were Shasta (0.96 percent), Imperial (0.73 percent), and San Francisco (0.71 percent).

Many Californians live in buildings with shared bathrooms, which are often poorly maintained. Housing units with incomplete plumbing were concentrated in low-income urban areas with high numbers of Single-Room Occupancies. Public health agencies have often found shared toilets to be unclean or in disrepair.

Many single-family homes also lacked a private toilet or indoor running water. There were 17,000 stand-alone structures (single-family homes, mobile homes, and temporary shelters) that lacked an indoor flush toilet. These households did not have access to shared facilities in the building.

Most households with incomplete plumbing lacked a toilet, shower, or both. The majority (86 percent) of those with incomplete plumbing lacked either a toilet, hot and cold water, or both. The remaining 14 percent lacked only a tub or shower.

Income and race correlated with incomplete plumbing by census tract. Median household income was the strongest predictor of rates of incomplete plumbing. Racial makeup was also statistically significant. 

Resources

When the River Meets the Sea

Author: Michael Cohen, ()
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This presentation on the Salton Sea presented by Michael Cohen at the 2019 GWC Summer Conference covers progress at the sea, the Colorado River and the sea, new bargains, and potential solutions.

The Cost of Alternative Urban Water Supply and Efficiency Options in California

Author: Heather Cooley, Rapichan Phurisamban, and Peter Gleick, ()
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Urban communities, farms, businesses, and natural ecosystems depend upon adequate, reliable, and affordable supplies of clean water. As populations and economies grow and as climatic changes alter both water supply and demand, traditional options for meeting freshwater needs are becoming less available, reliable, and effective. As we approach peak water constraints on traditional water supplies, more effort is needed to reduce water demands through a wide range of conservation and efficiency technologies and policies, and to develop alternative, non-traditional water sources.

A key factor in the adoption of these strategies is their economic feasibility; yet, only limited and often confusing data are available on their relative costs. To fill this gap, this analysis, published in the journal Environmental Research Communications, evaluates the costs of four groups of alternatives for urban supply and demand based on data and analysis in the California context: stormwater capture; water recycling and reuse; brackish and seawater desalination; and a range of water conservation and efficiency measures. It also describes some important co-benefits or avoided costs, such as reducing water withdrawals from surface water bodies or polluted runoff in coastal waterways.

Learn more and download the article here.

Moving Toward a Multi-Benefit Approach for Water Management

Author: Sarah Diringer, Anne Thebo, Heather Cooley, Morgan Shimabuku, Robert Wilkinson and McKenzie Bradford, ()
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There is broad recognition that adapting to climate change, coupled with the need to address aging infrastructure, population growth, and degraded ecosystems, will require rethinking programs and policies and investing in our natural and built water systems. Many of the strategies for addressing water challenges can also provide other benefits, including reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, providing wildlife habitat, and enhancing community livability. However, identifying and quantifying these benefits for water management strategies can be challenging.

This report proposes a framework for systematically identifying and incorporating the multiple benefits and trade-offs of water management strategies into decision-making processes. The framework can help users broaden support for a policy or project; identify opportunities to share costs among project beneficiaries; minimize adverse and unintended consequences; optimize the investment of time, money, and other resources; and increase transparency associated with water management decisions.

Resources

 Resource Library: Multi-Benefits Resources

Sustainable Landscapes on Commercial and Industrial Properties in the Santa Ana River Watershed

Author: Heather Cooley, Anne Thebo, Cora Kammeyer, Sonali Abraham, Charles Gardiner, and Martha Davis, ()
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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.

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Water Service Disconnections in California

Author: Laura Feinstein and Abbey Warner, ()
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When a person fails to pay their water utility bill, their water service can be disconnected. Lack of water in the home compromises health, and renders housing legally uninhabitable and untenantable. Shutoffs also pose a financial burden; in addition to the original debt, there are usually fees associated with late payment, notice of an impending shutoff, and service reconnection.

Water utilities in California have vastly different procedures on service disconnections. This fact sheet, based on a survey of California water utilities, examines practices and fees associated with water shutoffs in the state. It includes recommendations for water utilities to reduce shutoff rates and increase revenue collection by improving debt and service disconnection practices. The recommendations would allow some residents to avoid water shutoffs, thereby supporting public health and housing security.

Measuring Progress Toward Universal Access to Water and Sanitation in California: Defining Goals, Indicators, and Performance Measures

Author: Laura Feinstein, ()
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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.

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Water, Security, and Conflict

Author: Peter Gleick and Charles Iceland, ()
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This issue brief summarizes the current understanding of water and security threats and their links to conflict, migration, and food insecurity. The authors review the key drivers behind growing water risk, describe and illustrate water and security pathways, and present approaches for reducing water related risks to global security.

The brief is the result of a joint project between the Pacific Institute and the World Resources Institute and part of the Pacific Institute’s ongoing work on water and conflict. It aims to provide professionals in the defense, diplomacy, and development fields with knowledge to inform proactive policies and action that can be enacted before crises erupt.

Key Findings

Key findings include:

  • A wide range of water-related risks undermine human well-being and can contribute to political instability, violent conflict, human displacement and migration, and acute food insecurity, which in turn can undermine national, regional, and even global security.
  • Political instability and conflicts are rarely caused by any single factor, such as a water crisis. Instead, water crises should be seen as contributing factors to instability.
  • While water risks have threatened human civilizations over millennia, today’s global population growth and economic expansion—together with threats from climate change—create a new urgency around an old problem.
  • Water risk is not only a function of hazards, such as extreme droughts and floods, it is also a function of a community’s governance capacity and resilience in the face of natural hazards.
  • No single strategy is sufficient to reduce water risk. Instead, multifaceted approaches will be needed.

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Stormwater Capture in California: Innovative Policies and Funding Opportunities

Author: Morgan Shimabuku, Sarah Diringer, and Heather Cooley, ()
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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.

A Survey of Efforts to Achieve Universal Access to Water and Sanitation in California

Author: Kena Cador and Angélica Salceda, ()
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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.

This report, 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.

