What no air conditioners ? Dear me those Indians!


Ratna Devi is one of a dozen casual laborers working at a small construction site in the southern part of the Indian capital New Delhi, where her job is to help prepare a concrete mix. The work earns the 32-year-old a daily wage of 250 rupees or just under $4 — money that she uses to support her 7-year-old daughter. On Wednesday afternoon, as Devi went about her work on the site, her daughter fainted while playing nearby. The cause? A searing heatwave that has kept the maximum daytime temperature in the Indian capital above 100°F (40°C) for over a week now.

On Wednesday, the mercury topped out at 111.2°F (44°C). On Thursday, with temperatures hovering around 109.4°Fahrenheit (43°Celsius), Devi was back at work and her girl was once again playing near the site. For days now, authorities have been calling on people to avoid going out during the afternoon, when the heat wave is at its most extreme. 


Construction workers like Devi, along with the homeless and the elderly, have been the hardest hit by the heatwave that so far has led to over 1,800 deaths, the vast majority of them concentrated in the southeastern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Together, those states account for over 1,750 deaths. Deaths have also been reported in Delhi and other states, including Gujarat and Odisha, where temperatures earlier this week peaked at a sweltering 116.6°F (47°C). The heat is so severe that, on Tuesday morning, a local newspaper in the capital carried on its front page a picture of a pedestrian crossing on a main thoroughfare that had been disfigured, with its white stripes curled up, as the asphalt melted.

Already, hospitals in Delhi are “overflowing with heatstroke victims,” Ajay Lekhi, the head of the city’s medical association, told the news agency Agence France-Presse. “Patients are complaining of severe headache and dizziness. They are also showing symptoms of delirium,” he said.


In the west, reports of the increased severity of the Indian & now the Pakistani heatwaves have been greeted with cries of, why haven’t they installed air conditioners? Which kind of underscores the reliance of the developed world on machinery, which functions perfectly well in reasonable temperatures, but will pack up & malfunction in countries where severe heat becomes a commonplace occurrence.

Has India had heatwaves in the past? Of course, but what is concerning is the severity of this year’s heatwave. This could be the most lethal year for heatstroke in India’s history. With 1,700 deaths from heatstroke reported in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana alone so far this year, the death toll in those two states alone has already surpassed that of India last year. Overall this year the death toll stands at nearly three thousand. Hundreds of mainly poor people die at the height of summer every year in India, but this year’s figures are already nearly double the annual average.

“How do we cope up with the heat? We have to raise kids and so we have to work even though it’s hot. Otherwise what will our children eat?” said 38-year-old bricklayer Sunder in Gurgaon, a satellite town near Delhi. People across India have been plunging into rivers, staying in the shade and drinking lots of water to try to beat the heat. Scorched crops and dying wildlife were reported, with some animals succumbing to thirst.


Dizzying temperatures have caused water shortages in thousands of Indian villages as a result thousands of water tankers were delivering supplies to more than 4,000 villages and hamlets facing acute water shortages in the central state of Maharashtra, state officials told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Cooling monsoon rains are expected in the south before gradually advancing north. However, forecasting service AccuWeather warned of prolonged drought conditions, with the monsoon likely to be disrupted by a more active typhoon season over the Pacific.

Is this a consequence of global warming? Some would say that actually it’s got to do with the shortage of air conditioners, but then what would we know?


One Punk Band’s Uncensored Campaign Against Fracking

As the lead guitarist and singer of punk band Anti-Flag, Justin Sane is known for advocating against war overseas. But in the band’s latest release, the war Sane wants to stop is happening on the borders of his own hometown.

“They sit inside the kitchen, broken, in despair, their livestock sick or dead, their water a toxic cocktail,” Sane sings on “Gasland Terror,” his depiction of the fracking boom in Western Pennsylvania. A Pittsburgh native, Sane sees the sudden influx of natural gas drilling as poison, an infiltration of what he calls “criminal corporations.”

