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

Posted on:

Heather Cooley Testifies on Desalination Impacts before the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection

Testimony Date: September 25, 2014

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

cooley-testimony-intake-cover-9-24Reverse-osmosis desalination plants have shown to create substantial risks to marine life due to open water intakes.  Recognizing the environmental impacts associated with seawater intakes, Heather provides options measures to reduce and even eliminate impingement and entrainment from these intakes. Ms. Cooley also suggests adequate monitoring programs at multiple sites that improve understanding and transparency surrounding these impacts.

Read Heather Cooley’s testimony on intakes here.

cooley-testimony-policy-cover-9-24Ongoing interest in desalination projects has called for greater risk analysis and understanding of water supply. Regarding the broader policy issues of desalination , Heather speaks on the supply and demand of these facilities in terms of costs and financing, energy use, and associated risks. Based on these key issues, she acknowledges the potential for lowering demand involving production cuts and project closures.

Read Heather Cooley’s testimony on policy issues here.

Peter Gleick Testifies on Urban Water Use Efficiency for State Water Resources Control Board

Posted on:

February 26, 2014

Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and one of the world’s leading experts on freshwater issues, testified on February 26, 2014 on strategies for addressing the California drought to the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). Recognizing that the drought is having far-reaching effects that are likely to intensify if dry conditions persist, Gleick offered key recommendations from the Pacific Institute for changes in strategy, policy, and approach to greatly expand the efficiency of urban water use in California.

“The magnitude of the current drought has brought California’s water use and management issues into sharper focus,” said Gleick, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences who has worked on California water issues for over thirty years. “The drought will have serious consequences for California communities, but it also offers opportunities to address long-standing and unresolved water management issues.”  

Gleick offered recommendations from the Pacific Institute to the SWRCB on urban water use and efficiency to help the state deal with the current drought – and with the reality of a drier water future for California with climate change. His recommendations include:

      -Establish expanded and accelerated water efficiency targets. While recent legislation has set some targets, preliminary analysis suggests that the state is not on track to meet its 20% reduction by 2020, and these standards should be strengthened.

     -Implement comprehensive and standardized urban water pricing. All water utilities should adopt tiered pricing for residential customers and consider adopting tiered pricing for other customer classes.

     -Accelerate urban water metering. Recent legislation has set requirements for complete residential metering by 2025, but the requirement of 100% urban metering should be accelerated.

     -Accelerate appliance/water use technology replacement; update water-efficiency standards. Urban agencies should accelerate the replacement of inefficient clothes washers, toilets, showerheads, and dishwashers, and outdoors, should offer programs to remove lawns and install efficient water systems for landscaping irrigation.

     -Adopt a loading order for water that can serve as a guidepost for policies and decisions at local, regional, and state levels. The state should identify efficiency as the preferred approach to improving water supply reliability, followed by alternatives resources (e.g., recycled water, groundwater cleanup, and conjunctive use), and lastly by traditional water supply options.

     -Increase water-efficiency expenditures. The state and water utilities should increase investment in water efficiency and conservation programs; budgets for water-efficiency programs are generally small compared to other utility expenditures and may vary from year to year. 

     -Collect more and better water-use data. To help improve program design and support local and statewide water resource planning efforts, more and better data are needed on how much water is used, by whom, and to do what.

Gleick offered other policy recommendations, as well, including requiring all new loans, grants, and permits to be issued only to agencies that include full water-use reporting and meet baseline efficiency targets, and requiring stormwater retention and treatment for all new development. The State should also conduct a detailed assessment of the quality of water required to meet end uses and the quality of waters available, with a requirement to rapidly expand the use of recycled/treated wastewater, eventually eliminating the discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean.

The Pacific Institute has been at the forefront of research and solution-finding for water issues in the West for 26 years. The Institute’s 2003 report Waste Not, Want Not put real numbers on the potential for improving water efficiency in residential, commercial, and industrial settings, and California Water 2030 described in detail a “high efficiency” scenario that will cut wasteful water use by 20 percent without harming the economy or quality of life in California. Much of the work of the Institute on efficiency has been adopted by the Department of Water Resources in their long-term California Water Plan.

The Pacific Institute is one of the world’s leading independent nonprofit research organizations working to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Based in Oakland, Calif., the Institute conducts interdisciplinary research and partners with stakeholders to produce solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity – in California, nationally, and internationally. www.pacinst.org

Download the testimony.

