Online Updates: February/March 2010 Online Update


  March 2010 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-Farm Water Success Stories
-Testimony on Water Savings
-Water and Conflict Chronology
-Climate Change and Transboundary Waters

-New Leadership for Community Strategies

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 Infrastructure, but for Whose Benefit?

-Farm Water Success Stories

-Water Scofflaws: Go Soak Your Heads


California Farm Water Success Stories Show the Way to Sustainable Water Use

Pacific Institute Brings Video and Recommendations to Sacramento Legislative Briefing

With sustainable water policies and practices, innovative farmers and irrigation districts are moving California toward more equitable and efficient water management and use. A new report and video from the Pacific Institute, California Farm Water Success Stories, uses seven case studies to showcase agricultural water use innovations and demonstrate how these alternatives to traditional approaches can help California meet its water management challenges now and into the future.

Lead author Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith and Institute President Peter Gleick presented the results and recommendations from the report and premiered the eight-minute video at a briefing for State legislators, staff, and other water interests in Sacramento on March 3. They were joined by Craig McNamara of Sierra Orchards, one of the featured California growers, as they presented the ways water-use efficiency can help sustain California agriculture.

“Mounting evidence of the effectiveness of farm water conservation and efficiency strategies is good news for policymakers and water managers,” said Dr. Christian-Smith. “Our study demonstrates that long-term sustainable use of water doesn’t require drastic advances in technology or heroic or extraordinary actions. It requires a commitment to sustainability and efficiency and the will to expand positive trends that are already underway.”

The cases in the Pacific Institute report and accompanying video demonstrate diverse strategies that can reduce pressures on scarce water resources, from planning and management practices, technological improvements, and use of recycled water, to quantitative targets and financial incentives. The results are efficient water use or enhanced water quality, increased crop yields or quality, and multiple benefits for other water users, such as providing increased flood protection, drought-resilience, or habitat for wildlife. Integrating practices in these success stories into long-term policy and planning could lead to a very different California — one where efficient, equitable, and sustainable water uses are the norm, rather than the dream.

Click here for the report and video.

Water Efficiency and Conservation Can Save One Million Acre Feet of Water Quickly and Cost-Effectively

Peter Gleick Testifies at U.S. House Water Hearing

Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick’s testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water and Power was clear: effective solutions in conservation and efficiency can save one million acre feet of water quickly and cost-effectively, and 6-8 million acre feet by 2020. Gleick was called for expert testimony at a January hearing in Los Angeles called by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) intended to help California handle its water problems and determine how the federal government can assist.

“Improving the efficiency of our water use is the cheapest, easiest, fastest, and least destructive way to meet California’s current and future water supply needs,” said Dr. Gleick. “Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent call for a 20 percent reduction in water use by 2020 is based on sound science and economics, even if the policies to achieve such savings are not yet in place.” Pacific Institute reports on urban and agricultural water efficiency provide a comprehensive statewide analysis that finds that existing, cost-effective technologies and policies can reduce current state demand for water by 6-8 million acre-feet, or around 20 percent. These findings have been adopted by the California Department of Water Resources in the California Water Plan. And the Pacific Institute is preparing a new assessment of how to save one million acre-feet of water quickly and cost effectively, split 60/40 between agricultural and urban users.

Peter Gleick testified that California must do the most effective things first, and that means expanding thinking about supply away from costly and ineffective new dams and toward the tremendous potential for expanding water supplies through non-traditional approaches of water recycling and reuse, smart desalination, rainwater harvesting, and better conjunctive use of California’s surface and groundwater.

Read Peter Gleick’s testimony.

Interactive Site Describes and Maps Hundreds of Water Conflicts
Updated Summary Offers Visualizations and Timeline

The Pacific Institute’s fully updated Water and Conflict Chronology catalogs the ways water and conflict are related, from the local to the international. The new searchable table of conflicts at was released in December, augmented with interactive features that illustrate the magnitude of struggles over freshwater issues that have been part of societies’ development for millennia.

“There is a long history of conflict over the world’s scarce freshwater. Identifying and addressing the risks of violence over these resources is critical to understanding how to reduce such risks in the future as populations grow, climates change, and pressures on limited water resources worsen,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute. Dr. Gleick initiated the project in the late 1980s to track and categorize events related to water and conflict, and has been continuously updating it since.

Research Associate Matthew Heberger designed the new Water and Conflict Chronology. “We consistently hear that the Water and Conflict Chronology is one of the most popular features of our book series The World’s Water. We wanted visitors to our website to be able to explore this information in more depth and interact with it in new ways, so we created a set of visualizations or “mashups,” including an interactive map and timeline,” said Mr. Heberger.

