Freshwater Scarcity: Calling on You to Help Improve Access

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Meda is a large village on an Ethiopian plateau with a steep gorge that cuts the village in half. Letikiros Hailu was born in the south side of Meda, and from a young age, like all girls her age, most of her time was spent walking and waiting for water.

Beginning at eight years old, Letikiros got up early four days a week, grabbed her clay pot, tied it to her back with a rope, and headed to a water source to do her part for the family. The Arliew Spring was the closest source to home, but it involved a dangerous and steep climb down a 700-foot cliff. Once at the dry ravine at the bottom, Letikiros would have to scramble up over giant rocks to reach a very small spring.

Letikiros did this walk four days a week while attending school part-time the other three days. Reaching the classroom was another six-hour round-trip walk. By the age of 13, she had only completed the third grade and tragically, she did not live to see her 14th birthday.

Letikiros’ story – shared in its entirety on Medium here by Scott Harrison, CEO of IBM grantee charity: water — is growing more common around the world. By 2025, two thirds of the world’s population could be living in water stressed areas. Freshwater scarcity is a global issue already directly affecting 2 billion people, impacting human food security, the health of the environment, and our global economy. And climate plays a huge role behind why water is disappearing.

As the planet warms, we’re seeing an increase in severe storms and conditions such as flood and drought. These changes in weather patterns can not only spell disaster for local communities, like Meda, but also reduce our planet’s capacity to sustainably provide clean water. Which is why it’s so crucial for us to band together today on World Environment Day and address this important issue.

Today we are proud to announce the Forecast: Change campaign, which includes:

  • An IBM contribution of $1 million in total market value to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and charity: water to help provide and protect clean water. This includes cash, expert services and technology to help expand efforts of these organizations that help provide access to clean drinking water for people in climate-distressed areas.
  • The Weather Channel brand, part of IBM, will raise awareness of freshwater scarcity by temporarily changing its name to “The Water Channel” from June 5-9 on web and the app, as well as the separately-owned television network, part of Entertainment Studios.
  • A dedicated IBM Code and Response hackathon in Cairo, Egypt, focused on building and deploying technologies for relief efforts around natural disasters such as flooding and drought, which can help protect accessibility to clean water.

As part of its broader initiatives on the availability of fresh water, IBM also is working with the Jefferson Project, led by IBM Research, which aims to create a blueprint for the future protection and preservation of fresh water around the world. The Jefferson Project captures and analyzes IoT data to track water quality of Lake George in the northeastern area of New York State. IBM Research is also working to find safe water for remote parts of Kenya. Recently announced, The Freshwater Trust and SweetSense Inc. are collaborating with IBM to use IoT and blockchain technology to make groundwater usage sustainable, in an effort to tackle water shortages relating to drought.

Only with this kind of collaboration can we bring clean drinking water to everyone, a goal whose importance cannot be underestimated. When a community gets access to clean water, their whole world changes. For kids like Letikiros, it means new opportunities. A chance to attend school and learn math, science, language, and history. To increase what’s available to them – and to create better futures for their families, communities, and our shared planet.

Do your part by…

  • Learning about access to clean water — Check your forecast on The Weather Channel app or weather.com to learn more about water scarcity and help support clean water access.
  • Understanding your personal water footprint — Everything you use, wear, buy, sell and eat takes water to produce. For instance, a new pair of jeans can take 1,800 gallons or more of fresh water to make. That’s enough to provide a family of four with clean water for months. Get more details at TheWaterChannel.org.
  • Practicing conservation — Go to TheWaterChannel.org to learn more, participate in monthly conservation challenges, and find out how you can help make an impact on world water health.


Business Strategy Leader, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility

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