In this Series

The World’s Water, Volume 9

Author: Peter Gleick, Michael Cohen, Heather Cooley, Kristina Donnelly, Julian Fulton, Mai-Lan Ha, Jason Morrison, Rapichan Phurisamban, Heather Rippman, and Stefanie Woodward, ()
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Volume 9 in the The World’s Water book series offers insights into critical global water problems, overviews of data and analysis around water use and management, and case studies of some of the greatest water challenges around the world. It provides analysis on corporate water stewardship, the human right to water and sanitation, water-use trends in the United States, the water footprint of California energy, the consequences of the severe five-year California drought, water markets and economic strategies for water management, and the cost of alternative water supply and demand strategies. Additionally, concise “water briefs” provide updates on water’s role in conflict around the globe, a meeting held at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican on the human right to water, and critical issues around public access to water through drinking fountains.

Available for purchase as pdf here.

The World’s Water Volume 9 is also available in the following formats:
As a print-on-demand softcover book for $55.00.
As a Kindle ebook for $9.99.

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Op-Ed by Peter Gleick: We Have Seen The Future Of Water, And It Is Cape Town

Author: Peter Gleick, ()
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Cape Town is parched. Severe drought and high water use have collided in South Africa’s second largest city, and unless the drought breaks, residents may run out of water in the next few months when there simply isn’t enough water left to supply the drinking water taps.

In response to this looming “Day Zero” ― currently projected in May ― city managers have imposed new and unprecedented restrictions, including limiting residential water use to 50 liters (around 13 gallons) per person per day. They released plans to open 200 community water points to provide emergency water in the event of a shutoff – for four million people. As the crisis worsens, water scarcity will sharpen South Africa’s economic inequalities, inflaming tensions between wealthier and disadvantaged communities.

Cape Town is not alone. Water crises are getting worse all over the world. The past few years have seen more and more extreme droughts and floods around the globe. California just endured the worst five-year drought on record, followed by the wettest year on record. São Paulo, Brazil, recently suffered a severe drought that drastically cut water supplies to its 12 million inhabitants – a drought that also ended in heavy rainfall, which caused extreme flooding. Houston was devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, the most extreme precipitation event to hit any major city in the United States.

Severe droughts and floods. Water rationing. Economic and political disruption. Urban taps running dry. Is this the future of water?

Any city, in building a water system, tries to prepare for extreme weather, including floods and droughts. It also considers estimates of future population growth, projections of water use and a host of other factors. Cape Town’s water system is a relatively sophisticated one, with six major storage reservoirs, pipelines, water treatment plants and an extensive distribution network. Its water managers, and South Africa’s overall water expertise, are among the best in the world.

The problem is that the traditional approach for building and managing water systems rests on two key assumptions. The first is that there is always more supply to be found, somewhere, to satisfy growing populations and growing water demand. The second is that the climate isn’t changing.

Neither of these assumptions is true any longer.

Many regions of the world, as in Cape Town, have reached “peak water” limits and find their traditional sources tapped out. Many rivers are dammed and diverted to the point that they no longer reach the sea. Groundwater is over pumped at rates faster than nature can replenish. And massive long-distance transfers of water from other watersheds are increasingly controversial because of high costs, environmental damages and political disagreements.

On top of this, the climate is no longer stable. It is changing because of human activities, and among the expected and observed impacts are changes to the frequency and intensity of extreme events, with impacts on both water supplies and demands.

There is evidence that the current drought in Cape Town shows the influence of climate change. Temperatures in the region have been rising in parallel with global temperatures, leading to higher evaporative losses from Cape Town’s reservoirs and soils. A new analysis of rainfall data in the Western Cape by Piotr Wolski, a researcher with the University of Cape Town’s Climate System Analysis Group concluded that the current drought is extremely severe. Historical records indicate that the region is experiencing long-term reductions in regional rainfall, suggesting climate change is already altering South Africa’s rainfall patterns. Such changes have been observed in other parts of the world as well.

The crisis in Cape Town has already taught us several crucial lessons. The first is that the impacts of water crises are not evenly distributed; they fall most heavily on poorer communities. Cape Town’s current restriction of 50 liters per person per day is the bare minimum safe requirement for drinking, cooking, washing and sanitation. Yet South Africa’s Western Cape features wealthy neighborhoods dotted with swimming pools and ornate gardens, and an agricultural sector that consumes a large fraction of the region’s water. When the taps are cut off, the disparities in water use ― and the ability of the wealthier communities to find and pay for alternative water sources, such as private wells and water deliveries ― will become glaringly apparent. Even now, richer homeowners, anticipating further restrictions, are filling pools, drilling wells and buying and building private tanks to store large volumes of water.

Another solution being pursued by the South African government is the construction of costly desalination plants. In a region where no new traditional water supplies are available, the dream of desalinating unlimited quantities of seawater is appealing. But the inevitable higher costs for water will raise the same issues of inequity, and other countries like Australia have built desalination plants during severe droughts only to mothball them when the rains returned.

South Africa has wrestled with inequitable access to water for many years. It pioneered a policy of providing a minimum amount of water to all residents for free. But as the Cape Town crisis worsens, new fault lines will open between the water haves and have-nots. How the city handles it will be instructive for the rest of the world, as we all approach our own Day Zero.

This op-ed was originally published in The Huffington Post.

Commentary: Cape Town Is Running out of Water. Could More Cities Be Next?

Author: Peter Gleick, ()
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After more than three years of severe drought, Cape Town, a city of nearly 4 million people, is running out of water. “Day Zero”—the day city officials estimate the water system will be unable to provide drinking water for the taps—is less than three months away, and substantial rains are not expected before then.

In response, city managers have imposed a series of increasingly severe water-use restrictions to cut demand and are working to find emergency sources of supply, but it is difficult to see how a cutoff can be avoided. People will not die of thirst: Emergency water will be brought in for basic needs. But the social, economic, and political disruptions caused by a water cutoff will be unprecedented.

Cape Town is not alone. California, São Paulo, Australia, the eastern Mediterranean, and other regions have all recently suffered through severe droughts and water crises.

Short-term droughts and water shortages aren’t new. Under normal circumstances, cities can respond by temporarily cutting water waste. But circumstances aren’t normal anymore. More and more major cities will face their own Day Zero unless we fundamentally change the way water is managed and used.

The growing water crisis is the result of three factors. First, more and more regions of the world are reaching “peak water” limits, where all accessible, renewable water has been spoken for and no traditional new supplies are available. Second, urban populations and economies are expanding rapidly, putting additional pressures on limited water supplies and increasing competition with agricultural water users. And third, the very climate of the planet is changing because of human activities such as burning fossil fuels, affecting all aspects of our water systems, including the demand for water and the frequency and intensity of extreme events like floods and droughts.

