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 Jack Kardys
Miami-Dade County Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 260 parks and 12,825 acres of land. It is made up of 17 miles of beaches, the renowned Zoo Miami, golf courses, marinas, large athletic stadiums, campgrounds, pools and more.
As Miami-Dade County looks at new ways to re-vitalize the region, create jobs and spur business growth while benefiting residents, the parks system is at the epicenter. In addition to making sure we’re good stewards of the environment, we are committed to ensuring social equity with the right distribution of park facilities and programs throughout the community for people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and income levels.
Most of the parks in Miami-Dade County are anywhere from 50 to 75 years-old. Our beachfront parks were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s and the saltwater intrusion has been wreaking havoc on the system ever since. Our community pools were built in the 1960’s and the early 1970’s. The pipe corrosion from chlorine and the chemicals we use to keep those in balance tear up our pipes. It’s a challenge we face throughout the region. Continue Reading »
By Angel Petisco
Most organizations would be surprised if they understood the vastness of the data they’re sitting on at any given point. But the magic happens when that data, through proper analysis and mining, is converted into useful information.
That’s what we’re doing in Miami-Dade County. Using IBM Big Data analytics we’re able to provide a greater level of service to our residents by bringing together information from more than 35 different municipal government departments and agencies. Sharing information in this way will help us solve traffic congestion challenges, improve law enforcement by helping to solve crimes faster, and reduce water waste improving the county’s stewardship of natural resources. Ultimately, such improvements to our operations will allow us to save significant costs and identify new ways to spur economic growth and job creation. Continue Reading »
Editor’s Note: This Friday (August 24), be sure to join us for an interactive Smarter Friday conversation about Smarter Cities Challenge on Facebook throughout the business day (New York time). Please Tweet to #SmarterCities.
Nearly four years into the Smarter Planet journey, IBMers have undertaken more than 2,000 engagements with governments and businesses aimed helping them use cutting-edge technologies to make their systems for getting things done work better. These encounters are all over the map, geographically and figuratively. But important lessons are being learned. And, in particular, one interesting pattern is emerging. For organizations of all types, good outcomes depend on addressing the yin and yang of building a smarter planet: a combination of improvisation and preparedness–or long term planning.
Improvisation: In the realm of smarter planet problems and solutions, there’s so much variability that no single blueprint will fit every overtly similar situation. Organizations have to be flexible and creative to get stuff done. They can’t let the need for a master plan or budget-tightening pressures paralyze them.
Preparedness: While creative fixes can help city leaders manage their systems for the short-term, the longer-term vitality of cities, countries and organizations depends on leaders adopting a mission and a strategy for achieving it. But even that’s not enough. They have to anticipate the challenges to come–everything from next year’s big storm to the impacts of climate change to the next big financial shock–and build resilient systems capable of withstanding them.
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.
When Pnina Vortman was growing up in Israel, she was aware of the importance of water in her life. Israel is a semi-arid country that depends in large part on the Sea of Galilee for drinking water and other uses. A breakthrough came in 1964 when Israel completed its National Water Carrier network, which brought abundant water supplies to the central and southern parts of the country. The system made possible massive irrigation projects, which transformed parts of Israel into a garden paradise. Mangos and other fresh fruits and vegetables starting appearing in her family’s kitchen.
Today, as a scientist with IBM Research, Vortman’s job is to come up with breakthroughs that enable water utilities to conserve water and money, while at the same time providing the water that consumers want and need. She leads a team at IBM Research – Haifa that designed a new system for monitoring and managing water pressure that could provide a model for many cities and communities seeking to deal with tight water supplies and growing demands. IBM has put the system to work for the Sonoma Country Water Agency, which serves more than 600,000 customers in Northern California. The first pilot is being done with the Valley of the Moon Water District, one of the distributors of the agency’s water. “We found that if we can manage the pressure in a flexible way, everybody can benefit,” says Vortman.
IBM has been working with the water agency for several years to help it improve efficiency and balance the needs of consumers and the natural environment.
By Peter Williams
CTO, IBM Big Green Innovations
During the past year, we’ve seen extreme weather conditions, from crippling drought in many parts of the United States and Europe to floods in Italy, Thailand, China and more. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change may increase the probability of some ordinary weather events reaching extreme levels or of some extreme events becoming more extreme – so in essence, we can expect a continued rise in extreme weather condition and events.
Even without climate change, floods are not rare; in fact, they are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Although we typically have some advance warning of their arrival, thanks to satellite forecasts, there is always the possibility (and likelihood) that a flash flood will behave in unpredictable ways, causing untold damage. To add insult to injury, dry, desert lands are often the hardest hit by floods, in areas where water is the most precious.
Clearly, we can’t fight the weather. Floods and droughts are a fact of life. We can, however, better predict how they affect us and protect ourselves from harm. Most flood modeling systems look at the main stems of large rivers. These forecasts provide valuable information, but often times the real action is in the thousands of small river branches and the tributary networks where flooding actually starts.