December 2013 Online Update  

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Pacific Institute!


As another year draws to a close, we send you our sincere thanks for your support and our best wishes for a safe, healthy, and sustainable New Year.


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From the
Pacific Institute Insights Blog 


Applying Energy Efficiency Strategies to Water

As a dry December accentuates the stress on California’s limited water supplies, the success of the state’s energy sector in implementing efficiency programs offers valuable lessons to the water sector. A new report from the Pacific Institute, Energizing Water Efficiency in California, examines the rules, regulations, and policies that promote energy efficiency and finds models for water management in drivers like the energy sector’s appliance standards, building codes, pricing policies, and utility-sponsored efficiency programs.

California has made remarkable improvements in energy efficiency over the last several decades and is recognized as a national leader. The state has also made major advances in water conservation and efficiency. Many urban areas across the state, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, are serving a larger population with the same or even less water than 20 years ago. But with increasing pressure on water supply from population and economic growth, the need to restore freshwater ecosystems, and climate change, greater water conservation and efficiency are essential.

“Reductions in per-capita water demand have been driven first by a shift to a less water-intensive service-oriented economy, and second by federal, state, and local policies as well as utility programs facilitating water-efficiency improvements,” said Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute Water Program. “We must examine new approaches for achieving even greater savings to address the water challenges we now face.”


Read more.


Download the full report.

Key Issues in Seawater Desalination in California: Marine Impacts

Desalination has environmental impacts that must be understood and mitigated. A new report from the Pacific Institute’s Key Issues in Seawater Desalination in California series examines effects on the marine environment associated with the construction and long-term operation of seawater desalination plants, including withdrawing water from the ocean and discharging the highly concentrated brine.


Modern reverse-osmosis desalination plants, such as those planned or proposed on the California coast, take in large volumes of seawater and pass it through fine-pored membranes to separate freshwater from salt. The highly concentrated brine is then typically disposed of back into the ocean. With the majority of desalination plants extracting water directly through open water intakes, there is a direct impact on marine life. Fish and other marine organisms are killed on the intake screens (impingement); organisms small enough to pass through, such as plankton, fish eggs, and larvae, are killed during processing of the salt water (entrainment). The impacts on the marine environment, even for a single desalination plant, may be subject to daily, seasonal, annual, and even decadal variation, and are likely to be species- and site-specific.


“If and when we build plants in California, we must ensure that the plants are built to the highest standards given what we know now,” said lead author Heather Cooley. “Additionally, monitoring of existing and proposed desalination plants is crucial to improving our understanding of the sensitivity of the marine environment and helping promote more effective operation and design to minimize ecological and biological impacts in the future.”


Read more.


Download the full report.

New Study Explores Stable and Sustainable Water Financing Options in California

California’s social and economic well-being is directly tied to financing for reliable, sustainable water. A new study from the Pacific Institute explores stable and sustainable sources of funding for water projects as a key to long-term solutions, and finds California’s increased dependence on general obligation (GO) bonds in funding water systems is unreliable and costly to both the state and taxpayers.


The report, Beyond Water Pricing: An Overview of Water Financing Options in California, reviews the some of the major local, regional, and statewide water financing options in California, variations of which many water utilities are already employing, including municipal bonds, state revolving funds, public-private partnerships, and public benefit funds.


“Each of the financing options has its challenges, and different water systems of different sizes have different needs,” said Dr. Newsha Ajami. “For example, despite much agreement on the need for more stable funding sources for water improvements, there has been strong opposition to the idea of a state-run public benefit fund for water. California needs to continue to further explore more innovative sources of funding to finance urgently needed water projects, such as revolving loan programs for water efficiency and conservation projects, on-bill financing, and public-private partnerships.”


Read more.


Download the full report.

CEO Water Mandate Featured in The Economist

The CEO Water Mandate was featured this month in The Economist article “Philanthropy Meets the Market,” which looks at the increase in the number of companies involved in addressing the world’s water and sanitation needs. According to The Economist piece, co-authored by Matt Damon and Gary White, co-founders of, part of this increase has come from companies pledging large sums to water charities like theirs working in developing contries around the world. But beyond donations, companies are becoming more aware of the need to be responsible with their own water use, leading to an influx in corporations committing to water stewardship platforms such as the CEO Water Mandate.


The article states: “So far, 93 multinational corporations have committed to the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, a public-private partnership to advance water sustainability – an exponential increase from the original six signatories in 2007. As more business leaders recognize pressures related to water availability on their supply chains and profits, they are growing more aware of the impact of irresponsible water use on ‘intangible’ business value such as reputation, brand, and customer relations.”


Read the article here.


To learn more about the CEO Water Mandate, sign up for the mailing list here.

  The CEO Water Mandate is an issue platform of the United Nation Global Compact that brings together companies, government agencies, civil society, academia, and others for the development, implementation, and disclosure of corporate water sustainability policies and practices. The Pacific Institute serves as part of the Mandate Secretariat and acts as its operational arm.

How to Engage the Private Sector in Water Stewardship and Create Strong Partnerships

This blog post by the Pacific Institute’s Jason Morrison, who serves as Technical Director of the CEO Water Mandate, originally appeared on Sanitation and Water for All. Read his full blog post here


The CEO Water Mandate joined the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership because, increasingly, companies are looking more broadly at how they engage externally with water-related issues, both at the facility and global levels.