Click here for the Water and Conflict Chronology.

New Report Examines Climate Change and Transboundary Waters
New Agreements Needed in Face of Future Pressures

Global climate change will increase the risk of conflict over shared international freshwater resources. Treaties and other cross-border agreements can help reduce those risks, but existing agreements are inadequate for dealing with the impacts of climate change. A new Pacific Institute analysis for the United Nations Environment Programme, Understanding and Reducing the Risks of Climate Change for Transboundary Waters, identifies these growing risks and proposes methods for reducing them.

“Climate changes will inevitably affect water resources around the world, altering water availability, quality, and the management of infrastructure,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute. “New disputes are already arising in transboundary watersheds and are likely to become more common. The existing agreements and international principles for sharing water will not adequately handle the strain of future pressures, particularly those caused by climate change.”

Water disputes are generally resolved diplomatically, and shared water resources are often a source of cooperation and negotiation. An estimated 300 agreements have been developed between States that border a shared river. But there is also a long history of violence associated with transboundary waters that highlights the challenges associated with managing shared water resources (see the Pacific Institute’s Water and Conflict Chronology). Climate change will only make these problems worse.

With most of the available freshwater of the Earth crossing political borders and 40% of the world’s population relying on these shared resources, transboundary agreements are needed now more than ever. But the new analysis suggests that new forms and international arrangements are needed and old agreements may need to be renegotiated in the context of a changing climate.

Read the report.

New Co-Directors for Community Strategies Program

Catalina Garzón and Eli Moore are the new acting co-directors of the Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice (CSSJ) Program. They succeed Swati Prakash, who served four event-filled years as director of CSSJ and launched a new strategic plan last year, bringing the program to a new level.

Ms. Garzón has been with the Pacific Institute since 2003, leading CSSJ leadership development, popular education workshops, and community-based planning initiatives in Oakland and Richmond. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned an M.A. in City Planning. Mr. Moore joined the Institute in 2007 and has been directing the program’s research, analytical, and community mapping work like the West County Indicators Project and regional freight transport “People’s Map.” He holds an M.A. in Geography and an M.A. in International Relations from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

The acting co-directorship launches a shared leadership model for the program, which will also involve the formation of a Community Advisory Committee to engage community partners and other stakeholders in setting priorities for the program’s future work. The new co-directors are already involved in new participatory research work in the San Joaquin Valley while sustaining the Institute’s local and regional presence in ongoing projects such as assessing the health benefits of quality affordable housing for the Richmond Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) and working with the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative to lend research support to freight transport advocacy efforts.

Learn more about the Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program.

In Brief

Innovations and Challenges in Participatory Mapping

The Institute’s Community Strategies Program co-hosted a January symposium at UC Davis on participatory community mapping for social and environmental justice. The event brought together 40 community leaders, academics, and intermediary organizations to share innovations and challenges facing communities engaged in mapping. Pacific Institute Program Co-Director Eli Moore and Delphine Smith of the Contra Costa Asthma Advocates presented on neighborhood and regional mapping of freight transportation and environmental justice in Richmond and the San Francisco Bay Area. The event was co-sponsored by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equite, and the Pacific Institute. For more information, contact Eli Moore.

Decolonizing the University Conference

The Community Strategies Program and the DataCenter co-facilitated a workshop on “Decolonizing Research” at the Decolonizing the University Conference at UC Berkeley in February. The conference gathered hundreds of students from across the UC and CSU university systems to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Third World Strike that led to the formation of Ethnic Studies Departments at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, and other campuses. Program Co-Director Catalina Garzón co-led the workshop with Miho Althea Kim, executive director of the DataCenter, an Oakland-based nonprofit that provides research support to grassroots organizations working to advance social justice. Fifteen students attended the interactive workshop, which focused on discussing the historical treatment of low-income and communities of color as “research subjects” and on re-imagining the role of researchers in documenting community-generated knowledge to support empowerment and social change.

Juliet Christian-Smith Elected to Agricultural Water Management Council Executive Board

Juliet Christian Smith has been elected to the Executive Board of the Agricultural Water Management Council and has been actively recruiting more Group 2 (environmental interest group) members. The Council is a non-profit organization that brings together all interested parties in agricultural water management with the expressed goal to achieve greater water management efficiency, a unique forum where the agricultural community and environmental interest groups become partners in change.

Institute Researchers Out and About:

Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate, spoke at the California Water Colloquium at UC Berkeley on “The Future of Irrigated Agriculture: Where’s the Water?” The popular lecture series aims to increase the understanding and appreciation among students, faculty, and the general public of water resources and to contribute to informed decisions about water in California. She also participated in the Johnson Foundation Freshwater Summit, where leading national experts discuss critical dimensions of freshwater issues, including the intersection of water quality and supply with agriculture, development, municipal water and wastewater services, and industrial uses.