Where these three factors combine, urban water crises explode.

The good news is that there are two key solutions to making our cities more resilient to water crises and disruptions: Reduce water demand and find new non-traditional sources of water supply.

Reducing demand means improving the efficiency of water use and changing water-using behaviors to reduce immediate needs. The first option includes installing efficient irrigation technology, replacing inefficient toilets, showerheads, washing machines, and dishwashers, and eliminating leaks. The second option includes cutting outdoor landscape water use and replacing water-intensive gardens, taking shorter showers, flushing toilets less often, and eliminating luxury water uses like private swimming pools.

The potential for these two approaches to reduce demand is enormous. During the severe drought in Australia from 2000 to 2009, urban water efficiency measures saved more water at lower cost and greater speed than traditional supply options, like tapping rivers and groundwater. During the drought, water demand dropped 60% in South East Queensland through a combination of investments in water efficiency programs and restrictions on outdoor water use. California urban water use was cut by over 25% during the 2012-2016 drought through similar indoor and outdoor efficiency programs, and there is much potential for even greater savings.

There are new supply options available too, even in regions where traditional sources are tapped out. South Africa has long pioneered the restoration of watersheds by removing invasive species like blue gum, wattles, and the vine kudzu, and increasing water flows in rivers. Artificially enhancing groundwater replenishment can increase the storage of water far more effectively than building new surface reservoirs. Wastewater treatment and reuse turns what used to be considered a liability into a valuable resource.

Cape Town currently only treats and reuses 5% of its wastewater—up until now they haven’t thought they had the need—and could greatly expand treatment and reuse. Just next door to South Africa in Namibia, the city of Windhoek has been reusing treated wastewater for decades. About 40% of Singapore’s total water demand is now being met with high-quality treated wastewater. California currently reuses about 15% of its wastewater and has the potential to greatly expand reuse in coming years. And when less costly options have been exhausted, seawater desalination offers a way to provide drought-proof supply.

It will rain again in Cape Town, and the emergency responses implemented over the next few months will be relaxed. But water problems are not going to disappear until we consistently and comprehensively change the way we think about and manage water. Peak water limits will be felt in more and more regions as traditional sources of water are tapped out. Urban areas will continue to expand. Global climate changes will accelerate and worsen, especially if we delay the transition to clean energy. The sooner we accept these facts, the sooner every city can move to manage water in a more sustainable fashion, postponing or even eliminating the risk of their own Day Zero.

This op-ed was originally published in Fortune.

Corporate Engagement on Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene: Driving Progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6)

Author: WaterAid, WBCSD, Water Witness International, and the CEO Water Mandate (a project of the United Nations Global Compact and the Pacific Institute), ()
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Sustainable Development Goal 6 advocates “ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” In recognition of the need for successful corporate water stewardship to encompass sustainable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) access for workers in company supply chains, this report offers steps for companies to take to help end the global water and sanitation crisis and protect against business risk. It shows that corporate action on WASH can drive improved access for vulnerable communities and improved economic and social development, while also mitigating companies’ socio-economic water risks. Furthermore, significant potential for progressive action on WASH through corporate supply chains exists.

This report recognizes the need for successful corporate water stewardship to encompass sustainable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) for workers in company supply chains, and offers steps for companies to take to help end the global water and sanitation crisis. 

Key Findings

The report outlines steps companies can take to improve WASH in their supply chains:

  • Sign and implement the WBCSD WASH at the workplace pledge ensuring that all employees in direct operations have access to safe WASH while at work.
  • Broaden and deepen employee and company understanding about WASH by providing them with the International Labour Organization’s WASH@Work Self-training handbook.
  • Update supplier codes; a draft set of criteria for optimal water, sanitation, and hygiene provision in supply chains is available for pilot testing by companies.
  • Contribute to strengthening the business case for WASH by offering opportunities for evidence-gathering from their operations and projects.
  • Learn about and engage in the WASH4Work initiative, working with a group of agencies, companies, and development partners to address the WASH challenge.

Languages

Corporate Engagement on Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene: Driving Progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) Through Supply-Chains and Voluntary Standards
Spanish   Portuguese   French

Corporate Action on WASH in Supply Chains Case Study: Diageo
English   Spanish   Portuguese   French

Corporate Action on WASH in Supply Chains Case Study: Gap Inc.
English   Spanish   Portuguese   French

Corporate Action on WASH in Supply Chains Case Study: Nestle
English   Spanish   Portuguese   French

Impacts of California’s Five-Year (2012-2016) Drought on Hydroelectricity Generation

Author: Peter Gleick, ()
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The severe five-year drought afflicting California from 2012 to 2016 was the driest and hottest in the instrumental record. This report is a comprehensive assessment of the costs to California of lost hydroelectricity during the five years of drought from October 2011 to the end of September 2015 (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 energy source. This was an expensive change, leading to increases in electricity costs and carbon dioxide emissions.

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Exploring the Case for Corporate Context-Based Water Targets

Author: Morgan Gillespy, Nicole Dando, Kari Vigerstol, Naabia Ofosu-Amaah, Tien Shiao, Jason Morrison, Peter Schulte, Stefanie Woodward, Paul Reig, Alexis Morgan and Rylan Dobson, ()
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As of 2017, more companies than ever before were setting water targets, yet global water stress continued to rise. How can companies ensure that their water targets align with meaningful outcomes? This report calls for a new approach for setting meaningful corporate water targets that take into account the unique local contexts of the basins in which companies operate.

Context-based metrics and targets recognize the particular challenges present in each basin, allowing for physical and social thresholds and tracking water use relative to basin thresholds and availability. The report makes the case that in order to be effective, context-based water metrics and targets should make the best use of available science, include input from local stakeholders, be informed by contextual social needs, and align with local and global public policy objectives.

Drinking Fountains and Public Health: Improving National Water Infrastructure to Rebuild Trust and Ensure Access

Author: Rapichan Phurisamban and Peter Gleick, ()
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Concerns over drinking water quality and possible disease transmission, as well as widely-publicized water contamination incidents, have contributed to a decline in the number of publicly available water fountains. Yet many people rely on drinking fountains for cheap, accessible, and safe municipal water.

