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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.

  • ca-drought-final

    Infographic: What to Expect from California’s Drought

    By Paula Luu, Communications Manager

    January 24, 2014

    While our weather-beaten friends in the Midwest and Northeast braced for near-record low temperatures and polar vortex snowstorms, Californians rang in the New Year with a rainless January.  2013 had gone down as the driest calendar year (since we began keeping record of rainfall 119 years ago), so it was no surprise when Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency on January 17. The governor’s official statement has changed the state’s political climate — drawing more public attention to the growing need for improved management and expanded climate policies. The impacts of water shortages are widespread, affecting everyone from consumers to farmers.

    Last week, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick wrote about what Californians could expect from the drought. To build on that blog, I’ve created an infographic that further explains what California’s dry future could look like. You can share the infographic by linking to http://bit.ly/1iuDmeh.

     

     

    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 views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect an official policy or position of the Pacific Institute.

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    What Californians Can Expect from the Drought

    By Peter Gleick, President

    January 16, 2014

    California has a “Mediterranean” climate, which means that each year it has a concentrated rainy season, followed by a long temperate and dry period. California’s rainy season typically runs from early October to late March, with very little precipitation outside of these months. (Figure 1 shows the average monthly rainfall for California.) It is now early 2014 and the rains have not come, for the third year in a row. While the definition of “drought” varies from place to place, it is safe to say that California is currently suffering from a severe – and by some measures, unprecedented — drought.

    Figure 1: Monthly average precipitation showing the seasonality of precipitation in different parts of California, from the iconic California Water Atlas.

    It is not too late for some big storms off the Pacific Ocean to bring relief. But the odds are against it and current meteorological conditions are not encouraging. If the rest of the winter months are dry, or even of average wetness, the state will have much less water than normal, and much less than water users want – from cities to farms to our natural ecosystems.

    We’ve had dry periods before – they are a recurring feature of our variable climate. The difficulty, expense, and pain of droughts, however, depend on two things: how severe they are and how we react. The Pacific Institute has spent many years studying the effects of droughts in California and has published several analyses of past impacts and responses (here and here).

    Based on past experience, here is (part of) what Californians can expect this year if it remains as dry as it is now. …»

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  • Pools in a single block of Los Angeles, via Google Maps

    Water Policy: What about All Those Swimming Pools in Los Angeles?

    By Peter Gleick, President

    December 3, 2013

    Pools in a single block of Los Angeles, via Google Maps

    Water policy and water problems always seem to be someone else’s responsibility. Those farmers who use all the water; the guy down the street who lets his sprinklers run all over the sidewalk; the Central Valley cities that don’t even have water meters; the environmentalists who are demanding water for some inconsequential fish we can’t even eat; those swimming pool owners in hot Los Angeles.

    The reality, of course, is that water problems belong to all of us. We all contribute in various ways through our choices of appliances, or diets, or Congressional representatives, or gardens. And every little thing adds up to stress our limited freshwater, or contributes just a bit more to water pollution that has to be treated or ends up contaminating a local waterway. …»

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  • Photo: FishBio.com

    Nigiri at the Landscape Scale: Salmon on Rice Rolls Up Multiple Benefits for Fish and Farms

    By Anna Bee Szendrenyi, Agricultural Water Steward Project Coordinator

    November 19, 2013

    Salmon on rice, also known as Nigiri, is a popular sushi dish among enthusiasts of the Japanese delicacy known for its tasty simplicity. The Nigiri Project at Knaggs Ranch is, as the name suggests, a hub for salmon-on-rice connoisseurs. But not quite as you’d think.

    Though the name is inspired by the sushi dish, the Nigiri Project is actually a collaborative effort working to understand and test the multiple benefits of nurturing young salmon on agricultural rice paddies in the Yolo Bypass of the Sacramento River Valley. …»

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    Up-scaling Sustainable Agriculture Initiatives on the Water Action Hub

    By Mai-Lan Ha, Research Associate

    November 19, 2013

    Technology for development has been a hot topic in the development sphere, particularly here in the Bay Area. The rapid advancements in broadband and mobile technology, combined with the proliferation of mobile applications, and increasing internet penetration rates worldwide have allowed these new tools to take a central role in programs working to meet sustainable development objectives.

    A few weeks ago, I attended Net Impact’s annual conference as a judge for AT&T and EDF’s Ideathon, “How Would You Address the Water Crisis,” focused on utilizing mobile technology to help address the issue of water scarcity. The participants were thoughtful young professionals and students interested in understanding more about the water crisis and working with others to develop real solutions to address it. …»

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    “Water to Supply the Land” Describes Irrigated Agriculture in the Colorado River Basin

    By Joseph Ferrell, Communications Intern

    November 7, 2013

    The Colorado River is a tightly controlled network of dams and diversions, spanning seven states in the U.S. and two in Mexico, providing water for fish and wildlife, agriculture, industry, and cities along the way. More than 35 million people depend on the Colorado River basin for at least part of their water supply. Yet the river is so over-appropriated that it usually fails to flow to the sea; altered flow regimes, depleted water levels, and degraded water quality have pushed many species to the brink of extinction, leading the Colorado to be named America’s most endangered river. Two years ago the Pacific Institute provided compelling data on Municipal Deliveries of Colorado River Basin Water, documenting  the impressive water-efficiency gains made in many of the cities served by the river. …»

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  • 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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    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: 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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    Collective Action on Water – To What End?

    By Jason Morrison, Program Director and Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    September 17, 2013

    The United Nations has designated 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation, which highlights the critical importance of cross-sectoral collaboration in promoting sustainable water management. But just to make an obvious point, public-private water stewardship partnerships are not about collective action simply for the sake of collective action; they’re about jointly tackling shared water challenges. And the highest priority ones at that.

    In recent years, companies are beginning to think more systemically and strategically about with whom and on what water issues they look to engage in a collective action context. The $2 billion dollar question (conservative estimate) becomes: are the other two segments of society – public sector and civil society – doing the same? …»

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