Online Updates: June 2010 Online Update


  June 2010 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-Nitrate Contamination
-Peak Water
-$180,000 for Water in Africa
-Media Covers Climate Science Integrity
-Support for Water Library
-Bottled and Sold Makes News

-CEO Water Mandate Conference Summary

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 Lessons from SingaporeWater and misleading advertising and marketing: where are the FDA and FTC?More on climate deniers and their abuse of scienceSmart water meters, dumb meters, no meters

Bottled and Sold: what’s really in our bottled water

Water and Energy: obey the law on cooling systems



CSSJ Works with San Joaquin Valley Community on Real Costs of Nitrate-Contaminated Water


Pacific Institute researchers meet with community members in the San Joaquin Valley.
Community Meeting in the San Joaquin   Valley

Families in California’s San Joaquin Valley are paying twice for water — once for the contaminated water from their tap and again for the bottled water they must buy to avoid potentially severe health problems from nitrate exposure. Nitrate contamination of community wells from manure, fertilizers, and leaking septic systems has kept some communities from being able to safely drink their tap water for months and even years — and it is the small water systems operated by volunteer boards and the mostly low-income and Latino communities they serve that are most affected.

The Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program (CSSJ) is working in partnership with the Community Water Center, Clean Water Fund, and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation to document through participatory research the social, economic, and health impacts of this nitrate contamination. With Institute staff, the groups developed a survey instrument and this month staff trained a team of community surveyors who carried out household surveys in three communities. The project goal is to bring on-the-ground research on nitrate contamination to the grassroots struggles for clean and safe water, helping to empower community residents to identify key concerns, plan and conduct research, develop sustainable solutions, and raise awareness about what needs to be done.

Use of nitrate-contaminated water can cause respiratory problems and birth complications, and has also been linked to cancer and kidney and spleen problems in adults. And simply boiling nitrate-contaminated water actually makes its effects on health more harmful.

“Documenting the social, economic, and health impacts is key to communicating the full extent of the nitrate contamination problem to community and public policy audiences,” said Eli Moore, co-director of the Institute’s CSSJ Program. “These results will be a powerful tool for residents and leaders in securing commitments to community solutions.”

The bilingual final report is due at the end of the year and will provide household- and community-level data, resident testimonies, recommendations for solutions, and resources for community action. This project is supported by grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Read more about the Community Strategies Program.
For more information, contact: Eli Moore.

Peak Water: New Paper Identifies Limits to Global and Regional Freshwater Availability for Human Use

The journal article “Peak Water Limits to Freshwater Withdrawal and Use,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences May 24 early edition, highlights new “peak water” limits to global and regional freshwater availability and use. Authors Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, and Meena Palaniappan, director of the Institute’s International Water and Communities Initiative, bring sharp focus to understanding the world’s water issues in new terms of “peak renewable water,” “peak nonrenewable water,” and “peak ecological water.”

Are we running out of water? No, Gleick and Palaniappan argue. Unlike oil, the earth’s water is a renewable resource that will never run out. But in some regions, the environmental costs of overuse have exceeded its benefits. These communities have passed “peak ecological water,” indicating water use that is unsustainable.

“One of the most important outcomes of the concept of peak water is that it signals the end of cheap and easy access to water,” said Palaniappan. “These concepts can help shift the way freshwater resources are managed toward more productive, equitable, efficient, and sustainable use.”

Read the early online edition of the journal article.
Read the article abstract at the PNAS website.
This article appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 24 early edition (prior to print).

Water is Key Project Raises $180,000 for Safe Water in West Africa

Water Is KeyMillions of West Africans lack access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Yet when safe water is available, entire village economies change and the lives of the inhabitants are transformed from disease and malnutrition to hope and success.

In 2007, the Pacific Institute teamed up with photographer Gil Garcetti and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for the Water in West Africa campaign to help raise funds for safe water initiatives in West Africa. Since then, more than $180,000 has been raised through the project and the Salon Forum in Los Angeles, with proceeds going to nongovernmental organizations like World Vision International, who are working on the ground to provide water, sanitation, and hygiene improvements to those most in need.

For the campaign, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick, as editor, and photographer Gil Garcetti collaborated on the book Water is Key: A Better Future for Africa, which illustrates the link between water and human health in West Africa. All proceeds have benefited the Water in West Africa campaign. The need is ongoing, and you may still donate to the campaign and receive a copy Water is Key.

Read more and watch a video about the Water is Key project.
Donate to Water is Key.

Statement on Climate Science Integrity Garners Worldwide Attention

When 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick among them, signed a statement on “Climate Change and the Integrity of Science,” published in the journal Science on May 7, the media reaction was immediate. Some 100 media outlets covered the statement reaffirming the evidence of climate change and its impacts and condemning political attacks on climate scientists.

The letter has been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Chinese, was widely covered in the United Kingdom and Canada, and reported in the U.S. by Reuters, The New York Times Dot Earth, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Time, and more.

In his Huffington Post about the scientists’ statement, Gleick summed up the decision at hand: “…we can act to mitigate the risks of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we can expand efforts to adapt to a changing climate, or we can suffer the consequences of doing nothing. The only real question is, what is the balance among these three options. …The longer that policymakers hesitate to act, the more the balance will shift to suffering. I believe that history will prove those delaying action to be dangerously wrong, at a time when it is urgent that society be courageously right.”

Read the Climate Science Integrity statement in Science.
Read Peter Gleick’s Huffington Post blog.

