Significant Figures by Peter Gleick

Dr. Peter Gleick is a scientist, innovator, and communicator on global water, environment, and climate issues. He co-founded and leads the Pacific Institute in Oakland – an independent non-governmental organization addressing the connections between the environment and global sustainability. Dr. Gleick’s work has redefined water from the realm of engineers to the world of sustainability, human rights, and integrated thinking across the disciplines of the geosciences, economics, and policy. He produced some of the earliest assessments of the impacts of climate change on water resources, explored the links between water and conflict, and defined basic human needs for water and the human right to water – work that has been used by the UN and in human rights court cases. He pioneered the concepts of the “soft path for water” and “peak water.” Gleick received the prestigious MacArthur “genius” Fellowship in 2003 and was named “a visionary on the environment” by the BBC. He was elected in 2006 to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Wired Magazine featured Dr. Gleick as “one of 15 people the next President should listen to.” He received a B.S. from Yale University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He serves on the boards of numerous journals and organizations, and is the author, co-author, and editor of many scientific papers and books, including the influential series "The World's Water," "Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water" (Island Press), and "A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy" (Oxford University Press).

by Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley Debates about water in California, the western U.S., and indeed, worldwide, have traditionally focused on the question of how best to further expand water supply to meet some hypothetical future increase in water demand. And the solution frequently offered is to build massive new infrastructure in the form of…

It’s only natural that during a crisis we look to single, “silver bullet” technical solutions, after all, they are supposed to be effective against werewolves, witches, and other monsters. For monsters like the ongoing severe California drought, the current favorite silver bullet is seawater desalination.  And why not? California sits at the edge of the…

[As part of the Pacific Institute’s ongoing efforts to evaluate the impacts of the California drought and offer strategies, technologies, and policies to reduce those impacts, we are presenting a series of short assessments on “Understanding the Numbers.” This piece is the part of that series.] California is a wonderful place to grow food. The…

California’s hottest and driest drought in recorded history has shifted the sources of electricity with adverse economic and environmental consequences. The Pacific Institute has just completed and released a report that evaluates how diminished river flows have resulted in less hydroelectricity, more expensive electricity from the combustion of natural gas, and increased production of greenhouse…

  If there is anything that the past few decades of research and study of major global challenges tells us, it is that truly effective solutions to sustainability challenges require truly integrated approaches across disciplines, fields of study, data sets, and institutions. We are not going to solve 21st century global problems with 20th century…

By Peter Gleick (Pacific Institute) and Carl Ganter (Circle of Blue) 1. The California Drought Becomes an Emergency California’s multi-year drought grew dire enough in 2014 to prompt Governor Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency in January. By the end of the year, California had experienced the driest and hottest 36 months in its 119-year…

The California drought continues. While we do not know yet what the rest of the wet season will bring – and while we hope for the major storms needed to recharge our rivers, groundwater and reservoirs – it seems increasingly likely that California will not see enough precipitation to get out of the very deep…

Over the past three years (and indeed, for 10 of the past 14 years) California has experienced a particularly deep drought. How bad is the drought? Is it the worst in the instrumental record? The worst in over a century? The worst in 1200 years? The worst “ever”? And why has it been so bad?…

Guest Post: Matthew Heberger Pacific Institute, Oakland, California New monthly water use data for California water utilities shows that residential water use varies widely around the state, and that the response to the drought has been uneven. Moreover, in some areas, residential use averages more than 500 gallons per person per day, indicating that we…

The most important trend in the use of water is the slowly unfolding story of peak water in the United States and elsewhere. Data on US water use are compiled every five years by the US Geological Survey, covering every state and every sector of the economy. The latest data – for 2010 – have…