October 2011 Online Update

Research for People and the Planet  

In This Issue
- Ven Te Chow Award
- World’s Water at Wilson Center
- Rebuilding Water Infrastructure
- Water Conservation Act
- Nitrate Contamination
- Notes from the Field
- Facebook Users Ask Questions
- Margaret Gordon in “O”
- New Staff
- In Brief, Upcoming Events, News


Read Peter Gleick’s Blogs here.





Like Us, Follow Us:


Find us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter

Peter Gleick Receives IWRA Ven Te Chow Award at World Water Congress in Brazil  


Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick

Dr. Peter Gleick, president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, received the 2011 Ven Te Chow Award at the International Water Resources Association’s XIVth World Water Congress in Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco, Brazil. On September 28, he delivered the Ven Te Chow Award Lecture on the triennial Congress’s theme of “Adaptive Water Management: Looking to the Future.”  


The Ven Te Chow Memorial Award and Lecture is one of the most prestigious awards of the IWRA, named in honor of founder Prof. Ven Te Chow (1919-1981), the eminent water scientist who was a leading figure in water resources in the second half of the 20th Century.


“A sustainable world with clean water for all is attainable,” said Dr. Gleick. “Solutions to most of our water problems exist. The challenge now is to commit the time, money, and effort needed to apply these solutions.”

Peter Gleick was dubbed a “visionary on the environment” by the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 1999, he was elected an Academician of the International Water Academy in Oslo, Norway and in 2006, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. He is the author of seven books, including Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, and he is a featured expert in the new documentary Last Call at the Oasis.

Read more

Read Dr. Gleick’s Ven Te Chow Memorial Lecture here.

The World’s Water Volume 7 Launches October 18 with Peter Gleick Address at Woodrow Wilson Center 


The World's Water The much anticipated launch of the seventh volume of The World’s Water is October 18, with Pacific Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick speaking in Washington, D.C. at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He will be presenting highlights of the book’s key findings, from increased conflicts over water resources and contamination from “fracking,” to the growing risks of climate change and sustainable water management for U.S. water policy, businesses, and more.

Dr. Gleick spoke to an overflow crowd at the Wilson Center when Volume 6 was released in 2009. For information on attending the October 18 presentation of The World’s Water, click here. The event is 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Eastern time) in the 5th Floor main auditorium at the Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.  Directions are here. Dr. Gleick’s presentation is open to the public; RSVP to ecsp@wilsoncenter.org.

Since 1998, Dr. Gleick has edited and coauthored with Pacific Institute colleagues the biennial series The World’s Water, examining global issues around use and misuse of our freshwater resources. Watch for more details about The World’s Water Volume 7 coming out in mid-October! The volume is available for order online through Island Press or by calling 800-621-2736. Visit worldwater.org for access to select content and data tables from the entire series, with information from the new volume to be available October 18.


Green for All Examines Water and Work

Water Works Report

Every year, sewage overflows dump 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our nation’s waterways — enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep. But investment in our nation’s infrastructure to handle stormwater and wastewater has lagged, falling by one-third since its 1975 peak.
A new report from Green For All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Pacific Institute, looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure — the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment examines how that investment could inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create 1.2 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors and also result in 0.6 million additional jobs from increased spending in other sectors. Investing in green infrastructure approaches that more closely mimic natural systems is part of the solution — and further provides the additional benefits of reducing pollution of creeks and other waterways, saving energy, and increasing green space in urban areas.

Continuing on this research, the Pacific Institute is working on a comprehensive scoping analysis of the green jobs potential in the water sector — one of the most important and least-well understood resource sectors in the United States — to look further at how sustainable water practices could provide pathways out of poverty for low-income communities; evaluate potential water-related green job creation; and develop a blueprint with community members and project partners defining essential elements of successful green job programs.

