May 2011 Online Update

Research for People and the Planet  

In This Issue
- Water Fountain App
- Extreme Weather and Climate Change
- New Water Tool Coming
- Multiple-Use Water Services Project
- U.S. Water Prize
- Goldman Environmental Award
- Science Friday

Check Out
Peter Gleick’s Blogs

 A Cost of Denying Climate Change: Accelerating Climate Disruptions, Death, and Destruction 

 Where Have All Our Drinking Water Fountains Gone?  

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Pacific Institute Develops WeTap: The New Water Fountain Smartphone Application


The Pacific Institute has partnered with Google to develop WeTap, the smartphone application that will map the nation’s, and ultimately the world’s, drinking water fountains. A small group of people in the San Francisco Bay Area are testing the Android smartphone application, uploading information on the location and condition of drinking fountains.


Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and author of Bottled and Sold: The Story of Our Obsession with Bottled Water, said, “The average American now drinks nearly 30 gallons of commercial bottled water per year, up from 1 gallon in 1980, creating plastic waste and wasting energy. One of the reasons for this explosive growth in the sales of bottled water is the disappearance of public drinking water fountains.”


This beta-test version of WeTap is the very first stage in what eventually will be a massive “crowd-source” mapping effort to provide free public information on drinking water fountains. WeTap does two things:

1. Permits smartphone users to add public drinking water fountains to a national database of fountains, with information on their location, condition, and quality, including uploading a photo; and

2. Permits smartphone users to find a working fountain when they want one.


The test version of WeTap is ready and volunteers are being sought to show the world where public drinking fountains are. The Pacific Institute is recruiting volunteers who own Android-capable phones and have gmail and Picasa photo accounts to test the application by finding water fountains and uploading them on their phones, and to provide feedback on the application. People interested in participating in the Bay Area should send an email to


Sign up to be a WeTap beta-tester in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read more about WeTap.

See what fountains have been mapped so far: The WeTap Drinking Water Fountain Map (Version 1.0)


Dr. Peter Gleick
Dr. Peter Gleick

Gleick Tells Washington: Extreme Weather Events Are Subject to Human Influence

Pacific Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick 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.


“Extreme weather is influenced by climate change, and extreme weather events are now subject to human influence,” said Gleick. “The continued delay in taking action means we face rapidly worsening impacts, and unavoidable adaptation. We are loading the dice and painting higher numbers on them.”


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) hosted Dr. Gleick as part of the AMS Climate Briefing Series on May 9. One of the world’s leading experts on water issues, Gleick addressed the critical impacts of climate change on water resources, including:

· A hotter world.

· Mixed changes in precipitation (both by region and time period).

· Dramatic reductions in snowfall and accelerating snowmelt; related changes in runoff timing.

· Rising sea-level with impacts on groundwater quality and coastal/delta ecosystems.

· Accelerating influence on extreme events: including floods and droughts.


NOAA data show precipitation intensity rising above historical norms in the Northern Hemisphere, and there is scientific evidence for growing climate risks of flooding in the Mississippi Basin. There have been a growing number of floods of historical size over the past few decades.


“All along the river, the Mississippi is reaching unprecedented flood levels,” Gleick said. “We are now moving into a situation where all weather and storm events are, to some degree, influenced by human-induced climate change. The links between climate change and extreme events cannot be ignored.”

Read more.


Access slides of Dr. Gleick’s full briefing here.

Read the Reuters article on Dr. Gleick’s testimony here.

Gleick Testifies on Water Efficiency to Delta Stewardship Council


Peter Gleick testified on April 15 before California’s Delta Stewardship Council on water efficiency and conservation, focusing on the state’s agricultural sector. In his testimony, Gleick discussed how there is broad agreement that no single strategy in the area of water storage, water efficiency, water pricing, or water policy will be sufficient to satisfy the goals of sustaining the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s ecosystems and vital water delivery systems. The proposed policy in the Council’s Second Staff Draft of  the Final Interim Plan identifies mandatory key plan elements, including “water-use efficiency.” While Gleick expressed support for these, he emphasizedthat water-use efficiencies should incorporate both agricultural efficiency improvements and urban improvements, with explicit targets. Below is a summary of his main points.


1.     The potential for improvements in water-use efficiency, especially in the area of agricultural water use, are regularly discounted, underestimated, or misrepresented.

2.     The potential for improving the efficiency of water use in California agriculture is substantial.

3.     The failure to adequately analyze and include efficiency potential restricts the policy options available to the Council and risks leading to inappropriate, costly, and unnecessary policy choices, such as fallowing and infrastructure built to the wrong size or needs.

4.     Efficiency is one of our cheapest, fastest, most environmentally sound options, but it must be a central element of a comprehensive plan.


Read Dr. Gleick’s entire testimony here.  

Pacific Institute Prepares New Analytical Tool WESim 


The Pacific Institute has developed the Water-Energy Simulator (WESim) as an easy-to-use analytical tool that can be applied by water and energy managers, municipalities, and decision-makers, to be available in June. WESim allows the user to evaluate the energy and greenhouse gas implications associated with water management changes resulting from population growth, climate change, the development of alternative water and energy sources, and needed water treatment improvements resulting from emerging contaminants and stricter water-quality guidelines.

Watch for more details in the June Online Update!

View a preview about WESim here.