On March 3 and 4, Dr. Christian-Smith participated in a panel at the California Water Policy Conference in Los Angeles, and was the featured speaker at the conference breakfast. In addition, she continues to work with the Governor’s Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Panel, which had convened in February.

Michael Cohen, senior research associate, appeared as a “Salton Sea Expert” on the television show “Life After People” on the History Channel on February 9. He presented the Institute’s research to date on the “Million Acre-Foot” Project on potential California water savings as part of a panel at the Department of the Interior’s kickoff WaterSMART Conference in Las Vegas on February 24. On March 12, he will discuss the future of the Salton Sea as part of the Water Education Foundation’s Colorado River tour, and on the 24th he will participate in a Salton Sea stakeholders meeting in Palm Desert organized by the California Department of Fish & Game in response to his recommendation.

Heather Cooley, senior research associate, spoke at the January 14 Asia Society Panel, “Global Warming and the Emerging Water Crisis in China and California.” She joined Saleem Ali of the University of Vermont and moderator Richard Drobnick, director of the Center for International Business Education and Research at the USC Marshall School of Business, to discuss the dimensions of the water crisis in California and China today, with issues of population growth, urbanization, pollution, and inadequate infrastructure and climate change impacts.

On March 3, Ms. Cooley presented results from the sea-level-rise analysis at the City of Oakland Environmental Lecture series. She discussed the “20% by 2020″ water conservation requirement at the California Water Policy Conference in Los Angeles, California on March 4. She will be in Santa Cruz, California on March 18 to address a community meeting on seawater desalination.

Catalina Garzón, CSSJ Program co-director, and Eyal Matalon, research associate, attended a February statewide convening in Fresno of community groups and allied organizations working on freight transport issues, hosted by The California Endowment.

Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, started a busy 2010 with his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water and Power (see Water Efficiency and Conservation story, above). On February 1 he addressed the California Irrigation Institute panel at their annual meeting in Sacramento, and on the 3rd he spoke at San Francisco’s World Affairs Council on the topic “From Peak Oil to Peak Water: The Impending World Water Crisis.” On February 9, he lectured on peak water and global challenges at Columbia University, and the next week delivered the Conradin von Gugelberg Memorial Lecture on the Environment at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business on “Peak Water and Solutions to the World’s Water Problems.” At Stanford, Dr. Gleick also gave a presentation on the Institute’s work on water-use efficiency. He wrapped up February by providing the keynote address at the 15th Water Conservation/Xeriscape Conference in Albuquerque.

In March, Dr. Gleick participated in a Carpe Diem conference on Water, Energy, and Climate Change, an initiative that brings together a network of experts and decision makers dedicated to addressing the impacts of climate change on water resources in the American West. This week he is speaking at CERAWeek in Houston, a leading forum offering insight into the energy future. (Look for next month’s Online Update for details from Dr. Gleick’s upcoming work with NASA’s LAUNCH program for water innovators and his presentation at U.N. World Water Week, March 22, in Nairobi!)

Matthew Heberger, research associate, gave a well-received talk to the First Friday Forum at Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church on “California Water: Crisis or Crossroads.” On February 18, he participated in the California Water Forum at the Hayward Democratic Club, on the topic, “Managing California’s Water Resources in the 21st Century.”  Mr. Heberger participated in the UC Berkeley Energy Symposium on the Water-Energy Panel moderated by Berkeley Law professor Steve Weissman, and also gave a presentation and answered questions during the session “Satisfying Water Demand in the Heat of Climate Change.” On March 23, he will be giving a talk at the 2010 Water Conservation Showcase, sponsored by Pacific Gas & Electric, at the Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco.

Eli Moore, Community Strategies Program co-director, presented on freight transport and community health for staff at the Alameda County Department of Public Health in February.

Jason Morrison, director of the Institute’s Globalization Program, presented a comprehensive framework for corporate engagement on water-related public policy issues at the Corporate Water Footprinting conference in San Francisco. His presentation, which reflected a status update on a major workstream of the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, was followed by a discussion panel that covered a range of issues including the appropriate role of business in water policy, the business rationale, and the risks and opportunities associated with engagement.

Mr. Morrison also participated in a Board of Directors meeting of the Alliance for Water Stewardship, a multi-year initiative to develop a standards-based certification program for water. Among other issues, the Board scoped and choreographed the global roundtable process where the standards will be developed, and mapped the relationship of the global roundtable to emerging regional water stewardship efforts.