The traditional approach to meeting water challenges has almost entirely relied on massive, centralized, capital-intensive infrastructure, however, a range of sustainable solutions are also available to meet these challenges. There is growing awareness of, and attention to, the potential for generating job growth, economic activity, and direct community benefits from sustainable water solutions. Detailed analyses of that potential can help drive changes in investment patterns and fiscal priorities. This further research will be released next fall.

Download the new Water Works report here.



Pacific Institute Analyzes Water Conservation Act of 2009

What happens after a bill becomes law? The answer may be more complicated than you think. The Pacific Institute has been involved in determining how the Water Conservation Act of 2009 (California Senate Bill x7-7) will be implemented by participating on both the Agricultural and Urban Stakeholder Committees. The legislation requires that the Department of Water Resources work with these committees to develop policy, guidelines, and regulatory rules that meet the intent of the law. Find out more about this work through letters submitted or signed onto by Pacific Institute experts and brief summaries of the major issues:

Read about Senate Bill x7-7.
Read the recommendations­ letters.


Thousands of Californians Fear Their Tap Water


nitrate_contamination_report_cover.jpg The Sacramento Bee covered one of California’s most unaddressed environmental issues: nitrate-contaminated drinking water in the San Joaquin Valley. In his October 3 article, Mark Grossi highlights the extent of tap water contamination in the region and its effects on local community members. He notes that:  

“As long ago as 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey said nitrates appeared to be a greater threat to ground-water quality than thousands of tons of pesticides… In a state with the world’s seventh-largest economy, it wouldn’t take a lot of money to clean up the Valley’s small-town water problems — $150 million total for projects on record. San Francisco last year committed the same amount of money to help homeowners and businesses finance solar panels and water efficiency.”  

The article cites the Pacific Institute’s 2011 report The Human Costs of Nitrate-Contaminated Drinking Water in the San Joaquin Valley, a collaboration with the Community Water Center, Clean Water Fund, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. The report focuses on household costs of avoiding nitrate-contaminated drinking water connected to community water systems and the costs to these systems of removing or avoiding nitrates — and points to key policies and research needed to better understand and resolve this entrenched challenge. Since its release in March, the report has been downloaded close to 37,000 times.  

Read the full Sacramento Bee article here.
Read more about the
human cost of nitrate contaminated water in the San Joaquin Valley.


Notes from the Field: DIY: Do-It-Yourself as a Way of Life  
by Misha Hutchings

Research Associate, Pacific Institute International Water and Communities Initiative

DIY is one of those terms that is at once so familiar to me and seems universally used and understood, but in reality has little or no meaning in other contexts.   


Transport-it-yourself: Various water containers that are filled and carried back to neighboring homes with no running water; a 20-liter jerry container, when full, can weigh about 45 lbs. Tallo, Makassar.


Although the term DIY (do-it-yourself) emerged in the 1950s, in the past 10 years it has come into widespread use in the U.S. to describe the “can-do” attitude to complete a job without the aid of experts or professionals (who are usually widely available) or not purchase a ready-made product to instead to do or make it yourself…
Why? Because there is a choice involved. Once interest or patience in doing-it-yourself fades away, one can simply revert back to having others provide you with most everything you need or desire, cheaply. But what if there was no choice? What if you had to grow your own food, make your own clothes, or go out and find your own bathing and drinking water by yourself? Without training or knowledge to undertake the task, how safe would the water collected be for your family to consume, every day?
I couldn’t help but think about this contrast as I visited different communities in Makassar, South Sulawesi. When it comes to basic needs, such as supplying household water, Indonesians are no strangers to DIY, because some of them have few or no options.


Read the full blog post

Pacific Institute Facebook Users Join in on the Conversation



Last month, we posted a Facebook status update asking Pacific Institute Facebook Fans how they thought crowd-sourced map data could improve water management in urban areas. One follower commented, asking, If it is a poor area.. how many of the residents even have cell phones?


