March 2012 Online Update 


Celebrating 25 Years in 2012 


Looking back: In 1995, the Pacific Institute report California 2020: A Sustainable Vision marked the first time anyone had offered a sustainable vision for, and approach to, California water, showing the state’s enormous potential for water conservation and efficiency. Key among the conclusions was that major gaps in water data collection, both urban and agricultural, make it difficult to develop sustainable water management strategies. Water data must be much more widely collected and distributed. In 2003, our report Waste Not Want Not put real numbers on the potential for improving water efficiency in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Initially considered radical, those numbers were adopted by the Department of Water Resources in the 2005 California Water Plan. In 2009, we released Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future, which quantified potential water savings associated with agricultural conversation and efficiency improvements. And now, the California Water Commission has approved regulations that require improved agricultural water management, including increased efficiency and better water measurement and pricing (see story below).

A Step Forward- the California Water Commission Approves Regulation to Improve Agricultural Water Measurement and Pricing

The California Water Commission approved new agricultural water measurement regulations that would require most agricultural water suppliers in the state to start monitoring and reporting how much water they use. Currently, the state’s understanding of agricultural water use is based merely on estimations of crop water requirements rather than actual measurements of water deliveries. The new regulation would close this critical data gap and allow water managers to more accurately manage the state’s waters supply to sustain California’s agriculture and environment, particularly as California faces another dry year.


This regulation is part of the Water Conservation Act of 2009 — best known for requiring urban water suppliers to increase their efficiency 20% by 2020. Although the Act did not include a similar 20% target for improved efficiency from agricultural suppliers, it did require that all large agricultural water suppliers measure the quantity of water delivered to the farm gate and adopt a pricing structure that is based in part of the volume of water that is delivered (Water Code section 10608.48(b)). While most urban water suppliers in California meter water use and charge customers based on that use (use more, pay more — use less, pay less), such practices are far less common in the agricultural sector. In fact, while agriculture accounts for approximately 80% of the state’s water demand, we know very little about where that water goes. Numerous Pacific Institute reports have concluded that that lack of accurate agricultural water measurement stymies efforts for sustainable water management in the state (see More with Less and Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future).


Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate with the Water Program, has been actively involved in the Agricultural Stakeholder Committee that advised the Department of Water Resources on the development of this regulation. The Pacific Institute has submitted numerous comments on previous drafts of the regulation. The Institute and others have criticized earlier drafts for creating loopholes for special interests, including exemptions for Central Valley Project customers and rice-growing regions. Recently, the Office of Administrative Law largely agreed with these criticisms and rejected a weaker regulation, citing a letter we co-authored with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club. An improved regulation was submitted and approved by the California Water Commission last month and is now out for public comment. The Water Commission and the Department of Water Resources should be commended for the development and approval of a strengthened regulation that will deliver on the promise of the Water Conservation Act of 2009!


The Department will accept written comments between February 29 and March 14, 2012. You can email your comments to them also. All written comments must be submitted to the Department no later than 5:00 p.m. on March 14, 2012 and addressed to:


Fethi Benjemaa

Department of Water Resources

901 P Street, Suite 313A

Sacramento, CA 95814


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“We have collaborated extensively with the Pacific Institute on water issues, and have found that their work tends to elucidate the broad connections between water policy, sustainable development, and the environment. Rather than writing research reports that will sit on the shelf, they make a concerted effort to disseminate their findings to activists, agency personnel, disenfranchised communities, and policymakers. Their work already has been crucial in both our framing of the problem and focusing on long-term solutions. They effectively bring together community leaders, policy makers, activists, and researchers to discuss new ideas and to develop creative solutions.”


- Judith Redmond, Director, Community Alliance with Family Farmers





Roundtable on cotton & sustainable water use - Jason Morrison, Pacific Institute


Here’s an interesting one you may have missed!
2011 Roundtable on Cotton and Sustainable Water Use at U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business -
Jason Morrison, Pacific Institute



CEO Water Mandate to Develop Good Practice Guide on Water-related Collective Action 

The UN CEO Water Mandate has launched an effort to develop good practice guidance to help companies establish enduring relationships with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, leaders, and individuals to advance sustainable water management. The forthcoming guide — under development by Ross & Associates in collaboration with the Mandate Secretariat — will identify and characterize various engagement methods and collective action models, describe how companies can understand the nature of such collaborations, and provide recommendations for how they can best organize and execute these actions. 


