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Significant Figures by Peter Gleick

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The end of the rainy season in California is arriving in a few weeks, and the April 1st snowpack measurement, which is a key indicator of water conditions, is tomorrow. As we approach the dry spring and summer months, the scope and severity of California’s drought will become more apparent, but it is already clear…

In the last few months, as the severe California drought has garnered attention among scientists, policymakers, and media, there has been a growing debate about the links between the drought and climate change. The debate has been marked by considerable controversy, confusion, and opaqueness. The confusion stems from the failure of some scientists, bloggers, reporters,…

It is time to recognize the serious California drought for what it is: a bellwether of things to come; a harbinger of even more serious challenges to California water resources allocation, management, and use. The drought could end next month. It could go on for more years. But it will not be the last drought…

Water policy and water problems always seem to be someone else’s responsibility. Those farmers who use all the water; the guy down the street who lets his sprinklers run all over the sidewalk; the Central Valley cities that don’t even have water meters; the environmentalists who are demanding water for some inconsequential fish we can’t…

In the 20th century, water policy seemed easy: figure out another source of water to satisfy some projected demand, and find the money to build it. The money was almost always federal “pork barrel” funding for big water projects, or occasionally state bond financing. The vast number of dams built in the United States (see the…

For some time now, proponents of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” have claimed there was little or no evidence of real risk to groundwater. But as the classic saying goes: “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” of a problem. And the evidence that fracking can contaminate groundwater and drinking…

With Matthew Heberger. This is a version of a post from the blog “Pacific Institute Insights“ How much water is there in America’s rivers, and where is it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, people have little sense of how their local water resources compare in size to other water resources. “Is that a big river? A little river?”…

Smart Water; New Jobs

Invest in the future. And especially, invest in sustainable, effective job creation in the water sector. The result will be millions of new jobs – a significant result. That is the key message from a new analysis just released today by the Pacific Institute on sustainable water jobs in the United States. That study, Sustainable…

We’re bombarded with numbers every day. But seeing a number and understanding it are two different things. Far too often, the true “significance” of a figure is hidden, unknown, or misjudged. I will be returning to that theme often in these blog posts in the context of water, climate change, energy, and more. In particular,…

It is time we just said “no.” There is growing attention to climate change in the media; and there is a growing realization that decisions we make today will have a lasting effect on the world’s climate tomorrow. But there is still a gap – a chasm really – between the reality of climate change…