“When they’ve made the money and there’s nothing else to take, they’re going to leave,” he said, drawing a parallel to the fall of Pittsburgh’s steel industry in the early 1980s. “They’re going to leave us with broken communities, with pollution, with all the kinds of problems that fracking brings in.”

Gasland Terror is not a new song, but it is part of a new album called Buy This Fracking Album, an anti-fracking compilation featuring tracks from wildly unsimilar artists like Bonnie Raitt, Michael Franti, and Natalie Merchant. Released Tuesday, the album also features the last-known live recording of Pete Seeger before his death in 2014.

In a phone interview with ThinkProgress, Anti-Flag’s Sane talked about the new album, along with his personal experiences with the fracking boom; his opinion on Pennsylvania politicians and President Obama; and, naturally, his views on the Confederate flag.

EA: You guys have been playing music for 20 years. But for the un-initiated ClimateProgress reader, could you tell me a little bit about Anti-Flag and the political statements you’ve made in the past?

JS: We came out of a punk rock scene and community that really stresses empathy, really stresses caring about more than just yourself. That includes people, that includes the planet — from my perspective that includes all living things.

Part of that point of view is looking around and seeing that the economic system of capitalism is completely unjust. It seems pretty obvious that we don’t live in a democracy. We live in a corporatocracy. We have corporations and a billionaire class that have pretty much bought our government. And that’s something that, particularly with this record, we were really rallying against.

EA: There are a ton of environmental issues out there. There’s vegetarianism, climate change, Arctic drilling — fracking seems to be the one that’s got celebrities up in arms. Why do you think that is?

JS: Fracking for me is a no-brainer. It’s another dirty source of energy. Our oceans are becoming acidic because of human-made environmental waste. It’s so obvious that we have alternatives out there that are clean. That’s the direction we need to move in. And fracking is just taking us from one dirty source of energy to another source. That is the polar opposite direction that humans need to be moving.

For me, that’s the main reason. Let’s get away from this dirty source of energy. It’s literally destroying our planet. There will come a time when the planet will not be able to take any more pollution, and people are going to have to decide: Do we want future generations to actually be able to live? Or are we okay with having this toxic world where eventually we’re going to kill off all the life out of it?

EA: To play devil’s advocate, there are people who say that, at least fracking helps us get away from dirtier sources of energy like coal. It’s lower carbon emitting. It’s a way to transition away from dirtier fuels.

JS: But it’s not clean. Whether it’s global warming, or polluting our water sources, or the oceans: There is a negative that comes out of oil, out of fracking, out of burning coal. There’s always going to be a negative with these dirty sources. Fracking is just a different negative. We’re stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

We don’t need any more transitional dirty fuels — we just need to go clean. Germany is a great example of a company that’s doing that. It’s a huge country. The United States has more resources than any other country in the world. It’s incredible what we could do — there just has to be a political will. And it has to be a will that comes from the people.

EA: There are a bunch of different tones on the album. For example, Michael Franti’s song talks about wanting to see the “flowers blooming” and “boom boxes booming” …

JS: I have to interrupt and say Michael Franti is the coolest dude in the world. I have such a man crush on Michael Franti. He is so cool. And he is a huge human being. He’s a giant guy! He’s got these big feet and his personality is massive, and he’s got this incredible, radiant glow about the guy. He’s just so posi-core. I want to hang out around that guy all day. Like, man, we need more Michael Frantis in the world.

EA: That’s awesome! I loved him when I was in college. Anyway, his song: Flowers blooming. Boombox booming. Yours, the tone is a little more … damning. Why?

JS: Well, we’re from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We’re located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale world. And I’ve just seen it — I’ve seen the environmental devastation that [fracking] creates. And I’ve seen how it harms people. And it’s completely unnecessary.

Anti-Flag started as an anti-war band more than anything. We get a lot of veterans come to our shows who served overseas, and they’re disillusioned. They realize that the people they were sent to fight and kill have much more in common with them than the politicians who sent them to do the fighting and killing. They feel like suckers.