The question sparked some interesting discussions and highlighted how the WASH SMS Project could harness the potential of mobile phones to create a highly accessible communication and monitoring system that develops crowd-sourced map data to improve water and sanitation services for the urban poor. In her response, International Water and Communities Initiative Director Meena Palaniappan said:   


This is a great question. What is surprising is that the poor in developing countries have quite good access to mobile phones, often far better access than they do to basic services. In the developing world, for every 100 people, there are 67 mobile subscriptions (International Telecommunications Union, 2009). Our own research in Malang and Makassar in Indonesia has demonstrated that in the urban poor communities that we are working, a majority of households had access to a mobile phone. In countries all over the world and globally, there are more cell phones than toilets .

This is a sad state of affairs, but also presents a tremendous opportunity. The good news is that community service organizations, small businesses, and governments are finding ways to improve people’s lives by using mobile phones — by providing microfinance and banking options to the poor, giving them better access to health care, and helping them find the closest toilet or water point. Our project is another step in this outpouring of technology to serve the needs of marginalized communities. The WATER SMS project is about giving a voice and visibility to the urban poor, so that they are unignorable by government services. By combining their voices and creating map data to demonstrate where the need is, we can help the urban poor get affordable and sustainable water services. At the same time, the water utilities in developing countries that lack information on who is using water, and the state of their various water sources, can now have the information they need to better plan in the face of climate change and urbanization. What we are working for is a win-win-win, where better and more transparent information can help meet the needs of the marginalized, the needs of future generations, and also the environment.

Read more about the WASH SMS Project.

Go to the Pacific Institute’s Facebook Page.
Go to the Pacific Institute’s Twitter Page.

Board Member Featured in O, The Oprah Magazine

Pacific Institute Board Member Margaret Gordon is featured in this month’s O, The Oprah Magazine for her longstanding leadership on environmental health and justice issues surrounding the Port of Oakland. Her passion and commitment to these issues have earned her respect beyond her West Oakland community and have made her a key player on decisions that affect the health and environment of the area. In O, The Oprah Magazine, Margaret’s journey takes center stage:
Pacific Institute Board Member

Margaret Gordon

“…[Margaret's] interest became personal when she connected the asthma that plagued her and her grandchildren — and was landing local kids in the hospital at a rate seven times the California average — to the diesel exhaust spewing from nearby freeways and the truck-clogged Port of Oakland, leaving a scrim of “black stuff” on parked cars. Through a local nonprofit, Gordon helped organize a project to gather data on truck traffic and started speaking out at government forums. She logged thousands of hours bringing attention to her community’s plight, all while juggling part-time jobs to make ends meet.

In 2004 she cofounded the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project(WOEIP) to educate local residents about pollution and empower them to fight for necessary protections. The group’s hard work paid off in 2005, when it got the city to pass an ordinance rerouting trucks away from residential areas to main roads. Four years ago, the mayor showed his appreciation by appointing Gordon a commissioner of the Port of Oakland, where she now works with shipping companies to negotiate air-quality plans; she’s also been named to the advisory committee for the EPA’s Clean Air Act. ‘If you’re not at the table,’ Gordon likes to say, ‘you’ll end up on the menu.”‘


Read the full article.  

New Staff Joins the Water Program


Water Program Research Associate Kristina Donnelly

The Pacific Institute welcomes new Research Associate Kristina Donnelly to the Water Program. Ms. Donnelly worked on several projects during graduate school, including modeling hypoxia development in the Gulf of Mexico, identifying water valuation strategies for international businesses, and analyzing economic development strategies for Jordan. She was the 2008/09 Sea Grant Fellow with the Great Lakes Commission in Michigan. After that, she worked for the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel. Her work focused on conducting and implementing transboundary water research, projects, and educational opportunities between Israelis, Jordanians, Palestinians, and other nationalities.


Her research interests include: social, economic, and policy implications for water conservation; conflict and conflict resolution/management over transboundary water resources; water policy and environmental justice in the Middle East; and soft path water planning.

Update on Last Call at the Oasis



On September 9, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick attended the Toronto International Film Festival for the release of the documentary Last Call at the Oasis, in which he is one of the featured experts. The Participant Media presentation produced by Jessica Yu & Elise Pearlstein has since been described on the movie blog Spout as, “easily on track for a deserved Oscar nomination.”

