Why the World Thirsts for Smarter Water « A Smarter Planet Blog

Eoin Lane, IBM Smarter Water Architect

By Eoin Lane

People often say that water is the new oil, but really, it’s not. Oil is a fossil fuel that takes millions of years and a lot of pressure to create. When we burn oil – for example, by driving our cars – it is gone forever (or at least for a few more millions of years before it can be created again!).

Water, on the other hand, cannot be created or destroyed (this is not strictly true, but bear with me). The same amount of water is around today that was around when the Earth was formed. The truth is there is a lot of water on Earth – just not a lot of drinking water. Here are some facts about just how little drinkable water is available:

* 97.5 percent of all water on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5 percent as fresh water
* Of that fresh water, nearly 70 percent is locked in ice
* Most of the rest of that freshwater is in aquifers which we are draining much more quickly than the natural recharge rate
* Two-thirds of our freshwater is used to grow food
* With 83 million more people on Earth each year, water demand will keep going up unless we change how we use it.[1]

Margaret Catley-Carlson of the Global Water Partnership has said, ”We cannot create water, but we can manage it better, much better.” [2] Take, for example, the longest water tunnel supplying NYC: it is 85 miles long, and it leaks 35 million gallons of water every day. We need to become much smarter about how we manage this precious resource and about how we collect, analyze and use water data.

There are three ways we can become smarter about water management:  Instrumentation, Big Data analytics, and cooperation

Notes

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