By Phil Guido
Conventional wisdom tells us that cities and regions that face a shortage of a resource will likely be the most innovative out of necessity in conserving it. Apparently the leaders of Milwaukee don’t prescribe to this reactive thinking.
Milwaukee, which is situated on one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world, Lake Michigan, decided a few years ago to use its abundance of water to invest in becoming an innovation hub for it.
After only a few years, Milwaukee’s investments are paying off. Nearly 200 water-related businesses have joined together through a brand new industry, academic and government collaborative called the Global Water Center whose function is to be a source for leading edge water technology and solutions. The Center is also the heart of new business district called the Global Water Technology Business Park. Located on the banks of the Menomonee River, it attracts businesses and organizations that are focused on the international water industry and water management. Continue Reading »
By Dr. Katharine Frase
The urbanization age is upon us. While the estimates vary of what percentage of population will live in cities by 2020, 2050, or even 2015 for that matter, what remains constant is the undeniable pace of change cities are already facing – change that will only accelerate.
Cities around the world, whether big, mid-size or small, are reaching their limits from growing and aging populations, strained infrastructures and a constant need to do more with less.
To reinvent themselves for the 21st century – “the New Era of Smart” – cities are turning to data. Using and analyzing information in new ways is enabling them to anticipate problems in real time, or better yet, before they happen. In addition, the knowledge and insight is crucial for city officials to make better decisions and swiftly resolve the issues that are most pressing for citizens. Continue Reading »
By Eric Siy and Dr. Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer
The Jefferson Project at Lake George, being launched today in Upstate New York, is the culmination of a generation’s work to understand the lake’s changing water quality and what it will take to protect it for the next generation.
The project will advance the “Legacy Strategy” of The FUND for Lake Gorge, a science-based advocacy group founded in 1980. The Strategy was adopted last fall to stop documented declines in water quality as revealed by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Margaret A. and David M. Darrin ’40 Fresh Water Institute (DFWI). Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
By Ahmed Simjee
When I was growing up in South Africa, my family was fortunate. We had access to fresh drinking water. At first we lived on a small farm near Johannesburg, where we used a well. Later, when I moved closer to the city, I had good tap water. But many of my fellow South Africans weren’t so lucky, and, even today, many people in the rural areas and in informal settlements near the cities don’t have ready access to fresh drinking water. That’s why I’m extremely pleased to be spearheading an initiative in South Africa, WaterWatchers, which is aimed at using mobile phones and crowdsourcing to cut down on leaks and wasted water.
We’re launching our free WaterWatchers app today in Gauteng Province, home of Johannesburg and the capital city, Tshwane. With 12.3 million residents, the province represents 23% of South Africa’s population. We timed the launch to coincide with the United Nations’ World Water Day. If you’re in South Africa, please download the app. Continue Reading »
By Scott T. Rickards
In our data-rich financial universe, a fundamental economic question remains unanswered: at what cost is it economical for the world’s largest cities to bring additional water supply online?
The oil industry will tell you that $100/barrel oil is the value below which capital allocation can earn a return. Given its critical importance in our lives, why does the water industry not have a similar fast answer to the question? Is the ‘global water crisis’ a resource crisis or perhaps a capital crisis?
Precisely because of its critical importance, the water industry has been given a pass on cost transparency by everyone from politicians, to Wall Street, to economists due to the unimaginable consequences of not having an abundant supply of fresh water. As a result, the subject of water production costs remains largely unexplored and water has taken a back seat to virtually every other resource in the battle for private investment dollars. Continue Reading »
- By Mary Keeling
- Water is one of our most essential resources – yet much of the water we use every day is “hidden” as an indirect, yet critical, component of something else – food, health, energy, transportation and more. And of all the water on Earth, only 1 percent of it is useable by ecosystems and humans. In other words, a little bit of water needs to go a long way.
As the world’s population increases from today’s 7 billion to an estimated 8 billion in 2025, the demand for water will rise to satisfy increased demand for food, particularly as meat consumption in global diets increase. Every time you consume a kilo of beef you many not realize that it takes 15,500 liters of water to produce it. For comparison, it takes 1,300 liters of water to produce a kilo of wheat.
By Harry Kolar, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Sensor-Based Solutions
The rough seas off the coast of Ireland, where the North Atlantic can churn waves more than 15 meters high, are home to some of the largest concentrations of wave energy in the world. This turbulent seascape has for centuries served as both a sanctuary for marine life and a source of commerce and sustenance for the people of Ireland and Europe.
Now the waters of Galway Bay are providing something new: information.
After more than 18 months of design, development and research, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) in association with IBM and the Marine Institute of Ireland last month turned on a massive data collection system that will capture and analyze – in real-time – the under water noise levels of the bay.
Initially, the system will capture and analyze the ambient noise of the ocean to establish a baseline of acoustics including natural and anthropogenic (man-made) sound sources including vessel traffic. But the ultimate goal is to capture and analyze the sounds and vibrations of hulking wave energy conversion machines that have begun bobbing along off the coast and help determine what, if any impact the sound waves from those devices could have on marine life – but especially highly sensitive dolphin, porpoise, and whale populations.
This year-long project is an offshoot of an effort launched in 2009 in Galway Bay by IBM and SEAI, called SmartBay. While much has been written about both of these projects, little has been said about the technology behind them. The “smarts,” if you will, of the SmartBay.
Across North America, drought-stricken farmers are facing historically small harvests, raising concerns about global shortages and increasing food prices. This summer’s drought should be a strong reminder that we have to manage our water resources more carefully.
In many countries, the competition for water between the countryside and cities is intensifying. Farmers face an uphill battle in the competition for water since industry can afford to pay much more than they can, according to the Earth Policy Institute.
This battle over water is likely to intensify. As the world’s levels of CO2 emissions continue to rise, the frequency of extreme weather phenomena such as heat waves is expected to intensify. Heat waves are expected to further strain the world’s water resources, especially in areas where water demand is increasing and water supplies are shrinking. The challenge worldwide is to meet today’s water needs while putting in place innovative strategies to address future requirements.
One of the best ways to promote sustainability is to make consumers aware of the true cost of water.
The 1990s was the era of reengineering the corporation. Technology helped leaders overhaul their operations–everything from sales to supply chains. Now the phenomenon has spread to cities. Across the globe, municipal leaders ares rethinking and redesigning how they do things.
One of their biggest headaches is infrastructure–their roads, bridges, sidewalks, water lines and sewer pipes. They used to fix things when they broke. These days, increasingly, the forward-thinkers among them aim to fix things before they have a chance to break. And they’re using technology to help them optimize the way they invest in infrastructure maintenance and renewal.
Cambridge, a small city in Ontario, Canada, is in the vanguard of getting this right. It has been working with IBM Research to develop a system for prioritizing the city’s investments in fixing or replacing physical infrastructure so they meet the public’s needs while making the most of their limited budget. “We look at how we can use technology and revised business practices to make the city work better,” says Mike Hausser, Cambridge’s director of asset management and support services.