Online Updates: December 2010 Online Update

Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy Released

responsible_business_engagement_cover.jpgWith water issues among the world’s most critical sustainability challenges, businesses are facing increasing water-related risk to their operations. The just-released Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy from the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate provides strategies for companies to turn risk into opportunity by advocating for water management approaches that meet the needs of business, communities, and nature.


“The bottom line is that what is good for communities, for public water management, and for the environment is also in the best interest of companies working to ensure their access to water in the long term,” said Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute’s Globalization Program and coauthor of the Guide. “With increased threats to the supply, quality, and reliability of water resources, companies cannot reduce their risk through changes in internal management alone.”


The Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy, drafted by the Pacific Institute in its capacity as the “operational arm” of the CEO Water Mandate, helps redefine the way businesses respond to water challenges, focusing on the shared interests between the public and private sectors.


The Guide outlines five principles for responsible business engagement with water policy: a genuine interest in efficient, equitable, and ecologically sustainable water management; a clear division of public and private sector roles, with businesses supporting the government’s mandate; inclusiveness and meaningful partnership; recognition of the connections between water and other policy arenas; and corporate transparency and accountability for their actions. 

Read the Guide here

Potential of Greywater Reuse Presented at Greywater Alliance Roundtable



greywater_cover_small.jpgThe Pacific Institute’s new report, Overview of Greywater Reuse: the Potential of Greywater Systems to Aid Sustainable Water Management, analyzes how, as a key strategy that reduces demand, greywater reuse can improve the resilience of water systems to the impacts of climate change. Released at the November Greywater Alliance Roundtable ( in Oakland, Calif., the report examines the state of greywater implementation and policy internationally and discusses challenges that must be addressed for greywater reuse to be accepted and implemented effectively at larger scales.


“Greywater reuse is part of an important paradigm shift in how we manage water, toward a more rational approach where we match the quality of water to the need,” said Meena Palaniappan, director of the Pacific Institute International Water and Communities Initiative and coauthor of the report. “By reusing greywater in the home for watering landscapes or flushing toilets, we can reduce the use of high quality, expensive, and energy-intensive drinking water for those purposes.”


Read the report here.

Read the LA Times article on the Greywater Report.


Peter Gleick Testifies to Congress on Climate Change Happening Faster than Predicted


Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick testified at the December 1 hearing of the Congressional Select Committee on Energy and Global Warming in Washington, D.C. that there is growing evidence from the real world that climate changes are accelerating faster than originally feared and that impacts — already appearing — will be more widespread and severe than expected. This makes the arguments against taking actions against climate change not just wrong, but dangerous.


Dr. Gleick addressed America’s ongoing struggle to deal with increasingly severe climate challenges and the risks and opportunity those challenges pose for the nation’s energy and economic security, and he offered effective strategies that can be done immediately with a focus on energy, land-use, and water policy.


 “Every major international scientific organization working in the areas of geophysics, climate, geology, biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, atmospheric sciences, and meteorology agrees that humans are changing the climate,” Gleick testified. “Ignoring the massive weight of this consensus is irresponsible.”

Read Dr. Gleick’s testimony here.


Pacific Institute Helps Convene CEO Water Mandate Meetings in South Africa 

The Pacific Institute helped convene a series of meetings for the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate in November in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference focused on business engagement in water policy, a strategy based on the notion that while common water problems pose risks to business, society, and governments, joint efforts to reduce risks can emerge through common understanding and solutions. As such, shared risk provides a strong argument for key stakeholders to cooperate and collaborate to promote sustainable water management. This was the major theme at the recent working conference, where more than 100 leaders from business, finance, government, civil society, the United Nations, and other interests gathered to discuss moving from shared risks to “shared action.” Key outcomes included decisions for the CEO Water Mandate to:

·         Actively enable and facilitate endorsing company pilot testing of sustainable water practices on the ground and/or endorser collective action opportunities;

·         Develop operational guidance on how businesses can respect the human right to water and sanitation;

·         Develop a corporate water disclosure framework, including guidance for aligning water disclosure with stakeholders’ information needs; and

·         Add four advisory members to the Mandate Steering Committee as a means of providing the initiative’s governing body a diversity of perspectives and improved strategic direction.

A detailed summary of the discussion and outcomes from the Cape Town meetings will be released in the coming weeks on the CEO Water Mandate website.


Read more about the CEO Water Mandate here.

Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Celebrates 15th Anniversary


15th_anniversary_group_pic.jpgThe Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program (CSSJ) celebrated its 15th anniversary on November 18 with a coming-of-age party that honored the people and community partners that have enriched the program’s endeavors over the years. Friends, family, and partner organizations and coalitions gathered for the Quinceañera festivities to celebrate the work CSSJ has done to build community power that creates and sustains healthy neighborhood environments.

Since 1995, CSSJ has worked to overcome the common root causes to economic, environmental, and community health challenges in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color through action research that advances innovative, cross-cutting solutions developed by impacted residents. Major research projects with publications have led to and supported numerous community environmental health and justice victories, including the closure of one of the Bay Area’s top air polluters (Red Star Yeast), the re-routing of diesel trucks out of residential neighborhoods in West Oakland, and the passage of a local measure to increase the share of revenues for public benefit that are collected from businesses in Richmond, including the Chevron refinery.

