Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

  • The Sacramento Bee: Why I’m still confused about the proposed tunnels in the Delta

    By Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute President

    November 6, 2013

    This blog post originally was posted on The Sacramento Bee on November 6, 2013. 

    I and my colleagues at the Pacific Institute have worked on California water issues for more than a quarter of a century. It is therefore no surprise that we get asked on a regular basis by friends, journalists and colleagues what we think about the efforts underway to resolve the problems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and in particular, about the proposed massive tunnel project to divert water from the Sacramento River to the conveyance aqueducts south of the Delta. …»

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  • social-media-icons

    Water Managers and Social Media: How to Get Started

    By Paula Luu, Communications Manager

    October 24, 2013

    A few of you have reached out to me after I wrote about why water managers should invest in social media. It looks like I’ve managed to convince a few of you that it’s worthwhile, but now what?

    Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get things off the ground:

    Figure out which social sites to engage on given your customers and goals. …»

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  • water-vlogged-no-water-utility

    Water Vlogged: Where There Is No Water Utility

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    September 27, 2013

    In cities throughout Indonesia, utilities employ some of the latest technologies to supply treated water to millions of residents. However, service still isn’t available to thousands of those who are living in informal neighborhoods (slums) or just outside service networks. How, then—and from where—do these residents get their daily water for drinking, bathing, and washing? Here are just a few examples of typical urban water sources in medium and large-size Indonesian cities. …»

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  • assessing-water-affordability

    Hundreds of Thousands May Not Have Affordable Access to Safe Drinking Water in California

    By Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, Senior Research Associate

    August 28, 2013 

    In 2012, California made history by being the first U.S. state to legally acknowledge a human right to water. Yet, what does it mean, in practice, to ensure that all Californians have access to safe drinking water? And, how does the state measure who has access to safe water?

    A new study from the Pacific Institute in partnership with Community Water Center and Fresno State University, Assessing Water Affordability: A Pilot Study in Two Regions of California, addresses these questions and finds that over 100,000 households in two regions (the Sacramento metropolitan area and the Tulare Lake Basin) do not have access to what is considered “affordable” water. In addition, the study finds that the current metrics that the state is using to measure affordability would not capture many of these people. These metrics focus on water affordability at the water system level, which can encompass a variety of different socio-economic groups. …»

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  • community-choices-system-8-13

    Where Have We Reached on Our WASH Models Journey and What Impacts Have They Made?

    By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Affiliate 

    August 13, 2013 

    A month ago, I blogged on “Improving Access to Water and Sanitation: Is the Answer Individual Behavioral Change?” After several reflections, thoughts on “model journeys and changes we have seen as well as travelled on this road” keep coming to mind. The answer is still not clear. Hence the need to continue to ask, “Where are we on the model journey and what changes have we seen as we travel on these journeys?”

    Fresh from college, in the mid-1990s I had the opportunity to be part of a team to develop a participatory model of rural community water and sanitation supply in Ghana. Before the participatory model era, many communities in Ghana, especially in the northern part of the country, had received water supply wells that were financed and managed by the central government. Various types of hand pumps metamorphosed (from monarch, mono, etc. types) in order to reduce the frequent breakdowns and cost of repairs. Changes in hand pumps, however, did not result in any significant increase in communities’ independence, ownership, management, and maintenance of the hand pumps, since they still had to report repair and maintenance issues to a central point which took several days to months before any decision was made as to whether to repair them or not. …»

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  • infographic-water-barringer

    Unleashing the Information Floodgates: the Right to Information in Water and Sanitation Provision

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    July 19, 2013

    Working closely with communities in Ghana, Indonesia, and India has given us firsthand, sobering insight into the problems affecting the 783 million people in the world without safe water and 2.5 billion without sanitation. Undeniably, the lack of safe and reliable water and sanitation services in low- and lower-middle-income countries impacts women, poor people, and other marginalized groups the hardest. They spend disproportionate amounts of time and money and risk health and safety for basic needs—a glass of water or use of a toilet—for which other people within the same borders yet of different socio-economic statuses and means don’t have to give a second thought (see infographic below). …»

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  • Participants listed the various impacts of diesel trucks and trains, starting with the impacts on their bodies and scaling up to the impacts on community health and quality of life.

    What’s Freight Got to Do with It?

    By Ariana de Leña, Popular Education Associate

    July 11, 2013

    While a concept like freight transport can be overwhelming and full of jargon, starting with a simple question like “What do you feel, hear, smell, taste, and see when a diesel truck passes you on the street?” elicits a response from nearly everyone. It also creates an opportunity for people to be empowered by their own experiences and be more effective advocates for change.

    On June 21, over two dozen Bay Area organizers, health outreach workers, and community health advocates gathered at the Pacific Institute for a daylong “Training-for Trainers” on Popular Education Tools for Community Health. Co-hosted by the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, the training explored the relationship between each participant’s work and the chain of factories, ships, trucks, trains, and ports that moves products and raw materials around the world. The Pacific Institute developed the training activities and materials with members of the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, a regional coalition of community-based organizations, environmental advocates, and public health agencies working to reduce diesel pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area. …»

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    The Need for, and Value of, Science in the Debate over Fracking

    By Peter Gleick, President

    July 8, 2013

    As most people now know, hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a method for enhancing the production of natural gas (or oil, or geothermal energy wells). Fracking involves injecting fluids – typically complex mixes of water and chemicals – under high pressure into wells to create cracks and fissures in rock formations that improve the rates of production.

    Whether you support or oppose fracking depends on many complex factors: the economics of the practice, perceptions about the implications for national security of relying on domestic or imported energy, the consequences for climate change from the emissions of different amounts of greenhouse gases from different energy strategies, the positive and negative implications of fracking for employment and quality of life in rural communities, and the scientific evidence about the environmental consequences of the practice, including risks to water availability, water and air quality, and local ecosystems. …»

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  • Dead fish at the Salton Sea

    Another Grim Day for the Salton Sea

    By Michael Cohen, Water Program Senior Research Associate

    July 3, 2013

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed the state budget last Thursday. Unfortunately, the governor line-item vetoed funding for the Salton Sea Financial Assistance Program (FAP), a program requested and strongly supported by the Pacific Institute and other organizations. The Institute has written extensively about the Salton Sea’s current and future problems. In four and a half years, rapid and extreme reductions in the volume of water flowing into the Salton Sea will cause catastrophic ecological changes and will very likely lead to widespread dust storms, adversely affecting human health in both the Imperial and Coachella valleys. We desperately need programs like the FAP to direct funds to local habitat and air quality management projects that can be built quickly and cheaply, to offset some of these impacts and to demonstrate what can be accomplished at the Salton Sea.

    Instead, we get more delay. …»

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  • blog-photo-voice-thumb-6-26-2013

    ‘Hood Reporters: Unlocking the Power of Photos to Engage Youth in Building Healthier Communities

    By Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Director

    June 27, 2013

    We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Harnessing and reclaiming the power of photographs is at the heart of a participatory research tool called photo-voice. Photo-voice combines picture-taking and story-telling to identify issues of concern in a community, document community conditions, and generate solutions to create healthier communities.

    Through our partnership with Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), we use photo-voice to engage young people in promoting innovative solutions that address the root causes of violence in their communities.  CURYJ is a community-based organization in Oakland, California that builds the leadership of young people directly impacted by the criminal justice system and their family members as positive forces for change in their communities. …»

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