Podcast: Dr. Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute

February 19, 2014

Dr. Peter Gleick is my guest in this episode of the freshwater Talk podcast. Peter is the co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan research institute founded in 1987 focused on finding real-world solutions for sustainable communities, environmental injustice, water security and economic development. He is the author of 10 books including the annual editions of The World’s Water. Peter is known around the world as a leading expert, innovator and communicator on water and climate issues. He was recently named by Wired Magazine as one of the “Fifteen People the Next President Should Listen To – and now you get to listen to him, too.

As someone I have listened to for a number of years, it was a pleasure to dive deep into historic and current water issues – and the global water crisis that is already here. He says, “It certainly is a crisis that we have failed to meet basic human needs for water sanitization for billions of people. It certainly is a crisis when there is a severe drought or severe flooding. It is certainly a crisis, although a different kind of one, when there is violence and competition over water. There is a water crisis in the biggest sense of the term – in the sense that we simply don’t manage our water globally or locally in a sustainable way.”

Peter also explains how we need to learn to live within the limits of peak water, a term he coined that describes water as both a renewable and nonrenewable resource. As he put it, “a river is a renewable resource, but once you use up the flow of a river, you don’t have water anymore, making the river nonrenewable at that point. That’s what is happening with the Colorado River, The Nile and the Yellow River in China. We have reached peak renewable limits with those rivers.”

Similar to my discussion with Ben Grumbles in another podcast episode, Peter and I discuss the changes to our laws and legislation that are needed to better regulate our current and future water management. As he points out, “our government and culture tend to wait too long to make the necessary changes.”

But Peter is optimistic, citing new global and local laws, and the exciting innovations within big agriculture to grow more food with less water. From an increased awareness of our water problem to the advancement of corporate responsibility to businesses focused on securing supply chain, Peter does see progress on how we use water.

In addition to agriculture and legislation, in the course of our conversation we also discuss the risks of privatizing water supply, the commodification of water, the recent United Nations CEO Water Mandate and the drought in California. To say Peter is just an expert in water and climate issues feels like a gross understatement as he is attacking the key problems of our time. Listening to him only confirms his impact and importance for our world. If you did listen, you are just as important as the president.

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