September 2013 Online Update  
In 2012, the Pacific Institute launched a major initiative and series of reports on key issues related to water pricing practices and policies in California. The first paper in this series, An Overview of the “New Normal” and Water Rate Basics, examines how many water utilities are facing higher water costs and lower water demands. The second paper was developed in partnership with the Community Water Center and Fresno State University and evaluates water affordability in case studies of the Sacramento metropolitan area and the Tulare Lake Basin. 
This month, the Institute released the third part in the series, exploring how California energy utilities have worked to balance a commitment to energy conservation and efficiency with fiscal solvency – and lessons the water sector can learn from these practices.
We invite you to take a look and explore this series covering critical issues for water service providers as they deal with the “new normal.”  


Electricity Pricing Practices Offer Lessons for Water Sector in Promoting Conservation and Efficiency

Because water utilities are dependent on the sale of water to recoup costs, reduced sales can result in deficits – and per capita water demand in California has been stagnant or decreasing for the past several decades. Over the coming years, California water utilities are required to reduce water use by 20%. Thus, the “new normal” or an era of declining demand and rising costs is a trend that is likely to continue. Water utilities can learn from a number of electricity pricing practices to help adapt to this “new normal” while staying fiscally solvent and providing fair prices.

“California’s energy sector has implemented many pricing policies that seek to balance a commitment to energy conservation with utility financial health,” said Kristina Donnelly, lead author of the report. “Both water and energy utilities are coping with similar financial challenges related to demand reductions and stand to benefit from a greater exchange of information and lessons learned.”

In order to understand how some of these practices might be relevant to the water sector, the Pacific Institute examined a range of electricity pricing practices and policies that California electric utilities use. The paper, Pricing Practices in the Electricity Sector to Promote Conservation and Efficiency: Lessons for the Water Sector, helps inform discussion at the local, regional, and state level about water pricing in light of recent and future reductions in water demand.  

From the
Pacific Institute Insights Blog 

Many Agricultural Water Districts Fail to Submit Required Water Management Plans: Laggards Can Learn from Leaders, Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith

AT&T Tool Kit Uncovers Billions of Gallons of Potential Water Savings in Cooling Systems, Guest Blog by John Schulz, Director, AT&T Sustainability Operations

WRI Insights: Managing the Earth from Space: Satellite and Sensing Technology in Water Management, Guest Blog by Andrew Maddocks, World Resources Institute Outreach and Development Coordinator


Peter Gleick on National Geographic ScienceBlogs 

Coordinating Water-Energy Efficiency Programs in California   

new study finds coordinating water-energy efficiency efforts provides a significant opportunity to achieve greater savings for both water and energy utilities and for their customers.

“We examine the barriers to coordinated water and energy efficiency programs and discuss, through case studies, ways that several California utilities have been able to overcome these barriers,” said Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute Water Program. “Coordinating programs can be an important tool to meet efficiency goals, allowing the state to meet critical policy objectives and saving Californians money.”

In California, an estimated 19% of the state’s electricity use and 32% of all natural gas consumption are related to water. Water-Energy Synergies: Coordinating Efficiency Programs in California, provides a series of recommendations for water and energy utilities to promote coordinated programs that address customer end-use efficiencies.

Read more.


Pilot Study in California Addresses Water Affordability Challenges

A new pilot study in California shows many households, even within affluent communities, routinely spend over the affordability threshold of 2 percent of their household income on their water bill. The number of water systems with “unaffordable” rates varies by region and measure used – which has important implications for policy makers.

Assessing Water Affordability: A Pilot Study in Two Regions of California, from the Pacific Institute in partnership with Community Water Center and Fresno State University, looks at both an urban and rural case: the Sacramento metropolitan area and the Tulare Lake Basin.


Water rate affordability is a central element to water access, and cost makes water excludable and inaccessible to those who cannot afford it,” said Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith of the Pacific Institute. “Water affordability is also a major concern to public welfare, safety, and security. When households are unable to make their water payments, consequences can include public health crises, social unrest, and lost revenue for water providers that can threaten their fiscal stability.”

The study’s results show that a significant number of areas within water systems have unaffordable rates, even if the system as a whole does not, and so it may be more important to consider household income rather than median income when assessing and addressing water affordability.

Download the full study here.

Read more about water rates in the series: An Overview of the “New Normal” and Water Rate Basics.

Pacific Institute and NRDC Review California Agricultural Water Management Plans
A new joint analysis issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pacific Institute finds that 70% of legally required Agricultural Water Management Plans in California were not submitted. Twenty-four of California’s agricultural water districts have submitted agricultural water management plans, leaving 55 districts out of compliance with the requirement of the Water Conservation Act of 2009.

