IBM Joins Group Wanting Smart Water Grid

IBM has joined the Water Innovations Alliance Foundation's board. The industry association promotes accelerated adoption of water technologies.

IBM also will serve as chair of a subcommittee working on technology platforms, standards, and methodologies to enable improved water management decisions.

The Alliance launched its Water IT Subcommittee in New York City on May 18.

“Having IBM take a leadership role in this initiative will further our mission for creating a national smart water grid, and we are pleased to have their active participation,” said F. Mark Modzelewski, co-founder and executive director of the Alliance. “It is vital that all the parties – both in the public and private sectors – come together to create and fund a water information technology initiative with common platforms, standards, and nomenclature.”

“Demand for innovative water-related information technologies is growing rapidly,” said Peter Williams, chief technology officer of IBM Big Green Innovations. “To achieve our goal of improving water management, we need to collaborate on sensing and monitoring infrastructures for water resources, a common system for measurement, evaluation, and reporting, as well as common standards. If we come up with an effective IT management system that leverages the current infrastructure, filtration, and treatment technologies, we could realize significant annual water savings.”

Currently, 1.1 billion people lack access to a reliable water supply, and 2.6 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. By 2025, over half the world’s population will live in water-stressed or water-scarce countries. One-quarter of global freshwater use exceeds local long-term accessible supplies. Agricultural uses are the biggest concern, with an estimated 15 to 35 percent of irrigation withdrawals in excess of sustainable limits. Industrial withdrawals of water are expected to rise by 55 percent out to the year 2025. In addition, within the United States, population has been migrating from the water-rich North to the water-depleted Sunbelt. Moreover, crumbling infrastructure means that cities such as Chicago lose upwards of 60 percent of its water in transit from treatment facilities to faucets.

"Addressing water quality and management issues are of paramount importance to a sustainable planet," said oceanographer and Alliance adviser Fabian Cousteau. "Technological innovation is one of the vehicles that will help get us there."

The emerging water IT field is focused on aiding the delivery of water from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to improve decision making, save energy, reduce cost, and increase reliability and safety. The goal of the field is to create a virtual water “grid” that cuts across all water supplies from natural ones such as rivers and aquifers, to municipal suppliers, to the impact of weather patterns.