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Water has an image problem

Water has an image problem

Many people believe it's cheap and abundant. But due to our current water management systems, one in five people on the planet do not have adequate access to safe, clean drinking water.

Though the total amount of water on this planet has never changed, the nature of that water is changing. Everything from where rain falls to the chemical makeup of the oceans is in flux. And these changes are forcing us to ask some very difficult questions about how and where we live and do business.

Left to its own devices, the earth has a near perfect, self-regulating water management system. We all remember the lessons from primary school: water evaporates from the ocean and forms clouds. Those clouds drift over the land and produce rain. The rainwater flows into lakes, rivers or aquifers. The water in lakes, rivers and aquifers then either evaporates back to the atmosphere or eventually flows back to the ocean, completing a cycle.

But mankind has thrown a spanner in the works.

Every time we interact with water, we change it, redirect it or otherwise alter its state

Though it's a worldwide entity, water is treated as a regional issue. There is no global market and very little international exchange. "Water is about quantity, quality, space and time," says Ian Cluckie, Professor of Hydrology and Water Management at the University of Bristol, in the IBM Global Innovation Outlook report on water management (US). "Whether you have a big problem or not depends entirely on where you live."

But with innovation comes inspiration. With advances in technology-sophisticated sensor networks, smart meters, deep computing and analytics-we can be smarter about how we manage our planet's water. We can monitor, measure and analyse entire water ecosystems, from rivers and reservoirs to the pumps and pipes in our homes. We can give all the people, organisations, businesses, communities and nations dependent on a continuing supply of freshwater-that is, all of us-a single, reliable, up-to-the-minute and actionable view of water use. But that's just the first drop.

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Shalome Doran,
Smarter Water Leader

IBM Australia and New Zealand

  • About Shalome

    Shalome is a key member of IBM’s Smarter Water program and leads the development of advanced water management solutions to address the challenges currently facing the Australian water industry.

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