July 2011 Online Update

Research for People and the Planet  

In This Issue
- Colorado River Basin Water Municipal Use
- Op-ed: What Really Happened During Drought?
- Community Strategies Workshops
- Alliance for Water Stewardship Grows
- Notes from the Field
- Stewardship Strategies for Ag Water Use
- Op-ed: Climate Change Truth
- Circle of Blue Updates

Check Out
Peter Gleick’s Blogs


Misuse of Food and Climate Data at Forbes


 What Do You Know? Water Conservation and Efficiency Actually Work

 When Beliefs Conflict with Facts: Rep. Jim Costa and the California Drought   

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New Report Analyzes Municipal Use of Water from the Colorado River Basin


Colorado River ReportThe Pacific Institute has released Municipal Deliveries of Colorado River Basin Water, which documents population and water delivery information and trends for 100 cities and agencies that deliver water from the Colorado River basin. Since 1990, the number of people in the United States and Mexico who use Colorado River basin water has increased by more than 10 million — but their overall per capita water use declined by an average of at least one percent per year from 1990 to 2008.

The new report provides — for the first time — real numbers on the extraordinary population growth among cities that depend on water from the basin, total volumes of their water deliveries and volumes of Colorado River basin water where available, and on changing water delivery rates by these cities. Author Michael Cohen, senior research associate, documents the substantial water-efficiency gains made over the past twenty years by agencies delivering water from the Colorado River basin.


From 1990 to 2008, total municipal water deliveries from the Colorado River basin increased by more than 600,000 acre-feet, at a rate much slower than population growth. In fact, if water deliveries had increased at the same rate as population growth, they would have grown by almost two million acre-feet — assuming that much additional water was even available for delivery.

 As the fastest-growing sector, municipal use drives demands for additional water supplies and places pressure on a river system that is over-allocated and facing a supply-demand imbalance, as well as the prospect of long-term declines in run-off due to climate change. The study shows that projections of future water demands should take into account the successes achieved in cities where there are many examples of water conservation in practice that could be adopted or emulated by the less water efficient providers.


Read more .

Download the full report.


What Really Happened During State’s Drought?


Juliet Christian-Smith

Juliet Christian-Smith


On June 26, the Sacramento Bee published an op-ed by Juliet Christian-Smith and Morgan Levy, co-authors of the Pacific Institute report Impacts of the California Drought from 2007-2009, calling out

What Really Happened During the State’s Drought:

California’s three-year drought, which ended with this season’s cool and wet weather, had complicated impacts that have been poorly understood. The Pacific Institute just completed a nine-month assessment of new data from California’s agricultural, energy, and environmental sectors to evaluate consequences of the drought for the state.

Analysis of local, state, and federal data finds that contrary to much of the media reporting, California’s agricultural community proved flexible

Morgan Levy
Morgan Levy

and resilient, generating gross revenues in 2007, 2008, and 2009 that were the highest on record. Growers employed a diverse suite of response strategies, including shifting crops, groundwater pumping,

and water transfers to buffer the drought’s impacts. Local impacts were more varied, with some San Joaquin Valley counties reporting increased gross revenues or planted acres, and others reporting declines…

Read the full op-ed here.
Read the report Impacts of the California Drought from 2007 to 2009.

Community Strategies Workshops Address Mapping Sacred Tribal Sites and Employment and Housing Rights for Formerly Incarcerated


Catalina Garzon and Eli Moore, co-directors of the Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program, facilitated a community mapping workshop in June for members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe working to map and protect their sacred sites around California’s Shasta reservoir. Youth and adults learned to use GPS units and mapped sacred sites and trails with Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk-Franco. The workshop was part of an ongoing effort by the Winnemem Wintu working with DataCenter and the Sacred Land Film Project to use technology to protect and reclaim traditional lands and sacred places. For more information, click here or contact Catalina Garzon.


On June 25, the Safe Return Reentry Project, an effort spearheaded by the Pacific Institute and Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), hosted a community workshop on employment and housing rights of formerly incarcerated people. The Community Researchers involved in this participatory action research project facilitated the event and were joined by employment and housing legal experts from the National Employment Law Project and Bay Area Legal Aid.



Alliance for Water Stewardship Grows


AWS BannerThe Pacific Institute is one of the founding members of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), which is working with stakeholders from around the world to provide a platform for the development of a global water stewardship certification program. Global sustainability standards and market-based industry initiatives have many possible benefits for those concerned about environmental protection and social equity — provided these efforts are rigorous enough to be significant and credible.

