December 2012 Online Update 
Celebrating 25 Years 

Our 25th Anniversary year marks another year of growth and success for the Pacific Institute. Our reports have been downloaded almost 2 million times in 2012, and we continue to be a leader and voice in sustainable water resource management, climate change, economic and environmental justice, the human right to water, and more. We want to thank you for your continued support that has made Pacific Institute reach these successful milestones over the years. From all of us at the Pacific Institute, we wish you happy holidays and a wonderful new year.

New Analysis on Costs and Financing of Seawater Desalination in California

Interest in seawater desalination remains high in California and many agencies continue to conduct technical and environmental studies and pilot projects to determine whether to develop full-scale facilities. New research from the Pacific Institute,
Key Issues for Seawater Desalination in California: Cost and Financing, assesses desalination costs, financing, and risks associated with desalination projects. The analysis finds that the cost to produce water from a desalination plant is high but subject to significant variability, with recent estimates for plants proposed in the state ranging from $1,900 to more than $3,000 per acre-foot.

Seawater desalination remains among the most expensive water-supply options available, although the public and decision-makers must exercise caution when comparing costs among different projects,” said Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute Water Program and lead author of the report. “In some cases, costs are reported in ways that are not directly comparable.”

Since its release, the report has been featured in 60 publications and blogs including the Associated Press,
Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The San Jose Mercury News, The San Francisco Chronicle, CBS, and the San Diego Union Tribune.

Key Issues for Seawater Desalination in California: Cost and Financing
is second of a series of research reports in progress that identify key outstanding issues that must be addressed before additional proposals for new seawater desalination projects in California are approved. The first updated the proposed plants in California. Other issues that will be addressed in 2013 include the environmental impacts of seawater desalination and energy requirements and their greenhouse gas implications.  

Read the report.
Read the
Executive Summary


Blogs by Peter Gleick  



SlideShare: Communications Framing for Sustainability Standards
Water: Innovating for the Essential Resource,
Commonwealth Club podcast with Peter Gleick, President

Last Call at the Oasis, In Deep with Angie Coiro (podcast) featuring Peter Gleick, President


What's Your Water 'Footprint'?, Featuring Water Program Co-director Heather Cooley
What’s Your Water ‘Footprint’?, featuring Water Program Co-director Heather Cooley



What is a Sustainability Standard?
“What is a Sustainability Standard?,” from ISEAL Alliance
Sustainability Standards - What's Inside?
“Sustainability Standards – What’s Inside?,” from ISEAL Alliance



Pacific Institute Releases First Assessment of California’s Water Footprint

The Pacific Institute has released the first comprehensive assessment of California’s water footprint, providing an important perspective on the interconnections between everyday activities and impacts to water resources – both at home and around the world.

The new report, California’s Water Footprint, analyzes the state’s water footprint – that is the amount of water required to produce the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the beverages we drink, and the other goods on which we rely. The water footprint of the average Californian is 1,500 gallons per day, slightly less than the average American but considerably more than the average resident in other developed countries or in the rest of the world.


“As pressures on water resources intensify, evaluating our impact on the world’s water resources becomes increasingly important; the water footprint is one way to quantify this impact,” said Julian Fulton, lead author of the report. “Most of California’s water footprint is external, meaning that Californians are more dependent on water resources from other places than in-state.”

For more information and water facts on California’s water footprint, click here.

Read the report.
Read the
Executive Summary.

Two New Websites Make the Case for Sustainability Standards Systems


Credibility in Claims and Labelling
Watch a video on Credibility in Claims and Labelling

The Pacific Institute and its collaborators, the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, the ISEAL Alliance, OneWorldStandards, and Real Reason, have launched Framing Sustainability Standards and Sustainability Standards 101 – two new websites that use “framing” to demystify key concepts and issues related to sustainability standards. By talking about social and environmental standards in straightforward ways with engaging illustrations that define the issues, the new web tools help communicate to the layperson the unique role and value of sustainability standards systems in furthering sustainable development.


The Sustainability Standards 101 website showcases how framing can be used to talk about standards and houses resources delving into standards, including a series of videos developed by the ISEAL Alliance. The complementary Framing Sustainability Standards site is a platform of tools and reports to highlight the major issue areas facing the standards community and to offer an initial unifying narrative to help practitioners communicate about sustainability standards more effectively to civil society, policy makers, businesses, and the general public.


“A key point that comes through this work is the importance of better understanding the role of standards systems in supporting good public governance and policy setting,” said Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute Globalization Program. “Governments must lead the way, but business, civil society, and communities can all be part of the solution and democratically participate in defining standards for good social and environmental practices of businesses in order to further sustainable development objectives.”