Testimony of Dr. Peter H. Gleick Before the California Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy

Posted on:

Testimony of Dr. Peter H. Gleick
Before the California Assembly Select Committee on
Sea Level Rise and the California Economy
May 15, 2013

Chair and members of the Assembly Select Committee: thank you for inviting me to offer testimony today on the economic risks facing the State of California from accelerating sea-level rise. The reality of climate change will affect California in many ways, from rising temperatures to changes in fire frequency, drought and flood risks, threats to agricultural production and our water resources, and especially, growing damage and destruction along our extensive coastline from rising sea levels.

Over the past century, sea level has risen nearly eight inches along the California coast, and climate science research suggests very substantial additional increases in sea level over the coming century. The Pacific Institute, with support from the State of California, completed a detailed analysis of the current population, infrastructure, and property at risk from projected sea‐level rise if no actions are taken to protect the coast. Our study uses projections developed by the State of California from current best estimates, but does not reflect the worst‐case sea‐level rise that could occur. Indeed, new science suggests these estimates may be conservative.

The report also evaluates the cost of building structural measures to protect high-valued locations, but if development continues in threatened areas, all of these estimates will rise substantially. And we conclude that no matter what policies are implemented in the future, sea‐level rise will inevitably change the character of the California coast and… continue reading.

Download the testimony (PDF).

Download the presentation (PDF).


New National Water Policy

Posted on:

Testimony of Dr. Peter H. Gleick
Before the Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
For the Hearing on Opportunities and challenges to address domestic and global water supply issues
Recommendations to Congress for Fundamental Changes in National Water Policy
December 8, 2011

Madame Chairman, Senators: I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to address threats and opportunities facing the Nation’s freshwater resources and to offer specific recommendations for a 21st century U.S. water policy.

The water crisis around the nation and around the world is growing, presenting new threats to our economy and environment, but also offering new opportunities for better and coordinated responses. We have long known that we need coordinated federal planning for water; but such coordination remains an elusive goal. And the nation faces new water challengessuch as climate change, new pollutants, and decaying infrastructure.

My written and oral testimony will addresstwo broad issues:
1. The kinds of water challenges we face at the national and international levels, and
2. The kinds of responses we need at the federal level. […]

Download the full testimony here

Vulnerability to Climate Change

Posted on:

The Vulnerability of U.S. Water
Resources to Climate Change
Capitol Hill, Washington DC

AMS/AAAS Briefing

Dr. Peter H. Gleick
Pacific Institute, Oakland, California
Revised from May 9, 2011

What Can We Expect for Water from Climate Change?
• A hotter world.
• Mixed changes in precipitation (both by region and time period).
• Dramatic reductions in snowfall and accelerating snowmelt; related changes in runoff timing.
• Rising sea-level with impacts on groundwater quality and coastal/delta ecosystems.
• Accelerating influence on extreme events: including floods and droughts.

Climate Changes are Already Affecting U.S. Water Resources
• More than 10 years ago, the US National Climate Assessment water report concluded that
“The evidence that humans are changing the water cycle of the United States is increasingly compelling.” (National Climate Assessment Water Report, 2000) […]

Download the full testimony here

Invited Presentation and Comments to the Delta Stewardship Council

Posted on:

Invited Presentation and Comments to the Delta Stewardship Council
Dr. Peter H. Gleick
April 15, 2011

Thank you for inviting me to present information to the Delta Stewardship Council on the issues of water efficiency and conservation with a focus on California’s agricultural sector, along with broader comments on moving to comprehensive solutions to the Bay-Delta (and statewide) water problems. As the Final Interim Plan clearly states:

“…implementation of the Interim Plan requires full consideration of public input. Opportunities have been and will continue to be provided for the public to engage in the development and implementation of the Interim Plan.”

I appreciate this opportunity. Here is a summary of my key conclusions:

1. There is broad agreement that no single strategy in the area of water storage, water efficiency, water pricing, or water policy will be sufficient to satisfy the goals of sustaining the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s ecosystems and vital water delivery systems. The proposed policy in the Second Staff Draft identifies mandatory key plan elements, including “water-use efficiency.” I support these, with the understanding that they must include both agricultural efficiency improvements and urban improvements, with explicit targets. […]

Download the full testimonyhere

Gleick Testimony Responses

Posted on:

Responses from Dr. Peter H. Gleick to additional questions from the Minority Members of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

December 3, 2010

Dear Select Committee,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to respond on the record to additional questions, submitted from the Minority. In particular, the nature of the questions shows clearly the challenges in dealing with the unavoidable consequences of climate change, and the continued misunderstanding and misrepresentation of science from some members of Congress, and I appreciate the ability to respond in the hopes that this kind of misunderstanding and misrepresentation will end.

