April 2012 Online Update 

Celebrating 25 Years


Looking back: For a quarter century, the Pacific Institute’s work has served as an invaluable resource in protecting our most vital shared resource: our freshwater. That includes the vast amount of water that we rely on, but don’t see: our groundwater resources. Back in 2001, the Pacific Institute was among the voices finding serious problems with the highly controversial private Cadiz Valley Groundwater Recovery and Storage Project in San Bernardino County, Calif., which was halted in part because of the breadth of our work on the issue. But it’s back — and so are we. Proposed again in 2011, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Cadiz was up for public comment through mid-March, and senior research associate Dr. Newsha Ajami took it to task for several critical flaws and limitations (see Cadiz Groundwater Pumping story below). Groundwater is a public resource — and the Pacific Institute envisions a world where resources are managed sustainably and equitably and the natural world protected.


Potential Benefits of Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) to Help Rural and Peri-urban Poor

MUS Report The new report
Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS): Recommendations for a Robust and Sustainable Approach examines Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS), a water-provision and management approach that has emerged as a way to realize the poverty-alleviation potential of water projects. By connecting livelihoods to water supply, MUS seeks to improve nutrition, boost income, and help the rural and peri-urban poor climb the water ladder to make more sophisticated use of water beyond their basic health needs. The Pacific Institute report provides analysis of the potential benefits of MUS, primary among which is that it reflects the way communities actually use water.

“Multiple-Use Water Services is a promising framework for funding and implementation in the water sector that can address basic needs for water to meet health as well as livelihood needs of the poorest,” said Meena Palaniappan, director of the Pacific Institute International Water and Communities Initiative. “In the new report, we have analyzed the gaps in the MUS approach and evaluated previous efforts at integration in the water sector to identify lessons learned and recommendations for making MUS implementation more robust and sustainable.”


Read more.
Download the
full report.
Download the
Executive Summary.


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“Good information is the foundation of improved resource management.  And undertaking strategically designed, unimpeachable research is the Pacific Institute’s stock in trade. The Institute staff has demonstrated a strong grasp of complex technical issues and a knack for generating products designed to help improve management decisions, not just gather dust. The Institute has had an impact on even the toughest policy issues.”


-Barry Nelson,

Natural Resources
Defense Council

Salton Sea on the California Report
The Pacific Institute’s Michael Cohen spoke with Sam Harnett on NPR station KQED’s The California Report about what the future holds for the Salton Sea. Read and listen here. 

And read KQED’s Climate Watch post and check out the slide show here. 

Want to know more about the Salton Sea? Visit the Pacific Institute web page and links here.



Pacific Institute Presents Inaugural Farm Water Steward Award to John Stephens
Yolo County farmer John Stephens is the recipient of the Inaugural Farm Water Steward Award from the Pacific Institute, presented at an award dinner celebration on World Water Day, March 22, at the T.S. Glide Ranch in Davis, Calif.
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John Stephens, with his daughter Marcy Stephens holding his award, and Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith.
“John put in so much of his own resources and his own wonderful energy to have the vision for better water and restored habitat,” said Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith of the Pacific Institute, who serves on the Steering Committee of the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply. “His success is a great example and resource for other farmers, and he’s creating a tremendous legacy for his family. The Pacific Institute is proud to have him as the first Farm Water Steward Award honoree.”
The Stephens Family has owned and operated the 400-acre Oakdale Ranch in Esparto, Calif. since 1852. John Stephens’s waterway restoration project on the ranch is one of 12 Farm Water Success Stories case studies and interviews from the Pacific Institute. The Institute, in partnership with the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply, launched an interactive database and map in December, featuring innovative and effective efforts like Stephens’s to improve on-farm and regional water management. Read more.

CEO Water Mandate Discusses Key Corporate Water Stewardship Issues at 6th World Water Forum    


In hopes of stimulating discussion and garnering feedback to inform the initiative’s work, the CEO Water Mandate* convened several sessions during the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France. At these meetings, representatives from Mandate-endorsing companies, NGOs, government agencies, the investment community, and other sectors explored four major Mandate projects:

  • Water Action Hub: An online platform that will allow companies to identify and engage with others in regions of strategic interest, and with whom they can potentially collaborate on projects that address shared water-related risks and opportunities.
  • Water Disclosure Guidelines: Guidance offering a common approach to corporate water disclosure so as to drive harmonization and comparability among companies and reduce their reporting burdens.
  • Guide to Collective Action: Strategic and operational guidance that identifies and characterizes different models for how companies can collaborate externally on water-related issues and provides insights for how they can best organize and execute these actions.
  • Guide to Aligning Business Practice with the Human Right to Water and Sanitation: Practical guidance outlining societal expectations and offering strategies for how companies can respect and support this newly-affirmed human right.