I feel the same way about the issue of fracking, and that’s why the song is damning. I consider these corporations who pollute our planet, who literally ruin people’s lives, I consider them criminal. And that’s why the song has a feel of condemnation. Because I really believe that these people are criminals. I’m really hopeful that someday there will be a day when corporations and CEOs will be held criminally responsible for the actions they’ve taken that knowingly destroy the planet.

EA: Can you talk a little more about being from an area where fracking is prolific?

JS: Because I live in that area, I know guys who are welders working on the rigs. I know guys who operate heavy machinery, manufacturing the pads that they put the wells on.

Those people are just average working class people trying to put a dime in their pocket. I know some of them struggle with the fact that the work they do has the potential to lead to some environmental damage that could harm human life. I think a lot of people care about that.

But they’re living in the reality of the world, where they’re trying to feed their kids and put a roof over their heads. I’m not talking about those people [in the song]. The people I’m talking about are those who have the capacity to put enough resources in place that the whole industry can exist. The reality is, those same workers could be in the green industry. They could be working out in solar fields.

EA: The oil industry makes the morality and empathy arguments too, though. That fracking in Western Pennsylvania is helping farming communities that previously hadn’t been able to make money.

JS: I think you could make the same argument by saying they would much more welcome green energy on their land. They would more welcome a well that is not going to catch on fire, or pollute their water table and effectively destroy their home.

And again, that could be possible. That’s why we have to look, especially in Pennsylvania, at people like Ed Rendell, the former governor. We have to look at Tom Corbett, the former governor. We have to look at our current governor, Tom Wolf.

These people are owned by the fracking industry. They’re just a bunch of whores.

EA: Even Wolf?

JS: He supports it. He’s not against it. In New York state, the governor outlawed fracking. In Pennsylvania, Wolf’s not talking about that. He’s talking about maybe putting a little more of a tax on them. So, from my perspective, if they’re not against it, they’re for it.

You can’t only look at industry executives. You have to look at the politicians who support them as well. You know how I talked about the idea that some of these people I believe should be brought up on criminal charges — I would include those politicians right along with them.

EA: How do you feel President Obama has been handling these issues?

JS: It’s pretty painful. I don’t know if President Obama is well-intentioned or not. He might be. But I think he’s in the pockets of the corporations, and that’s who he represents. Look at this trade negotiation — what he wants, what’s in that.

When I look at Obama, I just see a corporate whore. What else can I say. He’s another corporate-bought politician, put into office by bankers on Wall Street and big money donors.


Cuadrilla Versus Lancashire Council On this one! Please sign the petition!!!!


In Lancashire, a critical vote is taking place where county councillors could either slam the doors on plans to drill for shale gas, or give way and let the fracking industry in. 

And right now, it’s neck and neck! Seven councillors have voted for fracking, with seven others standing against.

Councillors are set to meet on Monday to try and break the deadlock, so it’s a race against time to win this.

We’ve just launched an urgent petition calling on councillors who voted against fracking to stay strong and to use their influence to talk others round. Please sign then share it far and wide!



Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a destructive and dirty process using a mix of water and chemicals to blast rocks and release trapped gas and oil. Not only have these chemicals been linked to water contamination [1], but burning more fossil fuels pumps more carbon pollution into the air, warming the planet further.

If Cuadrilla – the firm that wants to drill – wins in Lancashire it could pave the way for communities across the country to be opened up to a reckless dash for gas.

Cuadrilla’s throwing everything at this. They’ve already rolled out a massive leafleting campaign to try and influence the debate [2]. They’ve shelled out thousands to local businesses and sports clubs in an attempt to win favour [3]. And they’ve even gone as far as trying to silence protesters by taking out a court injunction against community groups [4].

The Democratic Party can't decide what it cares about most: its liberal base, which cares about the environment, or its campaign coffers, which receive major donations by energy companies.

The Democratic Party can’t decide what it cares about most: its liberal base, which cares about the environment, or its campaign coffers, which receive major donations by energy companies.