CSSJ works with community-based organizations and coalitions in long-term strategic partnerships and shorter tactical alliances focused on research, advocacy and/or environmental justice.

photo: CSSJ Staff (l to r): Eli Moore, Catalina Garzón, Ariana de Leña, Eyal Matalon


Read more about CSSJ.


Pacific Institute Board Member Awarded Purpose Prize for Environmental Work


margaret_gordon.jpgPacific Institute Board Member Margaret Gordon was awarded for her activism and significant work to protect West Oakland’s air quality with the prestigious Civic Ventures Purpose Prize, a $100,000 award that honors work done by people over the age of 60 who make a social impact on the lives of others. Ms. Gordon has been a pioneer in community-level research on pollution and air quality for more than a decade.

Ms. Gordon began working as a volunteer with the Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program to conduct research on the links between her community’s health issues and the industrial activity around the Port of Oakland. “We started getting into what were the root causes, why people were sick, why we had these high numbers,” she said.


Since then, she has become one of West Oakland’s most influential environmental advocates. We had the opportunity to interview Ms. Gordon about her work battling industrial pollution and educating people about the health effects on her neighbors and on her plans for the future.

Read the full interview here

Read more about the Purpose Prize here.  


In Brief

- Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate, and Peter Gleick, president, took a tour of the Alta Irrigation District near Fresno, Calif. on November 8 with General Manager Chris Kapheim. Alta was one of the first irrigation districts in the state and converted to volumetric pricing nearly a decade ago.

- Michael Cohen, senior research associate, participated on the “Salton Sea: Dead or Alive?” panel at Association of California Water Agencies’ Fall Conference in Indian Wells where he discussed opportunities for Salton Sea restoration and the recent passage of SB 51, establishing the Salton Sea Restoration Council.


- Heather Cooley, co-director of the Water Program, and Peter Gleick presented the Pacific Institute’s work on climate change and water at a planning workshop for the National Climate Assessment on November 15-17 in Reston, Virginia.

- Heather Cooley participated   on a panel at the UC Berkeley Desalination Conference, Innovation in Desalination: An Answer to Our Water Woes on December 3. The event, organized by the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative, focused on issues in technological and regulatory aspects of seawater desalination. 


- Catalina Garzón, co-director of the Community Strategies Program, participated in a two-day strategy retreat for Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) member organizations on November 11-12. The OCAC is a coalition partner in the Pacific Institute’s research to assess vulnerability to local climate change impacts and potential adaptation options in Oakland.


- Catalina Garzón and Eli Moore, co-directors of the Community Strategies Program, presented on community mapping as a tool for popular education on freight transport issues at the 2010 American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Denver on November 8. Their presentation was part of a panel on using popular arts and education to advance environmental and occupational health and justice organized by John Sullivan of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).


- Eli Moore presented the Institute’s research on community impacts of nitrate-contaminated drinking water in the San Joaquin Valley on November 23 to a UC Davis research group developing a report to the Legislature regarding nitrate in groundwater.


- Eli Moore and Juliet Christian-Smith presented the Institute’s emerging work on water and green jobs to a UC Berkeley graduate class on Sustainable Redevelopment taught by Cecilia Estolano, Chief Strategist on State and Local Initiatives, Green for All.


- Jason Morrison, director of the Globalization Program, attended a consultation in Lisbon, Portugal on November 4-5 organized by Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert focusing on the human right to water and sanitation. The consultation convened private sector actors to discuss examples of good practice on the topic of human right to water. Discussions focused on company practice in the issue and examining the contribution such practices can make to the realization of the human right to water and sanitation.


Upcoming Events


- Heather Cooley, co-director of the Water Program, will present the Institute’s report California’s Next Million Acre-Feet: Saving Water, Energy, And Money at an event hosted by Environment Now on December 8 at 5:30-7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will be held at the Environment Now office building on 2515 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403. RSVP by December 3 to


- Jason Morrison, director of the Globalization Program, will present on corporate water risk and stewardship and the prospect of water policy engagement to serve as a long-term strategy for addressing business water risk at the Ethical Corporation’s Water and Business Conference 2010, Measure and Interpret Your Water Footprint: How to Make Water Reduction Pay, on December 8-9. The conference is in London, UK, at the Regent’s Park Marriott Hotel. For more information, go to:

To register for this event, click here.

In the News


- The Oakland Tribune featured Margaret Gordon, Pacific Institute board member and Port of Oakland Commissioner, for her work battling industrial pollution and educating people about the health effects on her West Oakland neighbors. Gordon was honored with a Purpose Prize, a prestigious award given to social innovators 60 and over. Read the article here.


- Julia Landau from Richmond Confidential interviewed Eli Moore about the Institute’s Safe Return Reintegration Research Project which hires and surveys parolees who return to Contra Costa County, to identify what services they need to stay out of prison. Read the article here.  


- Susan Carpenter from the Los Angeles Times “Greenspace” blog interviewed Juliet Christian-Smith on the Institute’s new report on the potential of greywater reuse. Read the article here.


- Peter Gleick spoke with BBC journalist Hamo Forsyth on the enormous and continually growing markets for bottled water. Read the article here


- Jason Morrison spoke with Tanaya Machel from The New York Times/International Herald Tribune about business engagement with water policiy and water footprinting. Read the article here