This report finds limited causal evidence linking illness and the use of drinking fountains. The risk of fountain water contamination can be reduced or eliminated altogether through improved maintenance and cleaning of water infrastructure, or updating and replacing old water infrastructure, among other measures outlined in this report.

State of the Salton Sea – A Science and Monitoring Meeting of Scientists for the Salton Sea

Author: Douglas A. Barnum, Timothy Bradley, Michael Cohen, Bruce Wilcox and Gregor Yanega, ()
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California’s Salton Sea is an ecosystem facing large systemic changes in the near future. Managers and stakeholders searching for solutions to the decline of the Salton Sea have turned to the scientific community for answers. In response, scientists gathered in Irvine, California in 2014 to review existing science, propose scientific studies, and determine monitoring needs for understanding how to retain the Salton Sea as a functional ecosystem. This document summarizes the proceedings of this gathering of approximately 50 scientists at a September 2014 workshop on the state of the Salton Sea.

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Webpage: Salton Sea

Drought and Equity in California

Author: Laura Feinstein, Rapichan Phurisamban, Amanda Ford, Christine Tyler, and Ayana Crawford, ()
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California’s climate is prone to prolonged periods of drought that are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. The most severe drought on the instrumental record stretched from 2012-2016, and had far-reaching effects on the state’s economy, ecosystem, and citizens. Disadvantaged and cumulatively burdened communities were highly affected by water shortages, highlighting underlying inequities in how the state’s water resources are managed. Addressing the impacts of drought on disadvantaged and cumulatively burdened communities is all the more urgent as droughts become longer, more frequent, and more severe due to climate change.

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Water Strategies for the Next Administration: New Major U.S. Water Policy Recommendations

Author: Peter Gleick, ()
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This document identifies six major water-related challenges facing the United States and offers explicit recommendations for the new administration and Congress to pursue, domestically and internationally. It recommends strategies to pursue in each area of concern and suggests that water policy offers an opportunity for bipartisan agreement.

The Cost of Alternative Water Supply and Efficiency Options in California

Author: Heather Cooley and Rapichan Phurisamban, ()
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This report is the first comparative analysis of water supply and demand management strategies for localities in the State of California. Local governments can use this report as a guide to determine the most appropriate water management options for their given location. The authors detail the most effective strategies to both increase local water supplies and reduce water demand in urban areas, and conclude that California can best meet its crucial water supply and demand management goals with a portfolio of highly efficient strategies that are tailored to local conditions.

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Meeting Sustainability Goals: Voluntary Sustainability Standards and the Role of the Government

Author: Mai-Lan Ha, Jason Morrison, Aimée Hampel-Milagrosa, Pieter Glasbergen, Ulrich Hoffmann, Halina Ward, Norma Tregurtha, and David D’Hollander, ()
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Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) have emerged to specify requirements on a wide range of sustainability metrics, including respect for human rights, workers’ health and safety, a decent income, and environmental degradation. This report, the 2nd Flagship Report of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS), seeks to define the relationship between VSS and public governance processes, in order to produce meaningful and equitable progress towards sustainability across sectors. The report asserts that VSS may play an increasingly important role in complementing governmental engagement towards achieving sustainable development.

Written by the Pacific Institute with guidance from the UNFSS Steering Committee, the report includes commentaries from the Committee on Sustainability Assessment, Rainforest Alliance, the German Development Institute, Maastricht University International Centre for Integrated Assessment and Sustainable Development, the Research Institute on Organic Agriculture, the International Organization for Standardization, and ISEAL Alliance.

Water Risk Hotspots for Agriculture: The Case of the Southwest United States

Author: Heather Cooley, Michael Cohen, Rapichan Phurisamban, and Guillaume Gruère, ()
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Despite being the United States’ most arid region, the U.S. Southwest – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah – is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Yet the region’s crops depend heavily on supplemental irrigation, and climate change and increased water demand are putting pressure on the region’s limited water supplies, raising concerns about the viability of agriculture in the U.S. Southwest.

This report, prepared in coordination with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is a case study of the potential impacts of future water risks on agriculture in the U.S. Southwest by mid-century.

A Community Guide for Evaluating Future Urban Water Demand

Author: Matthew Heberger, Kristina Donnelly, and Heather Cooley, ()
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Communities across the United States are faced with decisions about building water infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population. To help make these decisions, water utilities often rely on forecasts that project water use 20 or 30 years into the future. The Pacific Institute has created this guidebook to encourage community involvement in water infrastructure decisions based on demand forecasts. The guidebook gives background information on the practice of demand forecasting, and provides a list of questions that are helpful to evaluate the quality of a water demand forecast.

Drought and Equity in the San Francisco Bay Area

Author: Heather Cooley, Kristina Donnelly, Salote Soqo, and Colin Bailey, ()
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The most severe drought in California on the instrumental record stretched from 2012-2016. The drought was highly publicized, with particular attention paid towards impacts on agriculture, urban areas, and ecosystems. Little attention, however, was paid to the drought’s impacts on California’s low-income communities.

Through community-based participatory research conducted along with the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, this report documents the impacts of the drought on low-income residents in the San Francisco Bay Area. It finds that drought conditions underscore the existing inequities in water systems, with affordability and water infrastructure conditions key concerns. This report can serve as a tool for water managers, community members, policymakers, and advocacy groups to analyze and improve the equity of water services and drought mitigation measures.

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Where We Agree: Building Consensus on Solutions to California’s Urban Water Challenges

Author: Heather Cooley, Peter Gleick, Kristina Donnelly, Jeff Loux, Tim Worley, and David Sedlak, ()
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California has a long list of unresolved and difficult water challenges, made more urgent by periods of severe drought that are exacerbated by climate change. 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 are intensifying. With competing needs and uses for water across the state, management of this valuable resource is a source of conflict among sectors.

Recognizing the urgent need for serious changes in the way water is managed and used in California, the Pacific Institute, in partnership with the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association, the UC Berkeley Water Center, and the University of California Davis Extension’s Collaboration Center, coordinated a series of in-depth meetings with a broad array of stakeholders. The result is a set of practical recommendations for policymakers, municipal water managers, businesses, and community groups.

This unique effort provided participants opportunities to move beyond the traditional rancor and conflict by coming together to identify pragmatic and achievable solutions to urban water challenges. Together, they generated a set of practical recommendations for policymakers, municipal water managers, businesses, and community groups. The group was comprised of representatives from water utilities, trade associations, nonprofit organizations, academia, foundations, and the business sector.