To that end, the Alliance has grown over the past three years to include 10 respected board organizations (Pacific Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Water Stewardship Australia, WWF, Water Witness International, Water Environment Federation, European Water Partnership, International Water Management Institute, The CEO Water Mandate, and Carbon Disclosure Project), and this spring appointed Adrian Sym as the new Executive Director. Sym led Fairtrade International’s partnerships program, building and consolidating relationships with the key actors in international development. The AWS has formed the International Standard Development Committee, a multi-stakeholder body at the heart of the standard-setting process charged with integrating regional input from businesses, water service providers, civil society, and the public sector.


Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute Globalization Program, was in Zurich in June, discussing AWS’s work in developing a standards system for water stewardship on the panel “Cross Cutting Sustainability Issues for Standards: The Case of Water” at the 2011 conference of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for social and environmental standards.

Read more about the Alliance for Water Stewardship.


NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Veena Srinivasan

 A Success Story in Participatory Irrigation Management in India –
The Waghad Farmer Managed Irrigation System

Waghad Famer Managed Irrigation System
Project Level Association member, pointing to the numerous awards won by Waghad.

by Veena Srinivasan

Research Associate, Pacific Institute International Water and Communities Initiative

“We leave our differences at the door when we enter the WUA building — otherwise the whole organization would fall apart — our focus is on water and only water.” 

Last week I visited a farmer-managed irrigation system in India’s Waghad Medium Irrigation Project. I passed by the Waghad Project in my quest to locate Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) systems around the city of Nasik, India. The Pacific Institute is currently working on understanding multiple-use as a potential for funding for improvements in the water sector. Although Waghad is not strictly an MUS case because of its size, it is an interesting case study because it highlights how “soft” options alone — information, participation, social norms, and wise use of water — can achieve dramatic results.

The project represents a highly successful “bottom-up” farmer taking over of the irrigation system and the huge prosperity it has brought to the region. What was once a decaying irrigation system where farmers received no water and the Irrigation Department received no revenue is now a thriving region where incomes have grown 50-fold and Irrigation Department Revenues went up 10-fold within 15 years. The success of this project, in part, resulted in the state government passing the Maharashtra State Farmer Managed Irrigation Act in 2005, in a bid to replicate the success elsewhere. The project’s success has been recognized by many awards including one from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) which allowed the project to compete for a water efficiency award as a private company.


This blog entry (the first of several to come) is based on interviews with farmers, the local NGO, and members of the PLA and WUAs. The interviews were conducted at two locations: Ozar village, which houses the offices of three tail-end WUAs, and Mohadi village, where the PLA office is located…


Read the full post here .


Coalition Identifies Stewardship Strategies for Agricultural Water Use


Agricultural Water StewardshipA new multi-stakeholder coalition of leaders, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply, released a report and set of recommendations calling on decision makers to employ agricultural water stewardship as a guiding framework to inform agricultural water management in California.

Pacific Institute Senior Research Associate Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, a member of this Roundtable, said, “Practices that reduce applied water to agricultural lands represent a powerful and broadly supported solution set. For example, water conservation can help to protect the quality of groundwater and surface water, save farmers money, augment stream flows, reduce tailwater runoff, conserve energy, and store water for subsequent drought periods. Yet these outcomes are not universal, and it is critical to examine the local context to determine the most appropriate water stewardship practices.”

The Roundtable’s recommendations identify straightforward administrative and programmatic changes targeted to a range of decision makers, including state government, watershed planners, water suppliers, and agricultural advocates. The recommendations seek actions to build a stronger knowledge base to support decision making, strengthen the technical support system for farmers, and build more effective policy that produces tangible results.

Read more.

Read Agricultural Water Stewardship: Recommendations to Optimize Outcomes for Specialty Crop Growers and the Public in California.


Climate Change: Sifting Truth from Lies in a Complex World


Durango HeraldOn July 9, The Durango Herald (Colorado) published an op-ed by Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick and political cartoonist Shan Wells on the realities of climate change science:

In the 1800s, America supported animal life at densities now impossible to imagine. Billions of passenger pigeons and millions of bison migrated across the land. The passenger pigeon is now extinct. The bison have largely disappeared. These magnificent animals died because we humans failed to understand our impact on the environment. With our technologies and population, humans beings are now a force of nature, capable of reshaping continents and creating holes in the ozone layer. We are actually changing the climate of the Earth by burning billions of tons of fossil fuels yearly, releasing gases into the air as pollution: particulates, sulfur and nitrogen oxides and, most importantly, carbon dioxide.   

Naturally occurring amounts of carbon dioxide keep the planet warm enough for life. Our additional contribution, however, has thrown things out of whack. Imagine a thick blanket covering the surface of the entire world. Every year we add another, trapping more heat. This is the cause of growing climate instability and change.