The project stems from the premise that water-related risks are shared among business interests, governments, civil society groups, and local communities. As such, facilitating equitable processes through which companies collaborate with others helps them leverage the collective strengths and insight of all involved parties to produce more informed and durable outcomes, build and maintain legitimacy with critical stakeholders, and mitigate water-related risks in a robust manner. 


The project team is currently consulting with Mandate endorsing companies and other stakeholders to understand how such guidance can be scoped to best promote collaboration and identify examples of good and bad collective action practice. The Mandate plans to have a polished draft of the collective action guide ready for public review and discussion by the Mandate’s June meetings in Rio de Janeiro.

The Pacific Institute serves as part of the Secretariat for the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate. For more on the Mandate, see:


Groups Come Together to Solidify System Design for the Indonesia WATER SMS System  


AWS BAnner
Formal multi-stakeholder focus group discussions brought together the Indonesian water utility, the informal water sector, local government, and NGOS working on related issues.

International Water and Communities Initiative Research Associate Misha Hutchings attended multi-stakeholder dialogs in Makassar, South Sulawesi and Malang, East Java conducted by the staff of PATTIRO, our Indonesian NGO partner in the Indonesia WATER SMS Pilot. The Indonesia WATER SMS system, a pilot of the WASH SMS Project, will improve water services by allowing the urban poor to report water conditions and problems using their mobile phones and to map this information on the web. These multi-stakeholder dialogs — the first of two that will be held in each pilot location — focused on informing semi-final system design by seeking agreement from all stakeholder groups on how they will each interact with the system, what information they will share, and how they will help each other. The session also ensured that the target users of the system understood how to use it and featured a demonstration presented by Mr. Martin Lukac of Nexleaf Analytics, our technical partner, which is developing the platform.

Ms. Hutchings also shared information with all the stakeholders about the results of the community learning sessions and formal stakeholder focus group discussions with the water utility, the informal water sector, local government, and NGOS working on related issues. Ms. Hutchings and Mr. Lukac also met with both water utilities, PDAM Kota Makassar and PDAM Kota Malang, to begin designing specific integration of existing processes and systems in the utilities with the proposed WATER SMS system, including incorporation of other data for system enhancement, such as GIS map layers. Ms. Hutchings worked with PATTIRO’s Malang team in beginning to develop key WATER SMS system design decisions, including developing a power map and identifying key issues to be tracked in WATER SMS.

Read more about our
WATER SMS Project.


Notes From the Field     

Alpha Version of Community Choices for Water Decision-Support System to be Piloted in Ghana


By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Associate


AWS BAnner
Participants from the Sabtenga community participate in the learning session.

Over the last year, the Pacific Institute has been conducting learning sessions in Ghana and Burkina Faso in the development and dissemination of a decision-support system to empower communities and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practitioners to make informed choices on WASH technologies and approaches. I facilitated nine learning sessions to understand the key needs of residents, NGOs, and local governments in Ghana and Burkina Faso on the role that a decision-support tool could play in improving water and sanitation conditions on the ground. In Sabtenga, a rural community about 50 km north of Ougadougu, Mr. Mathias Kabore, one of the participants in the community learning session conducted on September 29, 2011, said, “The lack of water makes us unclean and we cannot stick to the hygiene practices advised by our hygiene educators.” Unfortunately, there are only four hand-pump wells functioning for a population of 4,315, resulting in a daily struggle for water within the community.

Read more.

In Brief  

Pacific Institute Accepting Applications for Diversity for Sustainability Internship

The Pacific Institute is now accepting applications for our
Diversity for Sustainability Internship Program, part of the Institute’s commitment to furthering diverse perspectives both in our own work and in the critical fields of environmental sustainability and social justice. The paid internship for undergraduates or non-students with relevant life experience brings emerging environmental leaders from a variety of backgrounds to work under the mentorship of knowledgeable research staff at our Oakland office. Applications will be accepted through March 15. For details and application requirements, click here.    

Dr. Newsha Ajami, Water Program Senior Research Associate:

- spoke via video conference on water scarcity and rethinking water resource management in California at the World Economic Forum debate series held at the University of Geneva.

Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith,
Water Program Senior Research Associate:
- briefed reporters with New American Media on “hot topics” related to water in 2012.

Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Co-Director:
- participated in a convening to launch a national network of freight transport and community health advocates in San Diego, Calif. sponsored by the Kresge Foundation.
– participated in a session entitled ”Housing: How Close Is Too Close?” at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in San Diego, Calif., organized by coalition partners from the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative.

Heather Cooley
, Water Program Co-Director:   
- participated on a panel on alternative water supplies at the Urban Water Institute’s annual conference in Palm Springs, Calif.

Matthew Heberger,
Water Program Research Associate:
spoke on climate change impacts on sea level, water supply, and extreme weather events at the Climate Change, Water and Planning panel, co-sponsored by the Sierra Club.

Eli Moore, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Co-Director:
- joined the Stormwater Infrastructure Working Group, a national network of practitioners, advocates, and researchers exploring strategies for clean water and good jobs. The Working Group is part of the Communities of Practice Program organized by Green for All.

Meena Palaniappan
, International Water and Communities Initiative Director:
- presented “Mobile Solutions: Accountability at your Fingertips,” as part of the Information and Communication for Technologies for Water event.


Upcoming Events  


- March 15: Pacific Institute Water Program Co-Director Heather Cooley will be giving a class on “Water Needs of Energy” at the Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco on Thursday, March 15 from 6:30-8pm. This lecture is free to all those who register for the event. For more information and to sign up for the class click here.

- March 19: Heather Cooley will discuss current issues in the American West, including the energy implications of desalination and water requirements for electricity generation, as part of Water Canada’s Watershed Governance in the 21st Century webinar on March 19, 9am-10:30am (Pacific Time). The webinar is part of the POLIS Water Sustainability Project’s 2011/2012 Creating a Blue Dialogue series. To register, email Laura Brandes at

 - March 20: Heather Cooley and Globalization Program Director Jason Morrison will participate at the 9th Annual Water Conservation Showcase in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 20. Ms. Cooley will participate on a panel on the Commercial, Industrial, Institutional Task Force and Mr. Morrison will speak on water policy engagement and collective action as long-term business risk mitigation strategies. The showcase will be held at the PG&E Pacific Energy Center, 851 Howard Street, San Francisco, Calif. 

 - March 23: Water Program Research Associate Matthew Heberger will participate on the panel discussion “Is Water Enough?” at the 2012 Engineers without Borders International Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 23. The conference will be held at Green Valley Ranch Resort, 2300 Paseo Verde Pkwy. For more information and to register, click here.  

- March 29: Jason Morrison will participate at The Commonwealth Club Water World
session focusing on the roles corporations and governments can and should play in stewarding water resources in the American West and globally in an increasingly thirsty world. The event will be held in San Francisco on Thursday, March 29 from 11:30am-1pm. Tickets are $20, $12 for members, and $7 for students (with valid ID). For more information and to purchase tickets click here.  

March 31: Water Program Senior Research Associate Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith will moderate a panel on Food and Water, Sustaining Life on a Planet at the eventWorld Affairs 2012: Navigating in a Shifting Global Landscape on March 31, 11:00am-12:00pm. The conference of the World Affairs Council will be held at the St. Regis Hotel, 125 3rd Street, San Francisco, Calif. For more information about the conference, speakers, and agenda, click here.

 - March 31: Heather Cooley will  be presenting at a free public workshop, sponsored by the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter, about the status, potential benefits, and potential environmental drawbacks of a joint desalination project under consideration by five Bay Area utilities (SFPUC, EBMUD, CCWD, SCVWD, and Zone 7 Water Agency). The workshop will be held on March 31, 8:30am-1:15pm at CSU East Bay Oakland Conference Center, 1000 Broadway, Suite 109, Oakland, Calif. Space is limited, but you can reserve early here. For more information, contact Sonia Diermayer, co-chair of the SF Bay Chapter Water Committee, at or 510-336-1102.      

In the News 


- The Los Angeles Department of Power and Water and CBS shared the news of our updated water- fountain-finding smartphone app, WeTap, to their readers and customers. Read more.


- Heather Cooley spoke about the costs of desalination in California in the Modest Bee. Read more.


- Peter Green from Bloomberg News writes about peak water, citing the Pacific Institute’s work, in The Rise and Fall of Cheap, Clean H2O.


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