June 2011 Online Update

Research for People and the Planet  

In This Issue
-California Drought Impacts
-Diesel Pollution Research is Published
- Learning Sessions in Ghana
- CEO Water Mandate Meetings in Copenhagen
- Diversity for Sustainability Interns
- Notes From the Field
- Circle of Blue Updates

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Peter Gleick’s Blogs


Another Cost of Bottled Water: Environmental Injustice and Inequity


 Climate Triage and the “New Normal” 


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Pacific Institute Releases New Report on California Drought Impacts from 2007-2009


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


Analysis of state and federal data released over the past year finds that contrary to much of the media reporting, California’s agricultural community proved flexible and resilient, generating agri­cultural revenues in 2007, 2008, and 2009 that were the highest on record. And agriculture-related occupations remained a stable portion of total jobs available in areas directly impacted by water supply restrictions. Less frequently reported were the substantial impacts on energy production and aquatic ecosystems during the drought, which were economically and environmentally significant.


“More severe drought is inevitable, and the U.S. — and California in particular — has not reformed drought monitoring, evaluation, planning, and response strategies the way other countries and regions have,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute and lead author of the report. “To become more resilient to future droughts, it will be critical to shift from crisis-driven responses to long-term mitigation strategies.”


Read more about the impacts of the California drought.  


Watch a video on the California drought impacts analysis.

Read the report California Drought Impacts from 2007-2009.  


Read the Executive Summary of the report.  


American Journal of Public Health Publishes Article on West Oakland Diesel Pollution Efforts


public_health_cover_smallThe American Journal of Public Health has published a peer-reviewed article on the Pacific Institute Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program West Oakland truck study and route campaign work with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project: “Community-based Participatory Research and Policy Advocacy to Reduce Diesel Exposure in West Oakland, California.”


The multi-method case study conducted in 2002 used community-based participatory research to analyze and address West Oakland’s disproportionate exposure to diesel air pollution. The study employed 10 interviews with partners and policymakers, participant observation, and a review of documents. Results of the truck count and truck idling studies suggested substantial exposure to diesel pollution and were used by the Institute’s partners and allies to make the case for a truck route ordinance. Despite weak enforcement, the partnership’s increased political visibility helped change the policy environment, with the community partner now heavily engaged in environmental decision-making on the local and regional levels.


Read the article.

Read more about freight transport justice.


International Water and Communities Initiative Conducts Learning Session on Community Choices Tool in Ghana



Dr. John Akudago facilitates a learning session with WASH stakeholders in Ghana.

The Pacific Institute’s International Water and Communities Initiative has been working for several years to develop a Community Choices Tool to empower communities and local governments in making their own water, sanitation, and hygiene decisions based on the particular needs, conditions, and resources of their community. A prototype of the tool is available at www.washchoices.org. The Community Choices Project is working with international organizations and local partners in West Africa to develop a community-centered decision-making support tool to serve local practitioners who are seeking the most appropriate technologies, financing approaches, and hygiene solutions to meet their unique water, sanitation, and hygiene needs.


Dr. John Akudago, senior research associate, was recently in Tamale, Ghana to conduct learning sessions and interact with water and sanitation practitioners in northern Ghana to learn about the need for such a tool.    

In May, a demonstration version of the tool was presented at the WAS-NET meeting in Tamale to about 30 WASH stakeholders from the local government, NGOs, health officials, consultants, and the guinea worm eradication team from the Ghana government and Jimmy Carter Foundation. The WASH stakeholders were excited about the potential for the tool to be used as part of the national implementation of a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) program, which was launched to help increase sanitation coverage from the current level of 20%. The WAS-NET members also provided valuable feedback on the tool, including requesting a new water supply module to help communities make decisions about how to source water supply and more information on fluoride and arsenic treatment options. Members also requested that waste disposal and drainage be included in the existing water treatment and sanitation modules.


Read more about Pacific Institutes work on international water and communities.


Read Dr. Akudago’s blog post on his work in Ghana.


Pacific Institute Helps Convene CEO Water Mandate Working Conference in Copenhagen ceo_water_mandate_logo.jpg

The Institute’s Globalization Program helped convene a working conference for the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate on May 16-17 in Copenhagen, Denmark during UN Global Compact Week. The conference – featuring more than 90 leaders from business, finance, government, civil society, the United Nations, and other interests -focused primarily on the initiative’s corporate water disclosure workstream.  Specifically, discussions explored how companies conceptualize and communicate water performance, risk, and impacts, as well as the management practices they implement in response. 