Key Findings

Key findings include:

The meetings identified key ways to improve urban water management in California. Prior to the workshop, the organizers developed 41 test statements in five key areas:

  • demand management;
  • local and regional water supplies;
  • integrated water resource management;
  • ecosystem protection and restoration; and
  • water rates, financing, and governance.

 

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.

Managing Drought: Learning from Australia

Author: Andrea Turner, Stuart White, Joanne Chong, Mary Ann Dickinson, Heather Cooley, and Kristina Donnelly, ()
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Australia survived its decades-long Millennium Drought by demonstrating world-leading innovation in water planning and management. This report provides an overview of key events and initiatives implemented in Australia’s four largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. It shows that strategies developed and mistakes made during the Millennium Drought provide a powerful resource for California as the state deals with its own prolonged periods of severe drought. The report was released by the Pacific Institute in partnership with researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

Key Findings

On top of successes in urban water efficiency, other key findings in the report include:

  • Broad community involvement across sectors – households, business, industry and government – fosters a sense of fairness and collaboration in saving water.
  • Clear, credible communication about the drought situation and response is needed to maximize public participation and support.
  • Innovative water-pricing mechanisms, not employed during Australia’s Millennium Drought, could be used to incentivize water savings in California.

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Managing Drought: Learning from Australia

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Impacts of California’s Ongoing Drought: Hydroelectricity Generation 2015 Update

Author: Peter Gleick, ()
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Hydropower and natural gas are the principal sources of electricity for California’s millions of users. But California’s hottest and driest drought in recorded history, from 2012 to 2016, shifted the sources of energy for electricity with adverse economic and environmental consequences. The prolonged period of extreme drought reduced the river flows powering hundreds of hydropower stations in the state. Natural gas replaced the lost hydroelectricity, at high cost to both consumers and the environment.

This report is a comprehensive assessment of the costs to California of lost hydroelectricity during the four years of drought from October 2011 to the end of September 2015 (the official California “water year” runs from October 1 to September 30).

Key Findings

Key findings:

  • The drought at the time of publishing is more severe than past droughts, and hydropower generation is at 10.5 percent of total electricity generation during the four-year period from October 2011 through September 2015, compared to 13 percent during the 2007-2009 drought and the 18 percent average in non-drought years. For the 2015 water year hydropower was especially low, providing less than 7 percent of total electricity generated in-state.
  • This analysis finds that during the four years ending September 30, 2015 (the end of the 2015 “water year”), the added economic cost to California ratepayers of reduced hydroelectricity production was approximately $2.0 billion.
  • In addition to the direct economic costs of replacing hydroelectricity generation, there are environmental costs associated with the additional combustion of natural gas, including increased air pollution in the form of nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds, sulfur oxides, particulates, carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide – the principal greenhouse gas responsible for climatic change. Additional combustion of fossil fuels for electric generation led to a 10 percent increase in the release of carbon dioxide from California power plants.
  • As of early 2016, the drought continues: reservoir levels remain abnormally low, precipitation and especially Sierra Nevada snowpack are marginally above normal, and hydrogeneration is expected to continue to be below average until reservoirs refill. Thus, costs to California ratepayers and to the environment are expected to continue to mount.

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Incentive-based Instruments for Freshwater Management

Author: Heather Cooley, Michael Cohen, Matthew Heberger, and Heather Rippman, ()
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Freshwater is perhaps the single most precious resource for human health and development. Unfortunately, the world’s freshwater is under threat from a variety of pressures, such as population and economic growth, climate change, and pollution. This report from the Pacific Institute, in partnership with the Foundation Center and the Rockefeller Foundation, synthesizes existing research on the use of financial incentive instruments to sustainably and equitably manage the world’s freshwater.

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Oil, Food, and Water: Challenges and Opportunities for California Agriculture

Author: Matthew Heberger and Kristina Donnelly, ()
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Oil, gas, and agriculture are all central to California’s economy. Yet the extent of harmful chemical contamination from the oil and gas industry on food production is not well documented, and there are mounting concerns over human health impacts. This study sheds light on the risks posed when oil and gas production and exploration operate alongside agriculture.

Serving the Public Interest: Corporate Water Stewardship and Sustainable Development

Author: The Pacific Institute, UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, WWF, and WaterAid, ()
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The adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at the 2015 United Nations Development Summit, lays out a compelling framework for collective action by government, the private sector, and civil society to address social and environmental issues that inhibit economic development and shared prosperity. SDG 6 is dedicated exclusively to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

This paper lays out opportunities for the business community to make positive contributions to achieving SDG 6. The paper also describes the potential risks of these engagements. It presents a call to action for all sectors to play a proactive role in helping to achieve SDG 6. The Pacific Institute is co-secretariat of the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, which mobilizes business leaders to advance water stewardship, sanitation, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Guide for Bringing Integrity to Companies’ Water Stewardship Initiatives: A Framework for Improving Effectiveness and Transparency

Author: Jason Morrison, Mai-Lan Ha, Peter Schulte, Janek Hermann-Friede, Lotte Feuerstein, Martha Rychlewski, Nick Hepworth, Suvi Sojamo Feuerstein, Martha Rychlewski, Ken Caplan and Jacques-Edouard Tiberghien, ()
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Today, the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate announced the first comprehensive guide on forming multi-stakeholder water stewardship initiatives with integrity.

Launched at the CEO Water Mandate’s annual meeting during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, the Guide for Managing Integrity in Water Stewardship Initiatives: A Framework for Improving Effectiveness and Transparency recommends good practices for developing water stewardship initiatives in an inclusive and transparent manner that ensures sustainable water management.

The Mandate’s multi-stakeholder sessions in Stockholm this year focus on bringing together a variety of experts from the private sector, civil society, governments, UN Agencies, and others to explore critical issues that advance corporate water stewardship and help to meet the anticipated Sustainable Development Goal on Water and Sanitation.

Launched in 2007 by the UN Secretary-General, the CEO Water Mandate is overseen by the UN Global Compact and implemented in partnership with the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank.

The guide was developed by the CEO Water Mandate and the Water Integrity Network (WIN), in collaboration with Deutsche GesellschaftfürInternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ), Water Witness International, Partnerships in Practice, and Pegasys, and includes an interactive online tool.