But here’s where it gets even worse: It looks like Cuadrilla could take Lancashire council to court, if councillors chose to vote down plans to frack.

With the risk of an expensive court case on the table, some councillors have spoken out about the incredible pressure they’re under. So at this crucial moment, we need to let them know that if they take a stand against fracking, we’ll be there to fight their corner.

I’ve signed the petition telling Lancashire councillors not to buckle to the fracking industry. With a final decision set to be made on Monday, this is as urgent as it gets. Can you quickly sign too? https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/fracking-urgent


We don’t know which way this one’s going to go, it’s just too close to call. But we do know there’s one thing the fracking industry doesn’t have — and that’s people power. It’s people power that led to a freeze on fracking permits in Scotland and Wales. And it was people power that led to bans on fracking in France and New York.

These victories show that when we work together, we can win — even against the odds. So with just days to go before the final decision on fracking in Lancashire, let’s give this everything we’ve got!

With all my thanks,


PS. Yesterday, Lancashire council threw out one of Cuadrilla’s applications to frack for shale gas. Let’s make sure they throw out the second one too. Sign the urgent petition here:


UK Green Peace E-Mail June 2015

Strong Truck Standards Cut Costs and Emissions

By Carol Lee Rawn, Director, Transportation Program
Ceres Posted on Jun 04, 2015

Next week, we expect to see proposed federal regulations governing the fuel economy of freight trucks. This is a big deal from both an economic and an environmental perspective — an important opportunity to take a big bite out of carbon emissions and freight costs.

The freight truck sector plays a major role in our transportation system, and is projected to grow significantly. Heavy trucks move 70 percent of U.S. freight, and U.S. businesses spend $650 billion a year on freight trucking services. Truck travel is projected to increase 48percent by 2040. Freight trucks account for over half a billion tons of GHG emissions a year, and are the fastest growing single source of GHG emissions in the U.S. Clearly, we need strong truck standards to control future growth in both freight costs and emissions, as well as to reduce our dependence on oil.

Amazingly, trucks were not subject to fuel economy standards until 2011, when the first ever fuel efficiency/GHG standards for medium and heavy duty trucks were adopted. These standards, called Phase 1 (model years 2014 through 2018), will save vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs and save a projected 530 million barrels of oil over the life of a vehicle. (Note that the truck standards apply to a wide range of medium and heavy duty trucks, from delivery vehicles and garbage trucks to tractor trailers.) While the Phase 1 regulations were a good start, we have the technology to cut fuel consumption 40 percent by 2025 (compared to 2010 levels).


We expect to see the proposed Phase 2 regulations shortly, and there  will be  a public comment period before the regulations are finalized next year.

Strong standards are good for companies’ bottom lines. A recent Ceres/EDF analysis shows that strong, technically feasible Phase 2 standards that cut fuel consumption by 40 percent (compared to 2010 trucks) would result in significant cost savings; an annual savings potential of $34 billion, and a 6.8 percent reduction in freight costs, by 2040. Shippers (those who hire trucking services) bear the bulk of fuel costs, and would especially benefit from strong standards.

Astute companies recognize the advantages of fuel efficient trucks; more than 300 companies, including PepsiCo and IKEA Distribution Services, and business advocacy groups signed a letter for strong standards.  In addition to providing cost savings, strong standards benefit the growing list of companies that are concerned about reducing their carbon footprint. Strong standards will increase the availability of fuel efficient trucks, making it easier for companies to meet carbon or fuel reduction goals.


Investors also recognize the value of strong standards in driving innovation to make the trucking industry and suppliers of advanced technologies more globally competitive. Federal regulations governing the fuel efficiency and GHG emissions of heavy duty trucks  provide an enormous opportunity for investing toward the Clean Trillion goal in the transportation sector, which is responsible for nearly 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and is a growing source of emissions globally.

In short, strong standards are good news for America’s economy and environment. Lower freight costs will benefit companies and consumers.  And just as the passenger car fuel economy standards are making the U.S. auto industry more globally competitive, so too will strong truck standards drive innovation in that industry. Strong truck standards are a win for the economy and the planet.