The Mandate Secretariat and project partners provided progress updates on all of these projects, while soliciting targeted feedback from meeting participants on how the Mandate can best move forward with them. Key discussion topics included: how the Mandate can scope, grow, and maintain use of the Water Action Hub over the long term; what range of information can and should be included in corporate water disclosure; what types of engagement constitute the “taxonomy” of collective action; and how companies can adhere to the UN’s “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework with regard to the human right to water and sanitation and whether there are situations in which they should go beyond these responsibilities.

The CEO Water Mandate will once again discuss and advance these focus areas at its annual multi-stakeholder working conference to be held during Rio+20 in June 2012.


*The CEO Water Mandate is a United Nations Global Compact initiative aimed at driving corporate water stewardship. The Pacific Institute currently serves on the Mandate Secretariat and acts as the initiative’s operational arm.


Read more about the CEO Water Mandate.

Pacific Institute Launches Its First Open-Source Project — for River-Friendly Landscaping      

River-Friendly Landscaping In 2009, Sacramento County was one of two counties in California that received an
EPA Climate Showcase Communities grant to demonstrate projects by municipalities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions andstabilize the climate and improve environmental, economic, health, and social conditions.” The County is promoting “River-Friendly Landscaping” as a way for its citizens to save water and money and reduce their emissions, partnering with the Pacific Institute to develop an online calculator to help anyone estimate the benefits of converting their landscape to a “river-friendly” one. The resulting website is designed for homeowners and the general public, as well as developers and planners.

The River-Friendly Landscape Benefits Calculator launched last month. The easy-to-use tool walks the user through some simple steps to describe their landscape and maintenance practices. At the end, the calculator estimates the amount of water a user landscape needs, as well as green waste and greenhouse gas emissions it produces, and the cost and labor required to maintain it. It compares benefits of a user’s landscape to a conventional landscape and a river-friendly one.


In the spirit of making the grant-funded activities easy and inexpensive for other cities to replicate, we have made the entire project open-source. The text and photos on the website are

licensed under Creative Commons, and the site has been released under MIT free software license. Download the source code here.

Check out the River-Friendly Landscape Benefits Calculator at riverfriendly.com.

Cadiz Groundwater Pumping Called Unsustainable        

Mojave Desert
Mojave Desert


The Cadiz Valley Groundwater Recovery and Storage Project is a private venture (owned by Cadiz, Inc.) in the Mohave Desert in San Bernardino County, Calif. Back in 2001, the Pacific Institute was among the voices finding serious problems with the project, which was subsequently halted over economic and environmental concerns — but it has been revived. To help provide more transparency about the situation, the Pacific Institute posted on our website our economic analysis prepared in 2001 and the final draft environmental impact statement.

The project is highly controversial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the private use and gain from a public resource — our groundwater — and the impacts on aquifers dependent on that same groundwater. The Pacific Institute reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) released in December 2011,

finding, as we did a decade ago, several critical flaws and limitations. Among them are the project’s reliance on unsustainable overdrafting of the groundwater basin, with highly uncertain recovery times, and the DEIR’s failure to adequately demonstrate that the springs and groundwater basin are not connected. Under the proposed project, Cadiz will make its profit for 50 years mining groundwater, a public good, for short-term private gain, and the public will be left to handle possible negative environmental and ecological consequences of this project for years to come.

In March, Dr. Newsha Ajami, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, submitted public comments on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report, concluding that “the project is clearly unsustainable from a hydrological and ecological perspective.” The Sacramento Bee ran an Op Ed by Dr. Ajami and Dr. John Bredehoeft of the Hydrodynamics Group which raises the point: “We question that mining groundwater for short-term private gain is what an informed public would like to do with precious groundwater stored in the desert.”

The Pacific Institute continues to bring this important California water policy issue forward — as stated in the Op Ed: “Cadiz…would set a precedent for future privatization of groundwater in other desert basins. This calls for a broader public policy debate and discussion of state groundwater policy — or lack thereof.”

Read the full Op Ed here.

Read Dr. Ajami’s public comments here.
Read the Draft Environmental Impact Report here.

Notes From the Field     

Pilot Testing the Community Choices for Water Tool in Ghana and Burkina Faso  

By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Associate


AWS BAnner
Mma Torro (lady in pink) is introduced to Community Choices for Water.

After 12 months of conducting learning sessions in Ghana and Burkina Faso to develop the Community Choices for Water (CCW) tool, an alpha version of the tool has been tested in the Cheshei community. The Pacific Institute and NewEnergy field staff tested the tool in the community between March 19and 29 to examine how households could be empowered with knowledge of water treatment technologies to solve their acute water shortage challenges that compel them to drink unclean water. Though the Cheshei community is connected to the urban water supply, the taps are opened only once or twice a week, and the pressure is not enough to force water into the overhead tank/reservoir provided for the community. The community is then forced to rely on a polluted surface water source about 4 km away.

