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