Selfish or myopic? Exxon and Chevron’s latest climate change statements are surely disturbing


The two largest North American oil and gas companies, Chevron and ExxonMobil, recently held their annual meetings in the midst of a historic drought in California, a heat wave in India that is claiming thousands of lives, and unprecedented storms and flooding in Texas. It was at these meetings and in this context that both companies put their stakes in the ground on climate change – and it’s not encouraging. The time for platitudes and friendly but ambiguous statements about recognizing the “serious” nature of climate change were cast aside as we got a disturbing look at how Chevron and Exxon really plan to play out the end game on fossil fuels.


As shareholders sat in a highly secured auditorium on the Chevron campus in California, CEO John Watson commanded the stage…and the microphones. Shareholders were allowed two minutes to present pending resolutions before their microphones were silenced. Watson could respond at his leisure and had at his disposal pre-prepared PowerPoint slides and videos that were not subject to rebuttal or even closer examination.


Halfway across the country, in an equally secured venue, Exxon convened its annual meeting in Dallas. After board directors had been introduced, the lights were turned off in their section until faith-based investor Sister Patricia Daly asked that they be re-illuminated for her presentation of a shareholder resolution calling for science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets. Perhaps Exxon thinks board members should be treated like mushrooms, as the old saying goes.

The CEOs of Chevron and Exxon have created an echo chamber to amplify their messages and insulate their boards and shareholders from the reality that is beginning to catch up with the oil industry. Despite taking painful earnings hits over the last two quarters, John Watson and Rex Tillerson were bullish about the future of their companies and the future of oil and gas.

In response to a shareholder proposal to re-direct capital away from costly high-carbon extraction projects and higher investor dividends, Watson pointed to his company’s 27 consecutive years of providing dividends. He failed, however, to mention the company’s current negative cash flows and decision to take on more debt even as analysts project that$70-a-barrel oil would still not allow the company to stabilize its cash flows.


Watson claimed that recent oil price drops are no different from the many downturns that he has seen over his 34-year career. In fact, he insisted that his experience will ensure Chevron weathers this passing storm. In response to a well-reasoned plea by Sister Susan Vickers urging the company to establish GHG targets, Watson responded that if they cared about the poor then they should recognize that the path to prosperity has run through fossil fuels for the last 150 years – and that it still does.

This logic is flawed. The world has changed dramatically in the past 150 years, and clean energy technologies have advanced even more rapidly in the last 10 years than anyone had expected. Fossil fuel companies are not only at risk because of falling oil prices and the promise of stronger carbon-reducing policies, but perhaps even more importantly, they face existential threats from the falling costs of renewable energy, energy storage breakthroughs and other trends that point to a true low-carbon power system. Even the oil minister for Saudi Arabia is talking about moving from exporting oil to exporting solar energy.

Tillerson’s response to shareholder questions on climate demonstrated an even more stunning lack of concern over the human and economic devastation that has already been linked to climate warming trends – much less the increase in catastrophic weather events if carbon dioxide levels reach 600 or even 650 parts per million. (We’re now at 400 ppm, up from 350 ppm just 28 years ago). Instead, he indicated strong faith in the technologies that will be needed to adapt to rising sea levels and coastal inundation and acknowledged a certain degree of suffering noting: “mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity.” Yet, his faith in technology was not nearly as strong with respect to key mitigation strategies such as renewable energy and low-carbon transportation fuels.


When asked about Exxon’s willingness to invest in renewable energy, Tillerson quipped, “[W]e choose not to lose money on purpose,” and went on to claim that renewable energy would not exist without massive government subsidies. This is especially ironic in the wake of a new IMF report on the trillions in subsidies that the oil and gas industry is receiving each year  – including $699 billion in the U.S. alone; that’s more than $2,000 for every American.

Exxon and Chevron also announced that they will not join with the six European oil majors who have committed to go to upcoming UN climate talks in Paris with a proposal for addressing climate change – specifically, by asking world leaders to set a price on carbon pollution.