Multiple-Use Water Services Project Begins


Meena Palaniappan, director of the International Water and Communities Initiative; John Akudago, senior research associate; and Veena Srinivasan, research associate, kicked off a project to evaluate the potential of Multiple Use Water Services as a framework for funding in the water sector with a meeting with the Rockefeller Foundation, Winrock, IDEO, and Johns Hopkins University.


The concept of Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) is emerging in the water sector as an approach to comprehensively respond to the many water needs of vulnerable communities. In addition to using water for drinking and cooking, people also use water for livestock, small-scale agriculture, and other productive uses. These other uses of water have the potential to considerably improve the economic condition of poor and vulnerable populations, with numerous studies linking increases in income to increased access to water. The Pacific Institute will provide a critical analysis of the potential for MUS to improve economic and health conditions among the poor, including identifying principles and recommendations to make a MUS approach more robust, comprehensive, and sustainable. We will look specifically how MUS projects are ensuring the sustainability of the water resource in the face of increasing demand, how MUS projects can incorporate sanitation, promote equity, and learn lessons from previous approaches to develop more integrated solutions in the water sector.  



U.S. Water Prize Awarded 

U.S. Water Prize
U.S. Water Prize

“The world needs more Pacific Institutes and Peter Gleicks to shed light and insight on water and watersheds and make the connections with clean energy and climate change policies,” said Ben Grumbles, president of the Clean Water America Alliance, awarding an inaugural U.S. Water Prize to the Pacific Institute. Peter Gleick was in Washington, D.C. to accept the award on behalf of the Institute, at a May 9 ceremony attended by 200 water leaders. Grumbles lauded each of the five award winners as “a shining example for innovating, integrating, and collaborating to sustain America’s liquid assets.”

Read more.


Community Partner Hilton Kelley Wins Prestigious 2011 Goldman Environmental Award


On April 11, Hilton Kelley, director of Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA) in Port Arthur, Texas, was honored as the North America recipient of the prestigious Richard and Rhoda Goldman Prize at the San Francisco Opera House. The Goldman Prize is awarded each year to six outstanding grassroots environmental activists around the world. Kelley was recognized for his work to fight environmental health hazards on the Texas Gulf Coast from petrochemical plants, incinerator facilities, and natural disasters like Hurricane Ike. Kelley’s organization, CIDA, also supports community-based economic development efforts to create jobs and economic well-being for Port Arthur residents. CIDA’s accomplishments include negotiating a “good neighbor” agreement with the Motiva refinery that established a $3.5 million fund to help entrepreneurs launch new businesses in the community. Earlier this year, the Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program partnered with CIDA and the University of Texas Medical Branch to conduct a series of community mapping workshops for CIDA leaders to develop a community-based revitalization plan for the primarily African-American community of West Port Arthur.


Read more about the Community Strategies Program here.


Hear Peter Gleick on NPR’s Science Friday on May 13 


Tune into NPR’s Science Friday this Friday, May 13! Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick will join host Ira Flatow discussing the flooding of the Mississippi and the impacts of climate change on extreme weather events. Science Friday is a weekly science talk show, broadcast live over public radio stations nationwide from 2-4pm Eastern time (11am – 1pm Pacific) as part of NPR’s Talk of the Nation programming. Dr. Gleick will be on for the first 40 minutes of the program. You can find your local radio station listed or listen live here — or if you can’t listen live, the broadcast will be available later online.


In Brief


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


Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate  

- joined the steering committee of the California Roundtable on Food Supply and Water in April.


Heather Cooley, Water Program co-director

- presented the Institute’s new water-energy tool WESim to a group of water and energy experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory   

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

- presented on a youth-based participatory research partnership between the Institute and The Neighborhood House of North Richmond

- presented “What do researchers do when community partnerships fall apart? Understanding the renegotiation of power with population change” at a colloquium hosted by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health

- contributed a blog entry on community resilience to climate change as part of 2011 Earth Week for Ella’s Voice

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


Peter Gleick, president

- spoke on peak water at the Edward Brueggeman Center at Xavier University

- spoke to students from a water planning course at UC Berkeley

- gave the keynote dinner address at the Marin Conservation League

- gave the keynote speech entitled “Business of Water: Moving from a Commodity to a Human Right” at the UC Berkeley 8th Annual Sustainability Summit

- presented the keynote speech at the Miller Institute Spring Dinner entitled “Can California Water Problems Be Solved?”


Jason Morrison, Globalization Program director

- presented the UN CEO Water Mandate’s Guide to Responsible Business Engagement in Water Policy at the Selected Approaches to Walter Sustainability Workshop


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

- participated and led two meetings of the Indonesia WATER SMS Project Management Team with our partners PATTIRO Indonesia and Nexleaf Analytics


Peter Schulte, research associate

- spoke to the Environmental Economics class at California State University – Sacramento on California water policy and corporate water stewardship

- spoke at BrightTALK’s Water Management Summit via webcast, focusing on outlining an operational framework private companies can use to engage with water policy in a manner that reduces business risks while advancing established policy goals and positively impacting nearby communities and ecosystems


Pacific Institute in the News  

- Craig Miller of KQED interviewed Peter Gleick, president, on the new report released by the Department of the Interior which breaks down the outlook for eight key river systems, including three vital to California. Read the article.


- Juliet Christian-Smith spoke with Dara Kerr from Oakland North and discussed the implications of the recent California drought. Read the full article


- Dr. Gleick discussed the world’s water supply and peak water with EarthSky. Listen to parts of the interview and read the full article here.  

- The U.K. Guardian quotes Peter Gleick in an article on Mississippi flooding and climate change. Read the article here.


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