“This year, a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the UN Millennium Development Goals, will be released. One of the key implementation mechanisms highlighted for achievement of these goals is multi-stakeholder collaboration and partnership,” said Gavin Power, Deputy Director of the UN Global Compact and Head of the CEO Water Mandate. “This guidance arrives at a pivotal moment to steer the development of local water collaborations that will help meet not only the dedicated UN goal on water, but also other cross-cutting goals as well.”

The guide provides a set of seven operational principles for ensuring integrity in water stewardship initiatives. They are divided into three categories: (1) outcomes that the initiative is trying to achieve; (2) behavior of the participants in the initiative; and (3) processes that govern the initiative. Implementing activities to achieve these principles can ensure the long-term, positive outcome of the collective action.

Jason Morrison, Technical Director of the CEO Water Mandate and Program Director of the Corporate Sustainability Program of the Pacific Institute,added:“There is increasing interest by the private and public sectors to work with one another to address water challenges. However, lessons from early collective action projects point to potential risks for all involved if they are not inclusive, do not address the issues of most importance for local stakeholders, and are not carried out in a way that contributes to sustainable water management.”

Lotte Feuerstein, Program Coordinator at WIN, said,“This guide gives anyone interested in developing a local water stewardship initiative a framework for how to approach integrity issues as well as a suite of practical tools to support implementation. We hope these guidelines help all sectors involved in multi-stakeholder collaborations—particularly those in the private sector and civil society—to implement joint projects in a way that serves the public interest and safeguards their credibility.”

 

About the CEO Water Mandate
Launched in July 2007 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the CEO Water Mandate is a public-private initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. Led by the United Nations Global Compact in partnership with the Pacific Institute, the CEO Water Mandate offers a unique action platform to share best and emerging practices and to forge multi-stakeholder partnerships to address the problems of access to water and sanitation. The CEO Water Mandate has been endorsed by roughly 140 companies from a range of industries and sectors.

 

About the Water Integrity Network

The Water Integrity Network (WIN) promotes integrity to eliminate corruption and increase performance in the water sector worldwide. To achieve this mission, WIN connects, enables, and promotes the work of organizations and individuals who recognize the impact of corruption—especially on poor and disenfranchised communities—work to assess risk, and promote practical responses. Formerly hosted by Transparency International, the WIN global network is formally led by the WIN association and supported by the WIN Secretariat in Berlin.

Resources

An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation in California and Fracking Issue Briefs

Author: Corinne Bachmann, Jenner Banbury, Jens Birkholzer, Adam Brandt, Mary Kay Camarillo, Heather Cooley, Brian Cypher, Patrick Dobson, Jeremy Domen, Kristina Donnelly, Jacob Englander, Laura Feinstein, Kyle Ferrar William Foxall, Donald Gautier, en Greenfield Amro Hamdoun, Robert Harrison, Jake Hays, Matthew Heberger, James Houseworth, Michael Jerrett, Ling Jin, Preston Jordan, Nathaniel Lindsey, Jane Long, Randy Maddalena, Thomas McKone, Dev Millstein, Sascha Nicklisch, Scott Phillips, Matthew Reagan, Whitney Sandelin, Seth Shonkoff, William Stringfellow, Craig Ulrich, Charuleka Varadharajan, and Zachary Wettstein, ()
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Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has generated tremendous controversy over the past several years.

This study, prepared by the California Council on Science and Technology in partnership with the Pacific Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, consists of three volumes. It explores well stimulation treatments in California; the risks these technologies pose to water, air, seismic activity, wildlife, plants, and human health; risks by geographic region within the state; and areas where there are information gaps. It also provides recommendations to improve practices and regulations for oversight of oil and gas development in the state.  

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California Agricultural Water Use: Key Background Information

Author: Heather Cooley, ()
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California is a key producer of agricultural goods that are consumed all over the world. However, the periods of drought that are part of the state’s climate, which are made more frequent and intense by the effects of climate change, tax the state’s limited water supply.

Agricultural use accounts for an estimated 80 percent of overall water use in California. Yet a lack of standards in measurement and reporting, time lags in information, and confusion over definitions of key terms has left agricultural water use data incomplete and inconsistent. Author Heather Cooley argues that in order to truly understand the risks and opportunities for water use in California, more and better data are needed.

This “Need to Know” issue brief was published as a response to growing concerns over California’s water use during the period of severe drought that began in 2012.

Water Use Trends in the United States

Author: Kristina Donnelly and Heather Cooley, ()
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United States water use data is helpful for water management across sectors. Data show that total water use in the United States between 2005 and 2010 was lower than it was in 1970, despite continued population and economic growth. During this time period, per capita water use in the United States declined to levels not seen since the 1940s.

While this report report reveals a trend of overall improvement in the management of the nation’s water, the current pace of water use is still unsustainable. The authors caution that with continued population and economic growth, along with the impacts of climate change, expanded conservation and efficiency measures are necessary to meet future water needs.

This report analyzes and explains the factors contributing to the positive trend of decreasing water use, and examines the implications for future water demand. National water use remains high, and many freshwater systems are under stress from overuse. Climate change will exacerbate existing challenges, affecting the supply, demand, and quality of the nation’s water resources.

Key Findings

Key findings include:

  • The economic productivity of water – measured in dollars of gross domestic product per unit of water used – is higher than it has ever been, nearly tripling over the past three decades, from only $4 in 1980 (in 2009 dollars) to more than $11 (in 2009 dollars) of GDP per hundred gallons used. These results show that the United States now produces far more wealth with far less water than at any time in the past.
  • Both total water use and freshwater use for thermoelectric power plants have declined since 1970. This represents an important reversal of a 25-year trend of increasing water use for producing energy. The dramatic 20% reduction during the most recent period (2005–2010) has been attributed to upgrades to intakes and cooling systems, as well as the closure of power plants using water-intensive cooling systems. Despite these improvements, thermoelectric power plants remain the single largest user of water in the United States.
  • Municipal and industrial (M&I) water use represents the amount of water withdrawn to meet the needs of cities, towns, and small communities, including individual households. M&I water use peaked in 1980 and has been steadily declining since. By 2010, M&I water use was less than it was in 1965. Reductions in per capita M&I water demand were driven by two major factors: the economic shift from water-intensive manufacturing to a service-oriented economy; and numerous federal, state, and local policies and actions. Household water use had been steadily increasing since 1950s but, for the first time ever, decreased between 2005 and 2010.
  • In 2010, agricultural water use accounted for 40% of total national use. Water use for irrigation peaked in 1980 and has declined in nearly every period since. By 2010, water use for irrigation was at its lowest level in more than 40 years. Yet irrigated acreage has continued to increase, with 62 million acres irrigated in 2010, the most at any time in United States history. Reductions in water intensity could be due to several factors, including shifting to less water-intensive crops, as well as improvements in irrigation technologies and practices.