Chevron and Exxon are increasingly digging in their heels and relying on myopic business models that are simply no longer realistic. This year, engaged shareholders have reason to redouble their efforts to reach board members and decision-makers within these two remnants of the original oil behemoth — Standard Oil — and convince them that its time for a new path forward.

A Farm Level View on Supply Chain Water Risk


WATSONVILLE, CA—Lettuce is a thirsty crop in parched California. It takes roughly 12 gallons to grow a single head, and Chris Willoughby, a mid-sized grower of leafy greens, broccoli and cabbage, is doing his best to cut back on that amount. When his wells ran salty 10 years ago, following decades of regional groundwater over pumping, he turned to Watsonville’s recycled wastewater plant, installing—at his own expense—the necessary piping and valves to tap into the more expensive recycled water.

It doubled his water costs.

Willoughby intensified his use of drip irrigation and changed his tillage practices “big time” to further conserve water. As a result, he’s managed to achieve a 15 percent reduction in his water use since 2013.

He may be ahead of the curve on water stewardship among California’s thousands of vegetable growers, but he wouldn’t know. Though his buyers ask him to report his water use, they don’t provide him feedback on how he compares to similar growers.

As California’s agricultural community faces mandatory water cutbacks, growers are bearing the brunt; yet, the entire supply chain, from farm to fork, has a stake in ensuring the long-term sustainability of water supplies. Ceres new report, Feeding Ourselves Thirsty: How Global Food Companies are Managing Water Risk, found that very few global food companies are assessing water risk in their agricultural supply chains, or working with their growers to improve water management.

Willoughby’s experience, at the base of the supply chain, provides a microcosm of some of the barriers—and opportunities—for better collaboration on water management.


It All Starts with Good Data

Managing any kind of risk starts with good information, but collecting and managing water use data up the supply chain can be a surprisingly tough nut to crack.

Agricultural supply chains are highly complex. Willoughby, for example, sells to four shippers who wash and bag his greens before moving them quickly up the supply chain to retailers like Walmart and food service companies that supply restaurants, colleges and other institutions all over the country.

“The longer the supply chain, the weaker the connection between the farmer’s management information and the ultimate consumer,” says Daniel Mountjoy, of Sustainable Conservation, which led a recent tour of Willoughby’s fields.

Inexact water use data is more of a problem in fragmented supply chains, like Willoughby’s, where each link acts independently and contracts are subject to change.

Furthermore, though shippers typically draw on the same limited water resources when they wash—and in some cases triple wash—growers’ produce, farmers like Willoughby typically have no idea how that water use is reported up the chain, or how it compares to their own.

More vertically integrated supply chains, in contrast, can allow for better collaboration on water management. Take Olam Spices and Vegetable Ingredients, a global food company that grows, sources and processes onions, garlic, parsley and tomatoes throughout California’s Central Valley.

Olam’s close relationships with growers have enabled it to innovate water efficiency solutions at the farm level, according to Alejandra Sanchez, the sustainability lead at Olam. Olam is developing farm management practices that will allow their onion varieties to thrive with drip irrigation, and rotate more easily with tomato crops, to both save water and preserve soil health.


Better Metrics for Better Trust

Yet one of the thorniest issues in supply chain water risk management is what measurement to use, and for whose purposes.

“Metrics have value at each step of the supply chain, but they may be different metrics,” says Mountjoy. “What’s valuable to the grower has a lot more detail in it, but it ends up getting aggregated at the shipper level.”

Opportunities for Improving Collaboration

Beyond using better metrics to assess water use, there is much more that corporate buyers can do to improve water management in their supply chains, such as:

  • Provide growers with feedback, or peer comparison data on their water use (using metrics that allow for meaningful comparison). Let them know how their data will be used, and why disclosure can benefit, rather then penalize, them.
  • Participate in initiatives to standardize collection of water use data to streamline data gathering efforts.
  • Engage in, or financially support, dialogue and planning at the watershed level with key stakeholders, communities and other industries. Efficient use of water by an individual farmer may not achieve sustainability of a watershed if other farmers, or other supply chain partners or industries, are not managing water from that watershed wisely.
  • Help finance the necessary equipment to help improve water efficiency, such as monitors that measure soil moisture conditions and wireless towers that allow for real time access to field data.


