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Water and Sustainability

The Water and Sustainability Program works to improve efficiency, ensure basic access to water, and protect the environment.

The World's Water, Vol. 7
The seventh volume of
The World's Water, the biennial series addressing the pressing issues of our use and misuse of the world’s freshwater resources, is now available.

Water is one of our most precious and valuable resources. Without it, we would perish. Plants and animals need a reliable supply, and it is critical to growing crops and etching chips.

Despite its importance, over 1 billion people around the globe still lack access to clean water and thousands perish daily for lack of it. In the natural world, many of our most important aquifers are being over-pumped and half of the world's wetlands have been lost to development. There is a political dimension to water as well: Almost every major river system on the planet is shared by two or more nations, making water a source of international conflict and a matter of national security.

As wpostelater cuts across disciplines and issues, so does our Water and Sustainability program. Since our founding in 1987, we've worked to bring attention to key issues that have often been overlooked: the impact of climate change on water, the role of water in conflict, water as a basic human right, threats to the world's water, efficiency and conservation and, most recently,the globalization and privatization of water.

New Approach to Conservation
Underlying all of the Pacific Institute's work is the belief that a new approach to the way we plan, manage, and use water is urgently needed. The world's water problems flow from our failure to meet basic human needs and our inability to balance human needs with the needs of the natural world. These maladies are both rooted in a wasteful use of water and an antiquated mindset towards gathering and distributing it. Only by developing a new approach that makes sustainability and efficiency paramount can effective and permanent solutions to these problems be found.

The good news is that we are making progress. We have succeeded in focusing water policymakers at all levels to look at the risks of climate change. The 2003 California Water Plan will officially acknowledge this issue for the first time and others are also beginning to consider the effects of global warming on water supply. Work we've done on water-related diseases and the human right to water has changed the nature of the international debate over water policy-although too many still perish from preventable water-related disease. The Pacific Institute has also played a crucial role as an independent moderator in water-related disputes in the Middle East and we are working to reduce the risks of water-related conflict across the globe. Our push toward a reevaluation of the importance of water-use efficiency and conservation is leading to fundamental changes in water policy in the western United States and elsewhere. And our work on the privatization and globalization of water has been widely praised by people on both sides of the debate.

"Soft Path" Solutions
Despite these successes, more needs to be done-much more. The most important change we can make is in the way we think about water. Big dams and centralized storage projects have brought many benefits and are still needed in some parts of the world. But "soft path" solutions-conservation, efficiency, and community-scale infrastructure-can bring clean water to billions who don't have it while helping protect our natural world.
Old habits still linger, but new approaches abound. There are a host of solutions to the pressing problems of shortages, disease, and environmental destruction that, if properly used, will help us build a more sustainable and equitable future.

Research Topics and Projects:

Global Water Crisis

Water Efficiency

Water Privatization

Colorado River

Salton Sea

Water and Conflict

Climate Change

The World's Water and the Soft Path


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Dr. Peter H. GleickPeter Gleick

Heather Cooley


[7/13/11] Q and A with Peter Gleick in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

[4/09/10] Gleick's New Book Looks at The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water

[7/22/09] New Report: Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future

[6/22/09] Gleick, U.S. Experts Call for Crucial Climate Action and Leadership

[6/18/09] Cooley Testifies Before Congress on Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture

[4/28/09] Gleick Joins the Blogosphere with "Water Numbers"

[4/16/09] EPA Honors Pacific Institute for Work on Water Conservation and Efficiency in California

[3/11/09] New Study Finds Impacts of Sea-Level Rise Threaten California Coast

[3/10/09] Gleick Testifies Before Senate on Integrating Water and Energy Policy

[3/04/09] Gleick Testifies Before Congress on Need for Integrated National Water Actions

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