Impacts of California’s Ongoing Drought: Hydroelectricity Generation

Author: Peter Gleick, ()
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California’s hottest and driest drought in recorded history, from 2012 to 2016, shifted the sources of energy for electricity with adverse economic and environmental consequences. This report focuses on the period of drought from 2011 to 2014.

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. Since the drought reduced the state’s river flows that power hundreds of hydropower stations, natural gas served as the replacement. This was an expensive change, leading to increases in electricity costs and carbon dioxide emissions.

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The Water Footprint of California’s Energy System, 1990–2012

Author: Julian Fulton, Heather Cooley, and Peter Gleick, ()
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Originally published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, this article evaluates the amount of water consumed to meet California’s energy needs, referred to as the “water footprint” of energy. Examining how this water footprint changed between 1990 and 2012, the authors find the amount of water consumed substantially increased over recent decades without utilizing more of the state’s water resources, by relying more heavily on water resources from outside the state.

The report demonstrates that while efforts to mitigate climate change in California have been successful in reducing greenhouse gases, these policies may have shifted burdens from energy to water. It concludes that more integrated analyses and planning of water and energy systems are needed to ensure that climate adaptation and mitigation strategies do not work at cross purposes.

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Guidance for Companies on Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation

Author: Mai-Lan Ha, Jason Morrison, Rachel Davis, Beth Holzman, and Lloyd Lipsett, ()
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In 2007, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) was created as a strategic policy initiative for businesses committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 principles related to human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. The United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate was formed as a UNGC-based public-private initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. In 2015, the CEO Water Mandate released the beta version of this guide to help companies integrate their responsibility to respect the human rights to water and sanitation into their existing water management policies, practices, and company cultures.

The Pacific Institute is co-secretariat of the CEO Water Mandate, which mobilizes business leaders to advance water stewardship, sanitation, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

California Urban Water Suppliers Water Use Map

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A web app from the Pacific Institute shows how different California cities are responding to the ongoing drought. This web feature brings to life newly-released data on residential and system-wide water use, and allows users to explore trends and patterns in that use.

Since July of 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board, has required urban water utilities with more than 3,000 customers to report their water use each month. These new data show total system-wide water use, as well as residential water use, i.e., the estimated portion used by residents in and around their homes. Per-person water use is reported in units of gpcd, or gallons per capita per day.

The Pacific Institute has created an interactive online map and table to help readers decode this wealth of new information on water use in California. These web features allow readers to examine how water use varies within regions, across the state, and over time. Colored zones of our online map show a gradient of water use across the state, from green for lower per capita water use to bright red for the highest users. Additionally, graphs show how per capita use varies over time and how it compares to the regional and state averages.

The Pacific Institute has also developed an interactive table—providing a more detailed view of the data. You can easily filter and sort the data, inviting you to pose your own questions. For example, why is water use higher or lower in some areas? How have cities responded to Governor Jerry Brown’s call to reduce their water use by 20 percent? Have high water users had more success at conservation than areas where water use was already low?

Many factors affect per capita water use, and cross-city comparisons have some limitations. Water use can depend on the level and type of industry, income, climate, and mix of single-family and multi-family homes. Thus, a city with a high degree of water-intensive industrial or commercial development would tend to have a higher per capita demand than a mostly residential city. Comparing residential use removes some of these factors, but all else being equal, a city in a hot, dry climate would likely have a higher outdoor water use than a city in a cool, wet climate. While cross-city comparisons are imperfect, they can offer valuable information and insight on how and why water use varies across the state.

We will continue to update this site each month as the State Water Board releases new data. Each addition to the dataset offers new information about water use in California. For example, in many areas, water use has dropped off dramatically now that winter has arrived and there is less need for landscape irrigation, while in others, water use has remained steady. Stay tuned to our blog as we examine various elements of these data.

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Insights into Proposition 1: The 2014 California Water Bond

Author: Heather Cooley, Peter Gleick, and Kristina Donnelly, ()
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This report provides a comprehensive analysis of Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, which was approved by California voters in November 2014. Written just before the bill was approved by voters, it analyzes the bond’s key provisions and their potential impacts, explaining how funds would be allocated, including how the water storage funds might be divided among competing projects. It also describes how the bond would address the needs of disadvantaged communities and ecosystems.

The authors note that passage of Proposition 1 would be just the beginning of much-needed long-term investment to fund better institutions, smarter planning, and more effective water management strategies in the state.

Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines: Towards a Common Approach to Report Water Issues

Author: Peter Schulte, Jason Morrison, Lauren Koopman, Natalie Allan, Cate Lamb, Karina de Souza, Marcus Norton, Tien Shiao, and Paul Reig, ()
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Water disclosure initiatives have catalyzed significant progress toward more sustainable corporate water management. However, the proliferation of water assessment and disclosure tools and methodologies has also led to:

  • Companies diverting important resources to complete multiple water or sustainability surveys of varying content
  • Companies using a variety of metrics that are not easily comparable, thereby weakening the value of disclosure offerings

Key Findings

Recommendations include:

  • Companies utilize the 3 pillars of the Corporate Water Disclosure Framework, which consist of outlining a company water profile, defining what to report, and providing supporting detail for what they report.

Testimony: Desalination Impacts before the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection

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On September 25, 2014, Pacific Institute Water Program Director Heather Cooley testified before the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection. Heather spoke separately on desalination intakes and broader policy issues of desalination facilities.

Metering in California – Need to Know Fact sheet

Author: Kristina Donnelly and Heather Cooley, ()
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This fact sheet examines the effectiveness of water metering as a tool to reduce excessive or wasteful water use by both utility companies and customers. While several California cities and municipalities have successfully implemented water metering policies, more than 219,000 customers statewide remain unmetered. Although meters have a high installation cost, they are a key conservation measure that reduces vulnerability to drought and other water supply constraints.