These discussions served to share practice among companies, investors, and NGOS and to inform the development of the Mandate’s upcoming Water Disclosure Guidelines­. The Guidelines will offer a conceptual framework for addressing the wide range of stakeholder’s disclosure needs as well as a way to promote convergence among water disclosure-related initiatives that will allow for improved comparability and more streamlined and effective reporting practices among companies.

The conference also featured sessions that sought to inform the Mandate’s work to facilitate on-the-ground collective action around water stewardship, as well as its development of operational guidance on the roles and responsibilities of business with respect to the human right to water and sanitation.

A detailed summary of the discussion and outcomes from the Copenhagen working conference will be released in the coming weeks on the CEO Water Mandate website.

Read more about the CEO Water Mandate.



Globalization Program Holds International Standards and Certification Retreat

 The Pacific Institute’s Framing International Standards and Certification project of the Globalization Program held a retreat, “Sustainability Standards Systems: NGO Strategic Retreat 2.0,” on June 5-7 in London, England. The retreat brought together 25 leading thinkers, standard setters, and NGO representatives to discuss the major issues facing standards systems today, the vision for standard systems in the future, and the correlating strategies and actions to meet that vision.


Pacific Institute Welcomes Three Diversity for Sustainability Interns



From left to right: Janett Nolasco, Michael Wright, and Dyamond Keith

The Pacific Institute welcomes three interns for the inaugural year of the Diversity for Sustainability Internship Program, part of our commitment to furthering diverse perspectives both in our own work and in the critical fields of environmental sustainability and social justice. The program is designed to bring emerging environmental leaders from a variety of backgrounds to develop a deeper understanding of and hands-on experience with fundamental skills for environmental research and outreach and to make connections in the field.

Oakland native Dyamond Keith graduated from Mills College in 2010 with a BA in Environmental Studies. Since then, she has been interning with a number of environmental nonprofits, including Pacific Institute partner organization West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. Ms. Keith is working with our International Water and Communities Initiative on the Water SMS and Multiple Use Services


Janett Nolasco graduated with a degree in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. This summer, Ms. Nolasco will be working with the Pacific Institute Water Program, researching and writing a report on Urban Farm Water Success Stories, a project building on our Farm Water Success Stories, to analyze successful examples of sustainable water policies and practices to demonstrate urban practices that are already beginning to move California toward more equitable and efficient water management and use.


Michael Wright, another Oakland local, received his AA in Liberal Arts and Social Science from Laney College in October 2010 and is preparing to transfer to San Francisco State University this fall to study Sociology. Mr. Wright will be working with the Pacific Institute Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program on its Resilient Roots Project. This project will document and distribute to West and East Oakland residents information about resources and services available through local agencies, community-based institutions, and utilities that could support building resiliency to local climate change impacts.


Need For Water Resource Management and Adequate Sanitation


“Water is life,” says 60-year-old Mahama Azundo of Gbulung, a community 5 Km east of


Mahama Azundo of Savelugu, Ghana shows off his radio by the local water well

in the Northern Region of Ghana. He explained that with water he could provide enough food for his family, be safe from water borne-diseases, and also get other development projects such as building his mud house and community shea-butter processing accomplished. Mr. Mahama — standing by a hand-dug well that was provided by Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA) over 20 years ago and a dam that was constructed in early 1960s mainly for drinking water — mentioned that in the last eight years, World Vision and its West Africa Water Initiative (WAWI) partners have taught them how to use the water for irrigation, which has brought improvement to their lives — including a radio set he now owns (see photo 1).


When asked how they manage the water sources and what the state of sanitation was in the village, he said, “The village chief appointed me as the one responsible for managing the water here.” If anyone including people from outside their village needed to take water for any purpose, he should be informed, and there is no charge for using the water. Though the dam never dries completely, there are times when the water almost gets finished. It has also not been desilted due to lack of funds. The interaction with Mr. Mahama reveals that if the community could contribute toward desilting the dam it will be able to store more water. He also views water as a gift from God rather than a resource that needs to be used and managed cautiously


Read more.

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.


China’s Freshwater Resources at Risk



China’s freshwater reserves are threatened by the country’s growing economy.

China’s soaring economy, fueled by an unyielding appetite for coal, is threatened by the country’s steadily diminishing freshwater reserves. Even as China has launched enormous new programs of solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear power development, which tend to use much less water and generate much less carbon, energy demand will skyrocket and will primarily rely on supplies of coal, the source of 70% of the nation’s energy and user of some 23% of the nation’s water. 

These are the conclusions from Choke Point: China, Circle of Blue’s comprehensive project that reveals never-before-reported narratives and facts about the increasingly fierce competition between energy and water that threatens to upend China’s progress. The 14-part series is produced in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars China Environment Forum, and with assistance from Ball State University and Ningxia University. Coverage, published in English and Chinese, ranges from a new water rights transfer program in the Yellow River Basin to the country’s hydropower challenges. In its latest chapter, Circle of Blue pushes the water line of questioning from “How do you keep the lights on for more than a billion people?” to ”How do you simultaneously feed a billion people?” Coming later this month: a comparison between water and energy challenges in China and the U.S.