Engagement in the CEO Water Mandate has benefited many companies, but broader coordination at the global and national levels can help the business community understand how to engage further and be even more cost effective and strategic. This is where Sanitation and Water for All comes in. A lot of global water institutions and initiatives in not just WASH [Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene], but also education, ecosystem services, and other fields, are asking what it looks like to engage the private sector. The flipside of that coin is being asked too. How do we engage with the business sector and figure out what good partnership looks like? I have been tasked with exploring this emerging engagement landscape for the CEO Water Mandate.


This engagement opportunity links strongly to the emerging paradigm of corporate sustainability, seen by many as the next and by far more meaningful iteration of corporate social responsibility, if you will. Companies are moving from sustainability as philanthropy to sustainability as integral part of business. One of the tenets of good corporate sustainability is that companies align programmes and goal setting with public policy priorities and strategic direction.


Read the full blog post

Corporate Sustainability Program Launches Online Survey for US-Based Companies on Water Practices


Representatives from US-based companies are encouraged to participate in an important online survey, jointly administered by the Pacific Institute and VOX Global, meant to better understand US business perspectives on the water-related challenges businesses face here in the States and how they are going about addressing them. The findings of this online survey will be captured in a synthesis report to be released in the first quarter of 2014 that will help shed light on these important issues.


To access this survey, companies are invited to go to: For those businesses with fledgling water management practices, the survey will be quite short, perhaps 5-10 minutes. For those with more advanced water strategies and programs, it may take between 20-30 minutes.


While the results of this study will be released publicly, all data will be released in the aggregate, and individual responses are strictly confidential and will not be shared with others. Data provided in the surveys will not be used to rate, rank, or critique individual companies. Participation in this survey does not imply a solicitation or an agreement to collaborate or engage with the project organizations. For participating in this survey the project team will provide survey respondents with a copy of the final report before it is publicly released.  


You are invited and encouraged to complete the survey now! However, if you’d first like to know more about this project, the project team at VOX Global and Pacific Institute is available to discuss it via email or phone. If so, feel free to contact Peter Schulte ( with any questions or comments.

Report from Circle of Blue   

circle of blueCircle 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.


Ruth Marlena is an elder in El Pozon, a poor community near Cartagena, Colombia. Safe drinking water and sanitation are in short supply, but she and her neighbors are working with local and regional organizations to bring basic services to their homes.

Circle of Blue teams have been on the road, expanding their coverage of the “global choke points,” the competition between water, food, and energy in a changing climate. Keith Schneider, senior editor, and photojournalist Dhrurv Malhotra are on assignment in India where they are reporting on coal production and water used for energy. J. Carl Ganter, managing director, participated in a Rockefeller Foundation session in Bellagio, Italy that explored how the world can better value its ecosystems. Besides further field reporting in November, Ganter was keynote speaker at the Arup annual conference in Hong Kong and a panelist for the Inter-American Development Bank “Creating Shared Values” workshop in Colombia.


Milena Morano is a social worker in El Pozon, Colombia. Her goal is to help bring 4,000 homes basic water and sanitation services.
A typical home in New Horizons, a small area in El Pozon. Because of need, and very poor conditions, they qualified for a toilet and a water connection.


In Brief

Michael Cohen, Water Program Senior Research Associate:

- presented on the future of the Salton Sea and the need for decisive action at the 5th Annual Imperial Valley Environmental Health Leadership Summit at Imperial Valley College.

- presented “Bridging the Water Supply-Demand Imbalance in the Colorado River Basin” at the AAAS-SWARM meeting on “Adapting to a Water-stressed West” in Tempe, Arizona.


Kristina Donnelly, Water Program Research Associate:

- attended a two-day workshop on market-based incentives for watershed management in Cape Town, South Africa on December 11-12. The event was organized by the United Nations Environment Programme and the University of Cape Town.


Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Director:

- gave a brief presentation on the Pacific Institute’s Resilient Roots Project at the Public Health Institute’s “Creating a Climate for Change” Convening on Wednesday December 11 at the California Endowment in Oakland.

- the Community Strategies Program partnered with the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative (DDDC) and the Environmental Health Committee of the Black Coalition on AIDS on a transportation, land use, and community health workshop in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

Upcoming Events

- On Wednesday, January 15, Michael Cohen of the Water Program will participate in an open forum with invited water professionals, students, and the public at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, including a showing of Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West.

In the News

David Rosenfeld from DC Bureau spoke with Heather Cooley about the cost of desalination in California. Read it here.


Peter Gleick spoke on Valley Public Radio about the need to have more information on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Listen to it here.


News Wise wrote about the AAAS SWARM water forum and quoted Michael Cohen about projected water shortages in Arizona. Read it here.


John Fowler from KTVU interviewed Peter Gleick about the USGS announcement on 1200 square miles of California sinking in the Central Valley due to unsustainable water use. Read and watch it here.


The Guardian quoted Jason Morrison, director of the Institute’s Corporate Sustainability Program, on the need for companies to be inclusive and transparent with their water use. Read it here.  


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