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.

  • collective-action-morrison-schulte-9-17-13

    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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    First-Time Researcher

    By Christina McGhee, Diversity for Sustainability Summer Intern 2013

    September 12, 2013

    When I think of climate change, I think of the doom and gloom associated with it. I think big world changes or bust! I wonder what the near future will look like with necessary high-rise infrastructure and climate change survivors along the coastlines forced to relocate from their homes, now permenantly flooded. The words “resilience” and “adaptation” are at the back burner of my thoughts. However, when I began my Diversity for Sustainability Summer Internship with the Pacific Institute, I found myself constantly challenging my previous notions of how to deal with climate change. This was my first intensive research project just outside of school. …»

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    AT&T Tool Kit Uncovers Billions of Gallons of Potential Water Savings in Cooling Systems

    Guest Blog by John Schulz, Director, AT&T Sustainability Operations

    September 4, 2013 

    “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”  – Alexander Graham Bell

    Coming from a telecommunications company and attending a conference entitled Water Cooperation – Building Partnerships, I find this an appropriate quote with which to open. It is true that while we can attribute some of the greatest inventions of our time to individuals, it is hardly those individuals alone who achieve them. This is especially true when tackling the challenge to protect and preserve a shared resource such as water. …»

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    Many Agricultural Water Districts Fail to Submit Required Water Management Plans: Laggards Can Learn from Leaders

    By Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, Senior Research Associate

    September 3, 2013 

    A few years ago, the California Legislature passed the Water Conservation Act of 2009, which among other things, required large agricultural water providers to begin preparing agricultural water management plans (as urban water providers have done for over a decade). These plans are a key component to encouraging better water planning, management, and efficient use. They also help water managers and consumers understand where the state’s precious water resources are going and efforts to improve water-use productivity.

    At the end of 2012, the first round of agricultural water management plans were due. Yet, a new study, from the Pacific Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council, finds that only 24 out of 79 agricultural water district in California submitted agricultural water management plans, leaving 55 districts out of compliance. This represents a 30% compliance rate.


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  • The Euphrates River. Photo credit: Verity Cridland, Flickr - See more at:

    WRI Insights: Managing the Earth from Space: Satellite and Sensing Technology in Water Management

    Guest Blog by Andrew Maddocks, World Resources Institute Outreach and Development Coordinator 

    August 29, 2013 

    Andrew Maddocks of the World Resources Institute shares his WRI blog previewing the Stockholm World Water Week session “The Use of New Spatial Information Products for Improved Water Management and Risk Mapping.”  Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, will be joining WRI and NASA on the panel, presenting the Institute’s work in this area.

    WRI experts Betsy OttoCharles IcelandTien Shiao, and Paul Reig will attend World Water Week in Stockholm next week. Among other activities, they’ll co-host a session on using satellite data to map global water risks. Here, Andrew Maddocks explores the role that satellite data can play in improving water management. Learn more about WRI’s World Water Week Activities. …»

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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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  • Photos: Eyal Ofer

    Aligning Two Worlds: Business and the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

    By Mai-Lan Ha, Research Associate

    August 21, 2013 

    Available, Affordable, Accessible, Acceptable, and Safe – the cornerstones of the human right to water and sanitation were codified in California in 2012 with the adoption of Assembly Bill 685. California’s adoption of the right heralded another step in the progressive realization of the right to water and sanitation globally. It followed the UN General Assembly’s adoption in 2010 of a binding resolution acknowledging the right to safe drinking water and sanitation and national-level recognition of the right by countries such as South Africa, Kenya, and Belgium.

    The human right to water has been a longstanding area of work for the Pacific Institute, starting with two papers on basic human needs and water and the Human Right to Water in 1996 and 1999, respectively. …»

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Peak Water in the American West

    By Peter Gleick, President

    August 19, 2013 

    It is no surprise, of course, that the western United States is dry. The entire history of the West can be told (and has been, in great books like Cadillac Desert [Reisner] and Rivers of Empire [Worster] and The Great Thirst [Hundley]) in large part through the story of the hydrology of the West, the role of the federal and state governments in developing water infrastructure, the evidence of droughts and floods on the land, and the politics of water allocations and use.

    But the story of water in the West is also being told, every day, in the growing crisis facing communities, watersheds, ecosystems, and economies. This isn’t a crisis of for tomorrow. It is a crisis today. What is, perhaps, a surprise, is that it has taken this long for the entire crazy quilt of western water management and use to finally unravel. But it is now unraveling. …»

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  • testing

    Why Water Managers Should Embrace Social Media

    By Paula Luu, Communications Manager

    August 19, 2013 

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest. I don’t need to explain what social media is because chances are you’re plugged into one, if not most, of these social media platforms. And individuals aren’t the only ones engaged in social media. Eighty percent of businesses, 89% of NGOs, and 66% of government agencies are also a part of these networks– connecting, sharing, digesting, and discussing information with their followers and fans.

    But are water managers effectively using social media? …»

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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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