Pacific Institute Speaks Up for Water Resources ArchivesWith California’s budget woes, an invaluable resource, the Water Resources Center Archives (WRCA) at the University of California, Berkeley faces closure or uncertain relocation. Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, has written to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in support  of the library, stressing that “shutting down or letting the WRCA move to another campus would be a shockingly shortsighted move, particularly considering the paltry cost of its operation (~$300,000).”

In an October blog, Institute President Peter Gleick described the WRCA as “one of the most remarkable library treasures of the University of California system, a unique and irreplaceable collection of current and historical scientific, political, educational, and personal materials on California, western U.S., and global water history, science, and policy.”

Christian-Smith  stresses to the Chancellor that water is vital to California, and “it will only become more important in the future as we face a growing population, decreasing water quality, and the impacts of climate change on water resources. It is absolutely imperative to have a library and archive dedicated to understanding California’s water and water history.”

Read Juliet Christian-Smith’s full letter.
Read Peter Gleick’s SF Gate blog in support of the WRCA.
Visit the WRCA website.

Bottled and Sold Making News

Bottled and SoldTerry Gross interviewed Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick about bottled water and his new book Bottled and Sold on NPR’s popular program Fresh Air on May 17, and she noted in her intro: “[Peter] Gleick says every second of every day in the U.S. a thousand people buy and open a plastic bottle of commercially produced water, and every second of every day, a thousand plastic bottles are thrown away… Americans should be insisting that their municipal tap water systems are maintained and updated.” On NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” on May 27, Gleick said, “[Bottled water] has been marketed to us pretty successfully, because, after all, you have to convince people to spend a lot of money buying something you get free or cheaply out of your tap!” The New York Times quotes Gleick: “Bottled water is hundreds to thousands of times more expensive than providing tap water.”

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water is Gleick’s new book on bottled water, and it is ramping up the discussion of why Americans spend so much money on — and create so much waste with — bottled water, and how that impacts our tap water issues. Dozens of major media outlets have been talking with him about bottled water, from the The Wall Street Journal to CNN to Environment Times in the UK.

You can catch Peter Gleick discussing bottled water on ABC TV’s Good Morning America the week of June 14. Check the listings!

Read more.
Purchase Bottled and Sold.
Listen to Peter Gleick’s interviews on NPR’s Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show.

CEO Water Mandate  Fifth  Working Conference Summary Available

In April in New York City, the Pacific Institute helped convene the fifth working conference of the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate and other Mandate-related events aimed at advancing corporate water stewardship. The summary of these events is now available on the Pacific Institute website, and the final meeting agenda and presentations from the working conference can be downloaded at the CEO Water Mandate website.

Read the Summary of the 5th Working Conference.
Read the final meeting agenda and presentations.
Read more about the CEO Water Mandate.

In Brief

-Pacific Institute Recognized by Global Water Intelligence
The Pacific Institute has been recognized by the Global Water Intelligence Global Water Awards for its work on agricultural water conservation and efficiency. The Institute’s report Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future was a nominee for the Environmental Contribution of the Year for environmental stewardship in the water industry as exemplified by the project, process, or organization that best reflects the ability of a water/wastewater plant to leave a small environmental footprint. Senior Research Associate Heather Cooley, coauthor of the report, traveled to Paris in May to attend the awards ceremony.
the report Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future.

-CSSJ Weighs in on Oakland’s Draft Energy and Climate Action Plan
Staff from the Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program attended a set of public workshops on May 6 about the City of Oakland’s draft Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP). Catalina Garzón, program co-director, and Eyal Matalon, research fellow, participated in breakout group discussions at the public workshops and provided comments about the adaptation section of the ECAP as part of their work with the Adaptation Subcommittee of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition. The City of Oakland will be accepting public comments on the draft ECAP until Friday June 12.

-Catalina Garzón and Eyal Matalon also participated in a “teach-in” on Senate Bill 375 convened by the San Francisco Foundation, Urban Habitat, and Public Advocates.  SB 375 provides guidelines on the implementation of California climate legislation for the state’s regional agencies to integrate transportation, land use, and housing planning in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On May 25, Garzón presented on the Community Strategies Program’s approach to community mapping with community and coalition partners in Professor Jonathan London’s Community Development and Environmental Justice course at UC Davis.

-Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate, presented at the Association of California Water Agencies Conference on May 6. Her panel addressed the new water legislation — specifically the new requirements for agricultural water measurement and pricing in Senate Bill X7-7. On May 14, Christian-Smith also presented the Pacific Institute’s recent report California Farm Water Success Stories at the Monterey Community Planning Forum, which is currently hosting a series of panels focused on water efficiency and supply in tandem with the “regional blueprint” planning process. Click here for more information and upcoming Planning Forum events.

-Michael Cohen, senior research associate, spoke on May 27 on the “History and Overview of the Salton Sea – The Urgency for Action!” panel at the Salton Sea Stakeholder Symposium in Indian Wells, Calif., highlighting the threat to public health and ecological resilience at the Salton Sea given the lack of planning to date, and the need for immediate attention. The event was covered in The Desert Sun, Coachella Valley Green, on KESQ Radio, and in The Public Record Business Weekly. Read more about the Salton Sea.

-Matthew Heberger, research associate, spoke at the World Affairs Council, Peninsula Chapter in Los Altos, Calif. on May 5, on the topic The Global and Local Water Crisis. On May 25, he was at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, where he presented Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast at the Small Sea Changes-Big California Impacts” conference, organized by the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Observations.

-Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute’s Globalization Program, presented on corporate water risk and stewardship at a meeting of Conservation International’s Business and Sustainability Council in Las Vegas on May 12-13, an action-oriented forum of global companies that work with each other in finding ways to advance good environmental practices. Collectively, Council member companies represent global revenues of over $2.05 trillion and employ 5.2 million people.