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Smarter Water Management

Whether too much or not enough, the world needs a smarter way to think about water

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They are some of the leading thinkers, tackling some of the biggest issues in the marketplace. And IBM is lucky to count them among our numbers.

In some ways, we're all experts on water. We can't live without it. But Carey Hidaka and Djeevan Schiferli have unique perspectives on how we can be smarter about water management.

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Carey Hidaka

For every $1 invested in safer water and sanitation, there is an estimated return of $3 to $34, depending on the region and technology. Source: World Health Organization.

For the first nine years of his professional career, Carey Hidaka was focused on water. Using his masters in environmental engineering, he worked with commercial and government clients designing water and wastewater treatment plants as a consulting engineer in the early days of the Clean Water Act. Then it all dried up.

That was over 27 years ago. The momentum behind the legislation had slowed to a trickle. Funding was scarce. So Carey turned his attention to the IT industry and joined IBM.

During the next decade, Carey worked as a marketing rep in the downtown Chicago office of IBM. He spent some time at Motorola before returning to IBM in 2001, where he worked as a wireless consultant in the public sector. Then he discovered Big Green Innovations—the predecessor to smarter planet.

With this new endeavor, Carey found a way to apply his environmental engineering expertise in combination with his wireless and RFID public sector expertise. While continuing with his previous responsibilities, Carey helped the team foster relationships and build experience within water management. Then in early 2010, his career came full circle, and he was focused back on water full time.

Fortunately for Carey, not much had changed in the water management space during his absence. And that, he says, is a large part of the problem.

"You hear about our crumbling infrastructure," he said. "Pipes are buried and out of sight, out of mind. Some of those pipes are over a hundred years old. Of all drinking water produced, on average about 15 to 17 percent of that water is lost through leaks. That's part of the smarter planet message. Water is a scarce resource. We need to do a better job in using the data around us to better manage it."

It's this issue that has Carey in the first wave of some of IBM's most exciting water projects, including the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, the SmartBay project in Galway, Ireland and the Sonoma County Water Agency in California.

When he's not with clients or in a boardroom, Carey spends a lot of his time helping to educate and train the IBM customer-facing teams. The challenge, he said, is talking to the right people in a customer organization.

"The clients who would benefit from smarter water solutions aren't usually in IT. They are in operations. In a city, it would be the public works or water department. The people we talk to are not traditional IBM clients. It's a plus because they are new [to IBM], but it's a minus because they don't immediately make the connection between IBM and water."

To further spread the smarter water message, Carey joins his colleagues at industry conferences for organizations such as the Illinois Green Industry Association, the Water and Wastewater CIO Forum and the American Water Works Association (AWWA). Additionally, Carey participates in events such as the IBM PULSE conference and various IBM jams. He's written whitepapers and solution briefs and recently submitted articles to be published by the AWWA and the IBM Journal of Research and Development.

Ask Carey what is coming down the pike for water management you'll hear some pretty startling statistics.

"Water is the next oil," he said. "The amount of freshwater in the world is finite—there is only so much. The average amount of water that an American uses on a daily basis is about 150 gallons." That's over 500 liters. In fact, according to, the top five biggest average daily users of water are the United States, Australia, Italy, Japan and Mexico—all five of these use well over 300 liters daily. The countries where water poverty is the worst and water usage is the lowest are Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia and Uganda—these five use 15 liters or less daily. As the world population keeps growing, the competition for water will become greater and greater.

"We're not going to create more water. But we can help people be proactive and be smarter about how we deal with the water we have."

Carey lives outside Chicago with his wife and four children. His youngest, who just happens to be a Watson Scholar, just left for college as an older sibling returned home to begin a job search. And with his two other children getting married in the last year, Carey and his wife were pleased to discover a new passion: dance lessons.

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Djeevan Schiferli

Djeevan Schiferli's job title doesn't fit on his business card. Officially, he is an IBM worldwide sales and distribution business development executive for climate change and water management. But if you ask him, he's a translator.

Djeevan's job is to understand what climate change is doing to IBM's clients. He talks to governments, water boards, private companies and public agencies. He asks a lot of questions, and then translates the answers into IBM capabilities and technologies that address them.

This translation is critical because clients, as Djeevan said, "don't talk in IT terms. They will never say, 'We need more powerful computers or analysis software.' Instead, they talk in terms of the effects they feel." Those effects include water shortages and extreme weather.

One example is in Djeevan's native Netherlands. With 50 percent of the country below sea level, flooding is always a clear and present danger. Their previous defense relied on forecasting based on historical weather data. But weather patterns are changing rapidly—even more so in Europe. So the government needed to add more sources of information, such as water levels in Germany and rainfall in Switzerland. And that's where Djeevan stepped in. To put all these data streams together, they needed high performance computing and analytics tools.

As a result of the partnership with the Dutch government, he said "IBM is in year three of five to identify potential flooding…twice as fast and 10 times as accurately."

But that's not where Djeevan was four years ago. That's when his assignment as innovation officer for IBM Europe was coming to an end, and Djeevan was asked to help identify new revenue streams and areas of opportunity for IBM. Among those identified were virtual worlds and gaming, secure logistics, healthcare and climate change. And that last one caught his attention.

Djeevan's LinkedIn profile features a personal statement: collaborate beyond your comfort zone. And what he did next is proof of that concept.

"I just went out and banged on doors and introduced myself. 'I'm Djeevan from IBM. We're looking into climate change and water management. Can you tell me what they're doing to your organization?' I was nervous about the reaction I would get."

Three months later, the result was a formidable PowerPoint deck with 250 slides of data that helped to form IBM's climate change position in three areas: energy, carbon and water. Water management in particular has become a 20 million euro innovation program.

To share this vast body of information he has, Djeevan travels the conference circuit, including the World Congress on IT, held in Amsterdam every two years. This was the first time that water management was on the agenda—and IBM was the only IT company in that area. In addition, Djeevan has participated in the World Water Forum in Istanbul and the WATEC conference in Israel.

One day a week, Djeevan can be found in the offices of the Netherlands Water Partnership. He finds it a true wellspring of collaboration. "I have more than 1,000 business cards from the last three years," he said. "I was looking for ways to scale up my contacts. Just by being there physically, people recognize me. They come to me and share information, involving me early on in the projects or conferences they're working on."

Looking ahead, Djeevan is focusing on some exciting new areas for water management, including insurance. "We have had more costs from heavy storms in Western Europe than in the past, and insurance [companies] have calculated what rates should be on property. They feel they have a huge risk by not having the right information."

When he's not at a conference, at the Netherlands Water Partnership or banging on doors for more information, Djeevan takes his spirit of collaborating beyond his comfort zone into the kitchen. There, he experiments and explores in the culinary arts, outdoing himself for friends and family alike.

"I like to do great stuff with simple things", he said. "Same with climate change. It's extremely complex, but in the end can be simplified: carbon, energy, water. If you invest enough time in whatever it is—doesn't matter if its cooking or business—if you can make it look simple then you can succeed in helping other people understand."

He is also the busy parent of three energetic children whose favorite activities involve—what else—water.

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