Peter Gleick to Appear on “The Doctors”


the_doctors_logo_small.jpgPacific Institute President Peter Gleick is a guest on the syndicated daily talk show The Doctors on Monday, July 11, discussing issues around bottled water and his book Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water. The Doctors focuses on health and medical issues, as a team of medical professionals and guest experts discuss a range of various health-related topics and answer questions. Tune in!

Find your local channel and air time here.

Pacific Institute Launches its RSS Feed

rss_logo.jpgThe Pacific Institute is excited to announce the launch of its RSS feed. Subscribers can automatically receive updates on new Pacific Institute content such as news coverage, blog posts, interviews, and videos of our researchers’ talks and presentations. RSS is the easiest way to keep in touch with the latest updates on environmental and social justice issues, the Institute’s work, and breaking news as it happens.


Click here to subscribe to Pacific Institute’s RSS Feed.




Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon Selected as the ACLU 2011 Grover Dye Award Recipient


The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s Paul Robeson Chapter presents the Grover Dye Award to individuals who have worked industriously within Alameda County to protect our civil rights and civil liberties as guaranteed by the Constitution. Margaret Gordon, Pacific Institute board member and founding member of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, is acknowledged for her longstanding leadership on environmental health and justice issues surrounding the Port of Oakland. She was presented with the award at the chapter’s Annual Meeting on May 22.


Read more about the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.



In Brief


Pacific Institute staff members gave talks and lectures, conducted workshops, and participated on panels nationally and abroad this month. Here’s are some of the places we’ve been:



Eli Moore and Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice co-directors, co-facilitated a community mapping workshop with DataCenter and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe to train tribal members how to use cell phones to document the locations of trails and sacred sites on their ancestral lands.


Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice co-director

- presented at a convening on Community Health and Transportation in Oakland hosted by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

- presented on a panel on environmental Justice at UC Santa Cruz hosted by the Student Environmental Center.


Peter Gleick, president

-  accepted the 2011 U.S. Water Prize for the Pacific Institute in Washington, D.C.

- briefed congressional staff and personnel from government agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the vulnerability of U.S. water resources to climate change.

- Dr. Gleick and Senior Research Associate Juliet Christian-Smith, spoke with John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources, about California water policies.

- participated in a water debate at the 2011 Association of California Water Agencies Spring Conference.

- was the guest expert on the NPR show Science Friday with Ira Flatow and talked about climate change and the Mississippi flooding.

- interviewed with Dr. Gluss from the KFNX radio talk show and discussed climate change.

- gave the keynote address, “The Integrity of Science and Climate Change: Logical Fallacies and Abuse of Science,” at the SkeptiCal Conference in Berkeley, California


Jason Morrison, Globalization Program director

- co-facilitated a small informal session with Jamie Bartram of the UNC Water Institute on the launch of the Global Water Solutions Center (GWSC) in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the meeting attended by U.S. government agency staff and other key interests was to discuss potential opportunities and pathways forward for the GWSC and explore what concrete steps we can take to support existing initiatives such as the UN CEO Water Mandate Water Action Hub and the World Resource Institute’s Aqueduct tool.

Meena Palaniappan, director, and Misha Hutchings, research associate, of the International Water and Communities Initiative   

- participated in and led two meetings of the Indonesia WATER SMS Project team with our partners PATTIRO Indonesia and Nexleaf Analytics to discuss how to engage local technical partners for project sustainability and scalability.



Upcoming Events


- Heather Cooley will participate on a panel about water requirements for hydropower generation at the International Hydrological Association’s annual conference in Iguassu, Brazil on June 16-17.


To register for the event and for more information visit http://www.ihacongress.org/Programme.

Pacific Institute in the News  

- News media interviewed Juliet Christian-Smith about the surprising and significant impacts of the California drought and their implications for California’s future, among them: ClimateWire in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times.

- Marcel Honoré from My Desert interviewed Michael Cohen, senior research associate, who comments on Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan and decommissioning the Salton Sea Restoration Council. Read the full article here.  


- Vibhu Nayar from The Hindu interviewed Peter Gleick, presient, on peak water and the need for a new paradigm to address the challenges of resource constraint, government apathy, and policy stalemate. Read the full article here.


- Arnie Cooper


- Reuters interviewed Peter Gleick on the increased flooding risk of the Mississippi River and human influence over the extreme weather events. Read the blog here.  

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