Online Updates: April 2010 Online Update

  April 2010 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-Business Water Accounting
-Report on World’s Water Quality Issues
-Pacific Institute at World Water Day
-Public Comment Period on Guide to Business and Water Policy

-Oakland Climate Action Planning

Water by Numbers
Check out the latest posts on Water by Numbers, Peter Gleick’s blog, featured on San Francisco Chronicle’s City Brights.Water and Energy: Obey the Law on Cooling SystemsThe Coming Crisis Over the MekongA Trip through One of the Worst Slums in the World


New Report for the United Nations Assesses Business Water Accounting Methods

Effectively Measuring Water Use and Impacts is Key
Business Water Accounting Assessment

Effective business water accounting methods are critical for sustainable water management, according to the new Pacific Institute report Corporate Water Accounting: an Analysis of Methods and Tools for Measuring Water Use and Its Impact, prepared for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the CEO Water Mandate. Current methods are a good start for measuring water use and impacts, but they are inadequate for the benchmarking essential to help companies identify risk, drive sustainability, and address stakeholders’ needs.

Focusing on four key methods and tools employed, the new report for the first time pulls together the main water accounting tools being used by the private sector and suggests where accounting methods might benefit from harmonization and increased field testing.

“Companies’ ability to measure and account for their water use, wastewater discharges, and impacts throughout the value chain is a critical component in their risk assessment and mitigation efforts, as well as their broader ambitions to become responsible water stewards,” said Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute’s Globalization Program and lead author of the report. “But what we find is that it is complicated to collect and disseminate meaningful water-related information; we need more sophisticated, location-specific tools and better data.”

Concerns about growing water scarcity, lack of access to water to meet basic human needs, degraded ecosystem function, and the implications of climate change have brought water to the forefront as a strategic concern for companies around the world. Corporate water accounting allows consumers, civil society groups, and the investment community to compare different companies’ social and environmen­tal impacts in order to inform their actions and decision making.

Click here for the full report.

Water Quality Challenges and Solutions are Focus of World Water Day Report
Awareness and Will to Change are Needed

Clearing the Waters ReportMore people die from unsafe water annually than from all forms of violence, including war. The new Pacific Institute/UNEP report Clearing the Waters: A Focus on Water Quality Solutions, released by the United Nations Environment Programme for World Water Day, lays out steps and solutions to address our urgent water-quality challenges — and they start with awareness and will to action.

“Globally, the quality of water in our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters is increasingly threatened by discharges from industry, agriculture, mining, and human settlements. This is leading to tremendous impacts on human and ecosystem health,” said Meena Palaniappan, initiative director at the Pacific Institute and lead author of the water-quality report. “As a global community, we need to deploy existing and effective technologies, financing approaches, and policy and education efforts to protect and restore the condition of waterways throughout the world.”

Worldwide, 2.6 billion people — 280 million of them children under five — live without improved sanitation, and each year more than 1.5 million children die from diarrhea caused by infectious waterborne diseases. It is a crisis of local challenges with global repercussions.

“Improving water quality means preventing pollution, treating wastewater before disposal, and restoring the quality of waterways,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute.  “World Water Day, and this extensive research, bring global attention to the urgency for clean, safe water to be an international priority.”

Clearing the Waters calls for worldwide action to:
-increase awareness to change behavior around what we put into our water;
-promote policies that improve water quality with education and advocacy;
-increase enforcement of the regulations put in place to protect water quality;
-put investor and consumer pressure on corporations and that pollute waterways.

Click here to download the full report and for access to a set of related “Resources,” with water quality facts and statistics, tips for safeguarding water quality, case studies, and glossary.

Pacific Institute at World Water Day

Peter Gleick Presents Water Quality Research

World Water Day in Kenya included site visits to areas of water-quality concern.
Photo: Jonas Bogardi
Kenyan women   carrying water

“Clean Water for a Healthy World” is the theme of U.N. World Water Day, March 22, 2010, and Nairobi, Kenya was the center of the celebration. The Pacific Institute partnered with UNEP to plan the World Water Day event and produce the major research report on the world’s water quality (see “Water Quality Challenges and Solutions,” above). The celebration kicked off the start of ongoing action and attention to the importance of sustaining  healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing water quality challenges and prompting action on pollution prevention, clean-up, and restoration of waterways.

The Pacific Institute research on water quality, led by Initiative Director Meena Palaniappan, was the underpinning for the groundbreaking UN-Water Statement on Water Quality, the first time an international statement for action has been delivered at World Water Day, and for recommendations on policies going forward.

Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick and Communications Director Nancy Ross were in Nairobi to present the research findings to the assembly, to train journalists, and to help coordinate World Water Day activities. The event included dignitaries from governments, leaders of U.N. agencies, scientists, and stakeholders from  communities around the world who gathered to call for making safeguarding the world’s water an international priority. Delivering the message that “clean water is life,” Gleick called for bold steps at every level to improve and preserve the quality of our water. He also participated in separate sessions with the world’s leading scientists and leaders in the water sector to advance action on water quality solutions.

One of the key elements identified to address the world’s water quality challenges is expanded communication and education. To that end, the U.N. invited journalists from around the world to come to Nairobi for a weekend of briefings and site visits prior to World Water Day itself to give them a better understanding of the critical issues around water quality and ways to bring that information to their wide audiences. The Pacific Institute produced the full kit of press materials for the international press corps (available as “Resources” here). Communications Director Nancy Ross gave the opening presentation on water quality for the journalist gathering in Nairobi.