Read more.
Visit the
Sustainability Standards 101 website.
Visit the
Framing Sustainability Standards website.

U.S. and Mexico Sign Historic Agreement Guaranteeing Water for the Colorado River Delta


On November 20, U.S. and Mexican commissioners of a binational agency that manages water crossing the border signed the historic Minute 319 an amendment to the 1944 treaty that allocates Colorado River water to Mexico. This new agreement, for the first time ever, guarantees that some water will flow in the usually-dry Colorado River channel that marks the boundary between Baja California and Arizona.

“We’ve been working for more than 15 years to get water back in the river; this remarkable achievement is a huge step forward for the embattled Colorado River delta,” said Michael Cohen, senior associate at the Pacific Institute and author of major research on the sustainable use of the Colorado River water. “It is incredibly satisfying to think that the dedicated efforts of so many people, over so many years, have led to this historic moment. It is a long overdue end to the incredibly destructive 20th Century notion that not a drop should be left instream.”

The new agreement signals a new era of cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico and milestone in the two countries’ recognition of the environmental value of water left to flow in the Colorado River. Legally dedicating a significant volume of water to nature helps to strike a long-overdue balance between water for agriculture, cities, and the delta environment.

The U.S. Department of the Interior and seven Colorado River basin states have also released a study this month that looks at water supply and demand over the next 50 years, and includes range of proposed strategies from stakeholders to mitigate projected imbalances.

Read more about the U.S. and Mexico amendment signing.
Read the
study released by the U.S. Department of the Interior and seven basin states.
Read more about the
Colorado River.
Read Bloomberg’s coverage of the Minute 319 signing

Over 60 Projects Posted on New “Water Action Hub”


Organizations from around the world have added 66 projects to the CEO Water Mandate’s ‘Water Action Hub‘ since it was launched in August 2012 — surpassing internal expectations and reinforcing the need for an international platform to showcase water stewardship initiatives and ‘match-make’ organizations on collective-action projects within specific river basins. The Water Action Hub was developed by the CEO Water Mandate in partnership with the Pacific Institute, Deloitte, the International Business Leaders Forum,and GIZ, on behalf of BMZ (German Federal Ministry for Economic Development Cooperation).


The projects span virtually all continents and are being led by or involve a range of stakeholders — including businesses, civil society organizations, and public authorities. The projects focus on issues as diverse as improving water governance within a specific watershed, restoring ecosystems, improving access to water and sanitation within a community, and raising awareness on the importance of water conservation. The projects encompass numerous river basins around the world, including the Colorado; Amazon; Orange-Senqu; and Yangtze.


“We are extremely encouraged that the Water Action Hub is generating so much interest in just its initial launch phase,” said Gavin Power, deputy director of the UN Global Compact and head of the CEO Water Mandate. “Our hope is that more and more stakeholders around the world will utilize the Hub and invite other organizations to engage with them on meaningful, high-impact projects and initiatives in river basins where needs are the greatest.”


Read more on the new projects.
Visit the
Water Action Hub.

Pacific Institute Supports Coalition Efforts to Implement Oakland’s Energy and Climate Action Plan


On December 4, the Oakland City Council voted to adopt the Energy and Climate Action Plan based on the recommendations of city staff and public comments received from Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) members. The adoption of the plan is a key step in ensuring that those communities most vulnerable to local climate change impacts in Oakland are engaged in and benefit from the policies and resources being put in place to address climate change locally. Since 2010, the Pacific Institute has co-chaired the OCAC Resilience and Adaptation Subcommittee, whose work focuses on advancing social equity in the development and implementation of the City of Oakland’s Energy and Climate Action Plan. The Pacific Institute worked with coalition members to research and develop recommendations for adaptation measures that were included in the recently adopted plan as part of our Resilient Roots Project. The goal of Resilient Roots is to connect Oakland residents to the resources and capacity they need to take individual and collective action to build their resiliency to local climate impacts and to engage in climate adaptation planning efforts to better prepare and protect their communities from these impacts. For more information about our Resilient Roots Project, please contact Program Co-Director Catalina Garzón at or at (510) 251-1600 x108.

Salazar Visits Salton Sea, Promises Support  
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar toured the Salton Sea on December 14 at the invitation of California Senator Barbara Boxer, and the Pacific Institute’s Michel Cohen was among the experts there to discuss the future of the beleaguered Sea. The Imperial Valley Press reports:  

What some described as historic may finally be happening: momentum in Washington toward restoration of the Salton Sea may be building. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has pledged to work with local agencies to help restore the troubled body of water.

“I just pledge to all of you on behalf of President Obama and his administration the full support for moving forward and finding real solutions to the challenges that we face,” Salazar announced Friday while visiting the Salton Sea.