The Community Choices for Water tool — a library of water treatment technologies which requires a user to respond to a set of questions before arriving at recommended solutions — also helps connect communities and households to technical and funding agencies and vendors for assistance in the implementation of chosen water treatment technology.


Mr. Charles Nachinab of NewEnergy walked ten households through the use of the tool during the pilot exercise at Cheshei, which recommended various household water treatment solutions. According to resident Ms. Mma Torro, “The CCW tool is just a perfect intervention in this community as we need more knowledge on how to treat our water.”

Read more.

In Brief  


Pacific Institute staff members gave talks and lectures, conducted workshops, and participated on panels far and wide this month. Here are some of the places we’ve been:

 Dr. Newsha Ajami, Senior Research Associate:
- submitted
public comments on the Cadiz Valley Water Project Draft Environmental Impact Report.

Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith,
Senior Research Associate:
- spoke on two panels at the 2012 California Water Policy Conference related to groundwater and agricultural water use.
- moderated a panel at the World Affairs Council on “Food and Water: Sustaining Life on a Crowded Planet.” Listen to the discussion here (click on World Affairs 2012: Food and Water).

Heather Cooley, Water Program Co-Director:
- provided testimony on the potential for water conservation and efficiency at the State Water Resource Control Board water rights hearing for the Cachuma project.
- provided an overview about seawater desalination at an event organized by the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter about the status, potential benefits, and potential environmental drawbacks of a joint desalination project under consideration by five Bay Area utilities (SFPUC, EBMUD, CCWD, SCVWD, and Zone 7 Water Agency).
- gave a keynote lecture on water and sustainable development at the Materials Research Society’s spring conference in San Francisco, Calif.

Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies Program Co-Director:
- presented on the results of a regional mapping project to assess freight transport hazards in areas prioritized for infill housing development in the San Francisco Bay Area. The regional workshop on strategies to address the community impacts of diesel pollution was sponsored by the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative.
- gave a lecture on the role of participatory action research in cross-movement organizing for environmental justice to the University of California Santa Cruz undergraduate environmental sociology course.
- co-presented with Brian Beveridge from the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project on the Pacific Institute’s participatory research partnerships to document the health and air quality impacts of freight transport operations in West Oakland in a graduate seminar on Community-Based Participatory Research at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

- participated in the 2012 California Equity Summit entitled “California’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model” on April 10, sponsored by the Coalition on Regional Equity.


Matthew Heberger, Research Associate: 
- pres
ented “Is Water Enough?” at the Engineers Without Borders 2012 International Conference. He discussed some of the latest developments in the WASH sector, the importance of including sanitation and hygiene in water projects, and how traditional assistance to build water systems in the developing world has not always led to improved health and well-being. View his presentation here

Upcoming Events

- On April 26, Catalina Garzón will participate in the 2012 State of the Region event sponsored by Urban Habitat. The all-day event, which will take place at the California Endowment’s Oakland Conference Center at 1111 Broadway, 7th Floor, is open to the public. Register online here.   


- On April 27, Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith will address the American Water Works Association’s Colorado section, presenting “Drought Impacts: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future.”

- On April 29,
Dr. Veena SrinivasanInternational Water and Communities Initiative senior research affiliate, will give the closing keynote address at the Center on Rights Development’s (CORD) 13th Annual Human Rights Symposium, “Dying of Thirst: The Right to Water in a Globalized World,” at the University of Denver. The symposium will be held at the Sié Cheou-Kang Center, Room 150, inside Ben M. Cherrington Hall, 2201 S. Gaylord St. The event is free when you register in advance, and $5 at the door. For more information and to register for the event, click here.

In the News 


- Senior Research Associate Michael Cohen spoke with the Albuquerque Journal’s John Fleck about Western water, noting that despite the dry climate and dwindling water supplies, it is possible for cities in the western United States to learn to live within their means. Read more about how Albuquerque was able to cut its per capita demand by 40% from 1994 to 2011, so that Albuquerque now uses 25% less water than it did in 1994 despite population growth of almost 200,000 people.

- Marc Dadigan from Redding.com writes about the Pacific Institute’s collaborative project with the Winnemem Wintu tribe and DataCenter to use GPS mapping to teach future generations of Winnemem Wintus and protect their sacred sites from the proposed Shasta Dam raise. Read more.

- Central Valley Business Times covers the Pacific Institute inaugural Farm Water Steward Award, given to John Stephens for improving the water quality, drainage, and wildlife habitat on his property by restoring Willow Slough, which runs through his Oakdale Ranch. Read more.

- The Sacramento Bee published an Op Ed by Senior Research Associate Dr. Newsha Ajami and Dr. John Bredehoeft of the Hydrodynamics Group on the critical flaws and limitations of the Cadiz groundwater project and the importance of the state having groundwater policy to protect this public resource. Read more.

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