Questions from the Minority:

1) You state, “If we act to slow climate change, and the impacts turn out to be less severe than we predict, we will still have reduced our emissions of pollutants.” At what cost is this acceptable? Is it worth an aggregate income loss in the US of $6.8 trillion from 2009 to 2029? Is it worth job losses of nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs in 2029? [Source of numbers: Heritage Foundation]

You stipulate a number and ask how I can justify it. I reject the stipulation: This question implies that any “act” to slow climate change will lead to these costs. These particular numbers come from a partisan organization, not an independent source or an academic source or a peer reviewed source. I therefore reject the strawman argument “is it worth job losses of xxx” when “xxx” is an assumption not supported by evidence.

Moreover, there are many policy decisions that can be made that are low cost that would still slow the rate of climate change and reduce the ultimate social, economic, and environmental damages to the United States. Your job as policymakers is not to reject all action, but to identify the proper action and the weigh the relative costs and benefits. Please look at all the economic assessments of the costs and benefits of climate responses, not just those that favor one ideological point of view. […]

Download the full testimony here

Not Going Away: America’s Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges

Posted on:

Testimony of Dr. Peter H. Gleick for
The Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming Hearing
“Not Going Away: America’s Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges.”
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chairman Markey, Ranking Member Sensenbrenner, and Select Committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on America’s ongoing struggle to deal with increasingly severe climate challenges and the risks and opportunity those challenges pose for the nation’s energy and economic security.

I am the co-founder and director of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, an independent, non-partisan research and policy center addressing the questions of environment, economic development, and international security. My background and training is in the fields of environmental science, engineering, hydrology, and climatology. I am an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Science. My full biography has been provided to the Subcommittee staff. My research on climate issues is supported by foundations and state and local agencies; none of my climate work is funded by corporations or federal agencies.

I’d like to make the following six points:

1. The science of climate change is clear and convincing that climate change is happening, happening rapidly, and happening because of human activities. Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modeling. Based on these lines of evidence, the science of climate change is compelling and strong, and has been for over two decades. That science tells us that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities not only will change the climate, but are already changing the climate. The evidence is now incontrovertible, even if a small minority cannot accept it.

Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial — scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. But no one who argues against the science of climate change has ever provided an alternative scientific theory that adequately satisfies the observable evidence or conforms to our understanding of physics, chemistry, and climate dynamics.

The science tells us – and has been telling us for over two decades – that:

• The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere.

• Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

• Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

• Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic. And many other changes are seen to be happening.

• The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, human health, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more. […]

Download the full testimony here

Global Warming Effects on Agriculture and Forestry

Posted on:

Testimony of Heather S. Cooley and Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith
to the United States Congress

Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
For the Hearing on Global Warming Effects on Agriculture and Forestry
June 18, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the effects of climate change on agricultural production in the United States. Our testimony will focus on those impacts related to water resources – a critical connection especially in the western United States. These detailed comments are intended to supplement our oral testimony.

Key Messages:

• Agriculture is a water-intensive industry, using about 70% of the nation’s freshwater resource. As a result, impacts of climate change on water resources will have major consequences for agriculture.

• Rainfed agriculture is especially vulnerable to altered precipitation patterns.

• Surface water supplies will be increasingly out-of-phase with agricultural water demand. Surface runoff is expected to decline during summer months, when agricultural water demand peaks. The impacts of climate change on groundwater resources remain largely unknown; however, recent research suggests they may decline.

• Changes in extreme weather events will have a greater effect on crop production than changes in average conditions.

• Adaptation can substantially reduce the risk of climate change for the agricultural sector. To support adaptation efforts:

o The federal government must support adaptation efforts, including better management of surface and groundwater resources and improvements in water conservation and efficiency.

o The federal government should support outreach to the agricultural community about the impacts of climate change and potential adaptation strategies.

o The federal government should support additional research and development. Specifically, more regional assessments and better weather forecasting are needed. […]

Download the full testimony here

Water Integration Act of 2009

Posted on:

Testimony of Dr. Peter H. Gleick
Before the United States Senate
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

On the Energy and Water Integration Act of 2009

March 10, 2009

Mr. Chairman, Senators: thank you for inviting me to offer comments on the critical connections between energy and water in the United States. Water use and energy use are closely linked: Energy production uses and pollutes water; water use requires significant amounts of energy. Moreover, the reality of climate change affects national policies in both areas.

Limits to the availability of both energy and water are beginning to affect the other, and these limits have direct implications for US economic and security interests. Yet energy and water issues are rarely integrated in policy. Considering them together offers substantial economic and environmental benefits and I support the effort to do this in the Energy and Water Integration Act of 2009. […]

Download the full testimony here

Sign Up for Monthly Updates!