“Secretary Salazar’s commitment to find funding for the important Red Hill Bay project is a great start,” said Mr. Cohen. “This could provide the  leadership and focus the Salton Sea desperately needs – it’s a great way to start the holidays, and is a wonderful complement to the Secretary’s work on Minute 319.”

The Pacific Institute has been working on Salton Sea issues for almost 15 years, and our reports on the Sea have been downloaded nearly 200,000 times.

Read more about the Salton Sea.
Read the report: HAZARD: The Future of the Salton Sea with No Restoration Project (2006).

Report from Circle of Blue   

AWS BAnner
of Blue, an affiliate of the Pacific Institute, is the international network of journalists, scholars, and citizens that connects humanity to the global freshwater crisis.



A farm worker tends irrigation canals in the state of Punjab, India. Photo: ©2012 J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

Circle of Blue teams are on the ground in India doing initial reporting for Choke Point: India, in-depth coverage of the country’s escalating water, food, and energy challenges. As farmers drill deeper wells into declining aquifers to feed their thirsty irrigation systems, local and national government officials grapple with the complexities of a system strained by politics, tradition, and the drive to produce more and more crops. Choke Point: India is part of Global Choke Point, an ongoing Circle of Blue series about the world’s most vulnerable regions. It is produced in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Program and China Environment Forum. Through frontline reporting, Global Choke Point is finding new and powerful evidence of a ruinous confrontation between water, food, energy, and climate that is visible around the world and is virtually certain to grow more dire over the next decade.

In Brief  


Pacific Institute Presents at American Geophysical Union
Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick, Senior Research Associate Dr. Newsha Ajami, and Research Affiliate Julian Fulton attended the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting this month. Dr. Gleick attended the “Unsolved and Emerging Problems in Water” Session and gave the talk “Hard Water Problems and Soft Water Paths: The ‘Supply Versus Demand’ Conundrum.” Dr. Newsha Ajami presented “Rethinking Global Water Governance for the 21st Century,” and Julian Fulton presented a
poster on water footprint usefulness as a sustainability indicator. The related report California’s Water Footprint was also published this month; Mr. Fulton was the lead author.


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:

Heather Cooley,

Water Program Co-Director:
- attended the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC) board meeting and planning workshop to discuss CUWCC priorities and activities in 2013.

Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Co-Director, and  Ariana de Leña, Popular Education Associate:
- attended the California Asthma Research Summit, a biannual convening of asthma researchers held at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.


Peter Gleick, President:
- spoke at a State Water Resource Board hearing on key priorities for more efficient water management.
- participated on a panel discussion titled “
Water: Innovating for the Essential Resource” at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
- presented and gave a talk at the University of California – Irvine Conference on Water in the Middle East.
- d
iscussed the future of water challenges and suggestions for moving toward a more equitable and sustainable future for SPUR. View presentations from this talk.
- spoke on “
The Science and Ethics of 21st Century Climate and Water Challenges” at the
Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion & Public Life at the University of California – Santa Barbara.


Upcoming Events


- Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate, will be moderating a panel at the “Introduction to Budget-Based Water Rates” forum on January 15 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. in the Redwood City Council Chambers. The panel of leading experts will focus on the varying structures of budget-based water rates around the state and will evaluate the pros and cons of each. Other topics will include specific case studies, strategies on presenting the program to decision makers for buy-in, tips on educating your customers, and lessons learned.

The event is free to attend and open to the public. To learn more and obtain tickets, go to


- Dr. Christian-Smith will also be presenting on the Urban Water Demand in 2100 report at East Bay MUD’s Engineers’ Forum on Monday, January 28 at 12:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

- Dr. Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley, Water Program co-directors, will be attending the International Water Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on January 15-17. Dr. Gleick will participate in the interview session “Assessing the Impact of Demand Side Management on Sustainability” and speak at the workshop “Future Challenges Affecting Water Availability.” He will also be part of the closing panel to sum up the conference meetings. Ms. Cooley will present at the workshop “Global Institutional Cooperation for Enhancing Water Governance.” For more information and to register, go to

In the News

- Our new report, Key Issues for Seawater Desalination in California: Cost and Financing, was featured in 60 publications last month including the Associated Press, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The San Jose Mercury News, The San Francisco Chronicle, CBS, and the San Diego Union Tribune  

- Bettina Boxall of The Los Angeles Times spoke with Water Program Co-director Heather Cooley on California’s water footprint in this article.


- The Los Angeles Times also spoke with Michael Cohen, Colorado River expert and senior research associate, on meeting future water demands for the Colorado River basin. Read more

- Bloomberg’s Justin Doom also spoke with Mr. Cohen on the Minute 319 signing – a historic amendment that allocates Colorado River water to Mexico. Read it here.



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