Solving this problem would be difficult enough on its own because of the importance of fossil fuels to our economy, but adding to the challenge is a powerful chorus of science-denying politicians, interest groups and “institutes” representing polluting industries for whom science is less important than ideology. Their goal is to sow uncertainty and delay action. Small wonder Americans are confused. But with an open mind, readers can sort out opinion from fact…


Read the full op ed here.

Report from Circle of Blue

Circle 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.

Choke PointCircle of Blue concludes its year-long Choke Point project with a warning about energy prices and stability in two largest economies: China and the United States. One of the top U.S. scholars on energy demand trends in these two largest economies cautioned that rising fossil fuel prices — caused, in part, by competition for scarce freshwater supplies — is challenging the economic stability of China and the United States. Double Choke Point: Demand for Energy Tests Water Supply and Economic Stability in China and the U.S. concludes that in both nations the central idea guiding energy development is to generate as much as the energy sector is capable of producing — and most of this from fossil fuels.   

When it comes to energy demand and water supply, Circle of Blue and the China Environment Forum found considerable consistency in how both nations regard domestic energy needs and, in some cases, disregard the role water supply plays.

Read the Double Choke Point press release.

Read the full coverage.

Read more about Circle of Blue.


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:



- Heather Cooley, co-director of the Water Program, participated on a June 15 panel on the water requirements for hydropower generation at the International Hydropower Association conference in Iguassu, Brazil.


- Peter Gleick, president, attended the Gulbenkian Foundation meeting in Lisbon, Portugal for the task force on global water scenarios and futures, of which he is member.

- Misha Hutchings, research associate, participated in a comparative study tour in Padang Panjang and Medan, Sumatra, organized and led by Pacific Institute partner PATTIRO for our Indonesia WATER SMS Project, which will create a highly accessible communication and monitoring system that relies on mobile phones and email to develop crowd-sourced map data to improve water and sanitation services for the urban poor. The study tour involved site visits and interviews of current SMS-based projects in Indonesia used to connect government with citizens. Key staff from the cooperating water utilities in the project, PDAM Kota Malang and PDAM Kota Makassar, also joined the tour.

- Jason Morrison, director of the
Globalization Program, and Mai-Lan Ha, research associate, attended the ISEAL Alliance Conference 2011: Scaling-Up the Impacts of Standards Systems held in Zurich, Switzerland from June 8-10. The three-day conference highlighted the Alliance’s Scaling-Up Strategy in meeting trends facing the movement. During the conference, Jason Morrison was featured on the panel “Cross Cutting Sustainability Issues for Standards: The Case of Water,” discussing the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s work in developing a standards system for the water sector.



Upcoming Events


- Heather Cooley, co-director of the Water Program, will be conducting workshops on the Institute’s latest tool: the Water-Energy Simulator (WESim). WESim is designed to allow the user to evaluate the energy and greenhouse gas implications of various water management decisions. Workshops will be held in Clearwater, Fla. on July 15; in Chino, Calif. on July 25; and in Boulder, Colo. on July 29. Additional workshops will be held in Canada in Fall 2011. Advance registration is required for the free half-day workshops. Please RSVP by e-mailing alexa@a4we.org.


- Peter Gleick, president, will be speaking at a workshop on agricultural water use efficiency organized by the California State Water Resources Control Board. The event will take place on July 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Cal/EPA Building – Coastal Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, Second Floor, Sacramento, Calif. It is free and open to the public.

See the agenda for the meeting here

Watch it online here.


- The Pacific Institute Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program and the Safe Return Project will give a presentation at the Community Research Forum on Reentry Challenges and Solutions in Richmond, Calif. on July 23. They will present findings from an extensive participatory research project involving a needs assessment of residents returning from incarceration and interviews of more than 400 residents, as well as policy analysis of actions to improve opportunities for residents reintegrating in the Richmond community. For more information, contact Eli Moore.


Pacific Institute in the News  

- Michael Cohen, senior research associate, was interviewed widely about the new report Municipal Deliveries of Colorado River Basin Water, among them:

     – Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio, “Finally Some Decent Water News.”

     – KQED’s Climate Watch, “Water Efficiency May Ease Colorado River Woes.”

     – Christian Science Monitor, “A Victory in Western Water Wars? Study Shows Progress in Water Use.”

 - Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate, weighed in on farm jobs and the impacts of the California drought in The New York Times article “Farm Jobs Lost? Blame Environmentalists (Or Not).”

- Peter Gleick,president, was interviewed on peak water, the soft path for water, and climate change for the PNAS Journal (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), “QnAs with Peter H. Gleick.” 


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