In the end, corporate buyers can go a long way by letting growers know that they recognize water is a shared resource and that farmers are not the only ones responsible for conserving water.

As Olam’s Sanchez says, “We all have straws going into the same glass of water.”

About the Author

Meg Wilcox is a Senior Manager, Communications at Ceres, a nonprofit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on global sustainability challenges. Connect with her on Twitter @WilcoxMeg or by email wilcox@ceres.org. Learn more about Ceres atwww.ceres.org/valuingeverydrop.

California’s Water Crisis Is The Result Of Market Failure As Much As Drought


Weak pricing signals. Poor accounting. Byzantine rules. These are just a few of the reasons why California is in the midst of a water crisis. A lack of rainfall is perhaps the least of the state’s problems.

California’s situation is symptomatic of escalating water risks all across the world, where water is typically undervalued and, as a result, used incredibly inefficiently as more people than ever need it.

“There’s no room to hide anymore, this is where finance hits reality,” said Piet Klop, senior advisor of responsible investment at Dutch pension fund manager PGGM, who spoke with me recently about escalating water risks globally.

At meetings I attended across the state this month with water-savvy investors, the California drought always loomed large. In addition to fallowed farmland and depressed earnings, they acknowledged a larger more profound reality—the devastating drought and growing climate change impacts are likely the “new normal” for California.


The California drought is only the latest reason why investors are increasingly seeing global water scarcity as a material issue in their portfolios. More than ever, they are trying to understand how localized water risks—whether in California, Brazil, or China—will ripple through their investments, whether in water utility bonds or food company stocks.

In the case of Breckinridge Capital Advisors, which manages a $21 billion fixed-income portfolio, the challenge is to understand how thousands of U.S. water utilities are exposed to water risks. Breckinridge uses 11 indicators to analyze how water availability, demand, and oversight can affect a utility’s ability to repay its bond debt. As a result of this process, it downgraded a handful of water utilities in water-constrained Texas last year.

In terms of the California drought itself, I’ve heard lots of suggestions for what the state should do, many of them focused on key fundamentals like stronger water pricing and better water use information. Here are a few key points:


Much of California’s water use isn’t being measured, especially when it comes to withdrawals from groundwater basins, which provided more than half of the state’s total water supplies last year. There’s also little information on how much stormwater and urban and agricultural runoff is being “wasted” instead of being captured and re-used. Without a better understanding of how much water is available and who is using it, managing the state’s water challenges will be daunting.



Compared to countries like Demark and Germany, it’s low—even in regions where supplies are most tight. In drought-stricken Fresno, for example, a typical family of four is paying about $42 a month for water, less than one-quarter the cost in soggy Seattle. And pricing is also wildly inconsistent among different users, with farmers who are essentially “mining” groundwater typically paying the lowest. As a result of patchwork quilt pricing and byzantine water ownership rights, flexible water trading that would enable more efficient water use is all but impossible.


In first quarter 2015, 63% of global greentech venture capital funding originated in California; yet, only 3% of that funding was aimed at water-related solutions, according to Libby Bernick, senior vice president at environmental data research firm Trucost.


This is true particularly in regard to sufficient investments in green water infrastructure, such as stormwater capture and recycling. Vast amounts of stormwater are now being funneled into the Pacific Ocean every time it rains. While the state’s recent $7.5 billion water bond will help finance some of these types of projects, all agreed it’s not nearly enough.

The business community, including members of my organization’s Connect the Drops campaign, has a key role to play in driving the discussion on the importance of resilient, sustainable water supplies for California’s future. Investors, who have a direct stake in the state’s economy, have an important role, too. If things continue along the same path, soon this point will not be easy to forget.