Metering is an essential water management strategy. Expanding and improving metering should be a priority for all California utilities. When customers are charged for their water use by volume, it is a signal to improve water conservation and efficiency habits. Metering also helps utilities identify and repair leaks in the system. Submetering of multi-family homes, which account for 31% of California’s housing units, could significantly increase water savings.

Key Findings

Key findings include:

  • Metering enables utilities to use pricing to encourage water conservation and efficiency.
  • Studies show that metering, when coupled with effective pricing structures, reduces water use 15-20%.
  • Additional water savings are possible through improved management of the water system, particularly the identification and repair of leaks in the distribution system. Water savings from metering all connections in California can produce considerable water savings at the local level, reducing vulnerability to drought and other water supply constraints.
  • While water meters have been in use for decades in most California communities, they are not yet universal. Even in California, more than 219,000 urban water connections remain unmetered. Additionally, the majority of multi-family units have a single meter for all units.
  • Despite the known benefits of water metering, there are barriers. For example, meter installation requires a large up-front investment, especially when existing infrastructure must be retrofitted to accommodate the new device.
  • Automatic meter reading systems automatically send real-time water usage data to the utility, without the need for an employee to physically read the meter onsite.
  • Advanced metering infrastructure reads usage automatically and allows two-way communication between the customer and the utility. Utilities using these systems can collect usage data every day, hour, or more frequently, resulting in a more accurate water bill and a more detailed understanding of a customer’s water use patterns. They can also help to detect leaks.

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Water Footprint Outcomes and Policy Relevance Change with Scale Considered: Evidence from California

Author: Julian Fulton, Heather Cooley, and Peter Gleick, ()
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The “water footprint” — the amount of freshwater used both directly and indirectly throughout the production chain of a good or service — has emerged as a valuable tool to evaluate the impact of human activity on the world’s water resources. This article, originally published in the journal Water Resources Management, shows that water footprint assessments may find greater policy relevance when scaled to analytical units where water-related decision-making occurs.

Hazard’s Toll: The Costs of Inaction at the Salton Sea

Author: Michael Cohen, ()
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California’s Salton Sea threatens to impose massive public health and environmental costs if no action is taken to alter its decline. This report estimates the costs of inaction at the Sea, defined as the absence of any large-scale revitalization or air quality management project. It finds that worsening air quality, the loss of valuable ecological habitat, diminished recreational revenue, and property devaluation could cost as much as $70 billion over the next 30 years, well in excess of the project cost of the state’s proposed revitalization and water transfer mitigation plan at the time of this report. The consequences of inaction at the Sea will be felt most directly by the approximately 650,000 people living in harm’s way of the Sea’s dust and by the birds and other wildlife that depend on the lake.

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Exploring the Business Case for Corporate Action on Sanitation

Author: Peter Schulte and Margaret Fenwick, ()
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As society seeks to meet demands for goods and services for a growing population, it is important to improve understanding of the fundamental science of the hydrological cycle, its links with related global processes, and the role it plays in ecological and societal well-being. Solving challenges related to the hydrologic cycle will require improving our systems for managing, sharing, and analyzing all kinds of water data, and our ability to model and forecast aspects of both the hydrological cycle and the systems we put in place to manage human demands for water.

This chapter from the book Climate Science for Serving Society: Research, Modeling and Prediction Priorities provides a short summary of current World Climate Research Program efforts and addresses challenges related to hydrological data, modeling, and multidisciplinary research. 

The Multiple Benefits of Water Conservation and Efficiency for California Agriculture – Need to Know

Author: Heather Cooley, ()
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California farmers have made progress in updating and modernizing irrigation practices, but great untapped potential remains to use water more efficiently. Water efficiency – defined as measures that reduce water use while maintaining the benefits water provides – has been shown to be a cost-effective and flexible tool to adapt to drought as well as address long-standing water challenges in California. Today’s investments in efficiency will provide a competitive advantage in the future and ensure the ongoing strength of the agricultural sector in California.

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Another View: Busting Water Conservation Myths

Author: Peter Gleick, Kate Poole, and Robert Wilkinson, ()
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Full Op-Ed

As a solution for California’s complex water challenges, conserving water to get more from every drop stands out for its great potential and the misconceptions around it.

A recent op-ed column, “Putting two myths about the state’s drought to rest” (Viewpoints, July 6), repeated three misstatements about conservation that are often used to delay implementing strategies for more efficient water use. Until these misunderstandings are corrected, common-sense improvements will continue to be underfunded and inadequately pursued. The failure to use proven and cost-effective efficiency programs can be seen in the limited attention to conservation in the state water bond proposals and only modest efforts of some water agencies.

Even the term “conservation” is misunderstood. There are two different forms: “conservation” in the sense of cutting back on water use; and “efficiency” in the sense of doing what we want with less water.

The first is a temporary response to crises, such as the current drought: taking shorter showers and fallowing cropland. The second refers to technologies and practices that let us continue to grow food and meet urban needs while using less water.

Here are three key points that need clarification:

• The misconception that additional water savings are small.

Great untapped potential remains to use less water, despite past efforts and progress. Water-use efficiency has been identified as the largest new source of water in the past three California water plans. Hundreds of thousands of acres of cropland continue to be flooded using inefficient technologies and practices. Water-thirsty lawns are widespread. Inefficient fixtures remain in our homes. Research has identified millions of acre-feet of water that can be conserved, yet programs to cut waste are grossly underfunded.

• The misunderstanding that conservation and efficiency are important only when they generate “new” water.

Some claim that using water more efficiently doesn’t always produce “new” water because wasted irrigation or urban runoff is reused downstream. This is a half-truth. Sometimes this occurs, but much of the water can be recovered. Furthermore, “new” water is not the only benefit of efficiency improvements. Strategies to cut excess application of water also save energy, protect water quality and prevent unnecessary diversions from ecosystems.

• The myth that proponents of conservation think that it is the only solution.

This is a straw-man argument. Serious conservation analyses have never claimed that conservation alone can bring us into balance. Conservation and efficiency are critical solutions with high potential, low cost and real environmental benefits, but vital efforts and investments – especially expanded use of high-quality treated wastewater and stormwater – are also needed.

By repeating these three misconceptions, conservation and efficiency programs are marginalized when these strategies must be a central focus of statewide water reform.