Public Comment Period Open on Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy

The Pacific Institute is working with the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate to develop the best practice guide on business engagement with water policy, with a goal of helping better understand and advance the private sector’s ability to facilitate sustainable public water management. The Public Comment period on the new draft of the Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy is now open through May 7, 2010.  Those interested are invited to provide input to:  For more details on submitting comments, click here.

This Guide ultimately aims to provide principles, concepts, practical steps, and case examples that can facilitate companies’ responsible engagement with water policy in a manner that reduces business risks while advancing established policy goals and positively impacting nearby communities and ecosystems. Through the public comment period, the Institute is working to incorporate the wide array of perspectives and needs into the Guide, as well as to maximize its ability to help advance sustainable water management, and in so doing reduce water-related business risks.

During this month-long public comment period, this draft of the Guide will also be discussed at the Mandate’s 5th Working Conference in New York by Mandate endorsers and key stakeholders. The Mandate Secretariat will use these comments to inform the final version of the Guide to be released in June 2010.

Click here for the Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy.

Pacific Institute Gears Up for Oakland’s Climate Action Planning Efforts

Catalina Garzón presents on climate change adaptation to the Oakland City Council.
Catalina at Oakland   Climate Planning Meeting

On March 30, Pacific Institute Senior Research Associate Heather Cooley and Program Co-Director Catalina Garzón provided public comment at a special meeting of the Oakland City Council where city staff presented on the City’s Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP). The Pacific Institute also participated in a rally organized by the Oakland Climate Action Coalition before the council meeting to show broad-based support for the coalition’s recommendations for a just and equitable Energy and Climate Action Plan for the City of Oakland.


“The focus of Oakland’s climate planning efforts has been on identifying ways to reduce local emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Garzón. “Though mitigation is important, we also want to encourage the city to develop a comprehensive adaptation plan that outlines measures to protect Oakland’s most vulnerable communities from sea-level rise and other local climate change impacts.” Garzón and Cooley, along with Margaret Gordon of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, are members of the community-organized Oakland Climate Action Coalition and are leading the group’s Adaptation Subcommittee.

In Brief

- On April 8, Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate, presented Pacific Institute recommendations on water efficiency and reuse to six state and federal agencies at a Water Conservation and Recycling Roundtable. The Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Reclamation co-hosted the event with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Army, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, and the California Department of Water Resources. These agencies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that, among other things, aims to align water conservation and recycling programs to help reduce water demand on the California Bay-Delta. The Pacific Institute’s recommendations ranged from better monitoring of water uses to greater coordination and prioritization of state and federal funding programs for conservation and efficiency improvements. Click here to download the recommendations.

- On March 12, Senior Research Associate Michael Cohen spoke to the Water Education Foundation’s Colorado River tour in El Centro, California about the future of the Salton Sea. Click here to view his presentation.

- Senior Research Associate Heather Cooley delivered the luncheon keynote address on agricultural water conservation and efficiency at the annual conference of the United States Committee on Irrigation and Drainage on March 25 in Sacramento. On March 29, she discussed climate change adaptation at a community meeting organized by the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.

- Program Co-Director Catalina Garzón contributed to planning a tour of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach held as part of the Switzer Foundation’s West Coast Spring Retreat on March 27. The port tour included a stop at a park and elementary school next to the Port of Long Beach where community leaders and a truck driver shared their experiences with local organizers who are working to improve living and working conditions for those most impacted by the region’s freight transport industry. Tour organizers and participants included members of a leadership development network of environmental practitioners sponsored by the Switzer Foundation.

On March 3, Garzón attended a Community-Based Participatory Research conference involving participants from throughout the California State University system, and on March 11, she and Pacific Institute Research Fellow Eyal Matalon participated in a Berkeley Media Studies Group training on effective media message framing for freight transport justice advocacy hosted by The California Endowment.

- Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick was in Florida with NASA in March, participating in the new LAUNCH program and delivering an address on the world’s water challenges. The initiative was formed to identify, showcase, and support innovative approaches to sustainability challenges. For the first forum, “LAUNCH: Water,” ten entrepreneurs were selected from around the world who have proposed solutions to water shortages, to present to and meet with 40 council members from business, policy, engineering, science, communications, and sustainability sectors. One of the entrepreneurs was none other than former Pacific Institute Board Member Ashok Gadgil, who is working on an inexpensive and effective method of removing arsenic from drinking water.

- Program Director Jason Morrison attended a National Dialogue in Washington, D.C. on March 25-26 on an integrated water policy. Organized by the Clean Water America Alliance, the What’s Water Worth event focused on determining the practical steps needed to ensure clean and safe water for future generations.

 - Peter Schulte, research analyst for the Institute’s Globalization Program, spoke to the Environmental Economics class at California State University – Sacramento regarding California water policy and corporate water stewardship.

Upcoming and Open:

- Research Associate Matthew Heberger will be the featured speaker on April 20 at the monthly meeting of the East Bay-Oakland Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute. He will discuss the water situation in California and the role that the design and building profession can play in helping to make water use more sustainable. Click here for more information.

- Meena Palaniappan, director of the Institute’s International Water and Communities Initiative, is delivering the keynote address to the World Savvy World Affairs Challenge on April 17 in San Francisco. Click here for information on participating.