The U.S. rights for the film have been acquired by ATO Pictures who said, “We could not be more proud to be working with Participant on this riveting, enthralling doc which we know will open people’s eyes to the severe calamity at hand. Audiences are in for an eye-opening experience…” Look for the distribution this spring!


A well-made argument, Last Call at the Oasis shatters myths about our water resources. The film exposes defects in the current system, shows communities already struggling with its ill-effects, and highlights individuals championing revolutionary solutions.

Watch the trailer for the Last Call at the Oasis.

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.

Carl Ganter

Circle of Blue Director Carl Ganter

Circle of Blue has been on the road with recent presentations about water and energy at the Asian Development Bank in Manila and the Water Summit V in Milwaukee. Upcoming events in October include panel discussions at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Miami and at the World Food Prize annual Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines.

Read Water News at
Circle of Blue.


In Brief   

Pacific Institute Presents on Federal Transportation Planning for Public Health

On September 19, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program Co-Director Catalina Garzón presented on a panel on strategic planning at a training entitled “Federal Transportation Planning for Public Health,” organized by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and Transportation for America. Her presentation focused on the Pacific Institute’s work with the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative to integrate public health considerations into regional land use and transportation planning priorities through the implementation of state climate legislation SB 375 in the Bay Area.
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:


Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate
participated on the “Reaching Agreement and Maintaining Those Agreements” panel at the Water Education Foundation’s Colorado River Symposium in Santa Fe.  


Catalina Garzón and Eli Moore, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Co-Directors

– presented on the costs of nitrate contamination in groundwater to households in the San Joaquin Valley to US EPA Region 10′s Environmental Justice Partners, findings from the

nitrates study conducted in partnership with the Community Water Center.


Catalina Garzón, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Co-Director
presented on a panel on smart growth, social justice, and transit-oriented development hosted by the Ecology Center as part of its transportation event series entitled “Refuel, Repair, Reimagine: A Series about the Future of Bay Area Transportation.”


Peter Gleick, President

- moderated a session entitled “Impact Pathways and the Adoption of Innovation” and gave a presentation about the WASH SMS Project and other Pacific Institute information tools at the XIVth World Water Congress in Brazil.


Upcoming Events  


-On October 5-6, Senior Research Associate Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, Research Associate Matthew Heberger, and Water Program Co-Director Heather Cooley will be presenting at the WaterSmart Innovations conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dr. Christian-Smith will be presenting at the “Conservation and Revenue Stability – Opportunity or Oxymoron” session and Mr. Heberger will speak on “Simulating Future Water Demand in California with a Changing Climate.” Ms. Cooley will speak on “Tools for Integrating Water and Energy Management.” Thursday, October 6, 2:30 PM, Las Vegas, Nevada, South Point Hotel and Conference Center. For more information and to register click here.  

For the full schedule of the Water Smart Innovations Conference click here.     

-On October 18, President Peter Gleick will present The World’s Water Volume 7 at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. For more details, see article above, or click here. RSVP to ecsp@wilsoncenter.org.

In the News


- In an Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein, Peter Gleick explains why moving water from flooded areas to drought areas is not as easy as it seems.


- A Reuters article about the climate change impacts of rising sea levels on California’s coasts references the Pacific Institute’s sea-level rise report.  


- Tilde Herrera of GreenBiz.com covered the in-the-works CEO Water Mandate Water Action Hub, an online mapping tool and repository for water resources which will be developed over the next year. Read more about the tool co-developed by the Pacific Institute, Deloitte, and German International Development Agency (GIZ).

Subscribe to the Pacific Institute’s RSS feed! Subscribers automatically receive updates on new 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.

Quick Links                                                                                                               Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter
Support Our Work
About Us
Online Update Archives


Pacific Institute | 654 13th St | Preservation Park | Oakland | CA | 94612