 Implementation of the Agricultural Water Management Planning Act: A Review of Agricultural Water Management Plans offers recommendations for those 55 water districts to participate in and comply with future legally required planning cycles, including: 1) California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) should offer peer-to-peer workshops to assist districts with the planning process; 2) DWR should create an online clearinghouse of plans and draft plans to facilitate public comment; and 3) DWR should hold non-compliant districts accountable, and, per the Act’s mandate, refuse to consider grant and loan requests until districts submit a plan.

The Water Conservation Act of 2009 (SB X7-7) applies to water suppliers with at least 25,000 irrigated acres and required agricultural water suppliers to submit an agricultural water management plan by the end of 2012.

Read more.

Download the report.

Pacific Institute and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Sign to Pursue Joint Projects 
Drs. Peter Gleick (left) and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber sign MOU.

The Pacific Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research are pleased to announce the signing of a formal Memorandum of Understanding to pursue joint research in the areas of water, climate, energy, and sustainability. On September 6, 2013, Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, and Dr. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the eminent research center the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), formally signed the joint agreement in a ceremony in Potsdam, Germany in an office formerly occupied by Albert Einstein on the historic grounds of the Telegraphenberg campus. The two organizations work to provide society with sound scientific information for decision making through data integration, synthesis, scenario analysis, modeling, and tool development.

Among the areas of mutual interest to the two Institutes are studies in water and conflict; implications for food production from climate-change scenarios; water requirements for comprehensive energy systems and specific energy requirements of water systems; water-use efficiency in both agricultural and urban settings; conceptual and quantitative work on global teleconnections in the water system; indicators for the new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals; and more.

“Our joint aim is to find real-world solutions to climate and sustainability problems,” said Dr. Gleick. “The Potsdam Institute and the Pacific Institute together can be a powerful source of new thinking, strong analysis, and innovation in the face of the growing pressures on the planet’s people and resources.”

Opening for a Popular Education Associate

The Pacific Institute has an opening for a part-time Popular Education Associate to focus on popular education curriculum development and community workshop planning with the Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program (CSSJ). The CSSJ program is currently preparing to deliver workshop activities and materials on a range of topics, including the community health impacts of freight transportation, community mapping, tools for community research, and environmental health and justice, among others.

The Popular Education Associate will assist with the creative process of piloting curriculum resources and developing a format for designing and distributing them to communities in the region, state, and nationally.

The Pacific Institute is seeking an energetic, organized, self-directed, and confident person with experience developing and facilitating community workshops or related community education activities, and a passion for popular education on environmental health and justice issues.

Read more.

Report from Circle of Blue   

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.

The Leopard in the Well, a compelling series about India’s water, food, and energy challenges from Circle of Blue, is now available as an eBook from the iTunes store. The series takes you from the farms of Punjab to the coal mines of central India. The Circle of Blue team, in partnership with the Wilson Center, continues Global Choke Point coverage with more on-the-ground reporting in India this winter. Also just posted are dispatches from Mongolia, a country facing serious choices about how to balance its water resources and its mining wealth.


Get the book


In Brief       



Heather Cooley, Water Program Co-Director:

- traveled to Beijing as a member of the China Water-Energy Team (China WET), a diverse group of U.S. and Chinese experts organized by the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum and the Beijing-based Greenovation Hub. The team held roundtable discussions in Beijing to identify research, legal, policy, and NGO priorities for China to begin dealing with water-energy concerns and to explore opportunities for further U.S.-China cooperation on these issues.


Peter Gleick, President:


- spoke with Jim Brobeck, water policy analyst and KZFR (90.1 Chico, Calif.) public affairs programmer, on the need for a local water movement.

- spoke at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club on conflicts over water, the current situation in Syria, and climate change.

Upcoming Events      

- New England Water Works Association Annual Conference: Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith will be attending the NEWWA Annual Conference, September 15-18 in Manchester, Vermont, to talk about her book, A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy. For more information and to register online, click here.

- WeTap Event: An event to help encourage awareness of public drinking fountains and honor Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick will be held for WeTap at the home of Maria Gray in the Los Angeles area on September 29, 2013 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. For information and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Evelyn Wendell:


- Energy Research Group Showcase: Water Program Co-Director Heather Cooley will be a keynote speaker on October 27 at the Energy Research Group Showcase, one of the featured events of the third international ECS Electrochemical Energy Summit (E2S), part of the 224th ECS Meeting that will host more than 2,800 scientists, engineers, policy makers, and industry leaders.


Exact times and locations to be announced. For more information click here.

In the News

-Pete Spotts from The Christian Science Monitor spoke with Michael Cohen of the Water Program about the US Bureau of Reclamation decision to cut water deliveries from Lake Powell because of drought conditions. Read more here.

-Kristina Donnelly and Juliet Christian-Smith of the Water Program wrote about water rates and the “new normal” in Issue #114 of The Water Report. Find the article here.

-BBC Mundo interviewed President Peter Gleick about sustainable water management regarding the advisability of Jordan’s project to transport water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Read it here. [Spanish only]

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