It’s Earth Day. Let’s agree to make more efficient use of water
By Maria Diecidue, Director of Communications, Global Water Works
Technology and systems thinking enables more efficient use of water to help preserve life on earth.
During my career, I have promoted technology for the improvement of business processes that take waste out of the supply chain, improve customer relations and use algorithms to accurately identify persons, be they patients or perpetrators. I have witnessed advances in analytics, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) where everything that is digitized can be connected to derive new insights. This digitization of everything has transformed technology itself as it’s given way to systems thinking about water to solve critical problems.
The whole earth, its water and its atmosphere, is one connected and closed system. It is a system where new technologies and systems thinking, a methodology essential to solving complex problems, can help us become better stewards of air, earth and water.
To illustrate, let’s consider the drought in California. It’s not just a problem for California. It’s a strain on the economy, has consequences for our national food supply and even our carbon footprint. To compensate, we import food from countries on other continents with transportation and energy costs (carbon footprints) embedded in the price.
Digitization in the energy sector is pervasive. We have made great strides in energy conservation as smart meters and wireless devices help us track utilization and even influence consumer behavior. In addition, IoT and analytics help business to manufacture more efficient products, increase water savings and lower production costs.
In this digital world, it seems that everything is connected and measured except for water. Until we measure and account for it, we won’t be able to manage it very well.
It’s time to get smart on water by following the examples of those who are applying technology to water in the same way we have applied it to energy.
In this IOT example, Companies such as Hortau and CropX and nonprofits like Santa Cruz County’s Community Water Dialogue are implementing radio-or cellular-enabled sensor systems that track variables including rainfall, humidity, soil composition, topography, temperature, and sunlight. Coupled with analytics and weather prediction data, this information enables farmers to make smarter decisions about irrigation. With sensors, farmers can develop a detailed picture of conditions on the ground, with the potential water savings up to 20-30 percent. Source: Data-Smart City Solutions, Sept. 2015.*
To help us consider how to use the many other new innovations available along the water use cycle, Systems Thinking – a theory of thinking of things in relation to each other – gives us the opportunity to take a holistic approach to the water use systems we have in place today.
Systems thinking takes into account 4 factors**:
- The distinct stakeholders (policy makers, corporations, technologists, environmentalists);
- Roles in the system (transporter, tester, treater, etc.);
- The Relationship to each other (upstream/downstream, regulator, contributor, user, etc.); and
- The Perspectives essential to understand and manage the whole so it functions better.
As we apply systems thinking to water, we will learn how to collaboratively steward water as it flows from its point of origin through our water sheds to our manufacturing and production cycles and then back into our waste water management systems. We can also identify opportunities for capture and reuse, where potable water is not a necessity, like irrigation or recharging of underground water resources.
Systems thinking is cyclical. It causes us to improve with every revolution of the water use cycle as we collaborate with stakeholders, monitor the system and improve management processes.
Surely, population growth and the continuing depletion of fresh water resources will outpace water saving – unless we take the time to better steward our water. It’s Earth day. Let’s agree to make more efficient use of water.
You’re invited to participate in “Net Work for Water”… This week’s program features the developers of Aqueduct Water Risk Maps and WaterSense high efficiency solutions: http://bit.ly/GWWNetWork.
Maria Diecidue is a founding member and director of Global Water Works, a (501c6) organization committed to advancing solutions designed to ensure that water will be available for future generations. Global Water Works promotes technology, thought leaders and resources that will help water work for the planet, people and profit. globalwaterworks.org
Achieving a Sustainable California Water Future Through innovations in Science and Technology: https://www.calstate.edu/water/documents/Achieving-Sustainable.pdf
A Better Way for California to Water its Farms | WIRED, http://www.wired.com/2015/06/farming-and-drought/
** A Primer on the Four Simple Rules of Systems Thinking (DSRP): http://stdaily.ghost.io/dd/
*Internet of Things Helps Cities Manage Water, by Laura Adler, Data-Smart City Solutions, Sept. 2015. http://www.govtech.com/fs/Internet-of-Things-Helps-Cities-Manage-Water.html
Think Water : https://www.thinkwater.us/#home
Water and the California Economy, Public Policy Institute of California: http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1015