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Smarter Water

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

Watch the video: Easing the California drought (00:02:15)

Ireland's 'Bathing Water'. Quality of water in swimming areas according to European Union enviromental standards. Graph: Good quality (Very commom), Sufficient quality (No so common), Poor quality (Not so common), Not available/Incomplete data (Common).

Ireland makes a Splash

Ireland boasts some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet-strips of white sand that separate the sea from the cliffs and the emerald fields beyond. But these national treasures are threatened by a sometimes unseen menace-pollution. It washes ashore from across the channel or across the sea in unpredictable ways. The ever-changing currents, tides and weather make it difficult to know from one day to the next whether Ireland's beaches will be safe for swimming, or whether pollutants from near or far will threaten the health of bathers.

Thanks to a partnership between EPA Ireland and IBM, bathers can get up-to-date water quality information on a new portal site during the bathing season (June through August). Working with An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, the team has developed an intelligent water management system for Ireland's bathers. The system takes a mosaic of data points gathered and entered by local authorities in a variety of systems and displays it to swimmers as a complete picture of Ireland's beach water quality through the Splash portal (link resides outside of

But how does that information get to the public so that they can make informed decisions about Ireland's beaches? The Splash portal software, based on an open-source version of the IBM WebSphere Application Server, integrates water quality information from all over Ireland with the EPA's Geographical Information System (GIS) data to display bathing water quality in an easy-to-use map. Splash visitors can then get all the information they need about bathing destinations at a glance.


Water management is getting smarter

Water quality monitoring is often done by volunteers who care about the clarity and health of the lakes, rivers and coastlines around their communities. While this data is useful in itself, it doesn't tell us what we really want to know: How is the quality changing? Why is it changing? And what can we do to make it better?

To start, we can enter the data from all these sources into one system so that sophisticated analytics software can then identify likely sources of pollutants. And smarter city planning and sustainable farming techniques can reduce those impacts. This is the ultimate goal of EPA Ireland's water management program.

As reported by Green Light (link resides outside of, a Greentech Media blog, "IBM hopes to mine the data to see if it can discern trends in storm water runoff, pollution percolation and other issues. 'It is more of a predictive tool,' said Cameron Brooks, director of Big Green Innovations at IBM."

"Though the total amount of water on the planet has never changed, the nature of the water has," said Sharon Nunes, vice president, Big Green Innovations, IBM. "Everything from where rain falls to the chemical makeup of the oceans is in flux, and it continues to change in real time."

At some point, sensors will replace passionate volunteers, feeding information into water management systems automatically in real-time. This is the vision IBM sees for smarter water management in the future. And it is working with teams like EPA Ireland all over the globe to make this vision a reality.

As blogger Michael Kanellos wrote: "Water represents one of those sprawling, under-researched problems that will take time, government grants, logistical know-how and scientific expertise to fix." This makes water quality and availability ideal problems for IBM to tackle with its understanding of the planet's many interconnected systems.


The Lower Colorado River Authority

IBM software will reduce the complexity and costs (US) of managing the utility's resources and services, which span across more than 36,800 square miles and 58 counties in Central and South Texas.

Japan's Fukuoka District Waterworks Agency

Providing better quality water and making it more widely available is the plan for a new system (US) serving eight cities, eight towns and a local waterworks agency.

Australia's Power and Water Corporation

IBM will help the Northern Territory's multi-utility provider design and implement an asset management system (US) aimed at delivering electricity, water and sewerage services to customers more efficiently.

Find out what the experts think-and tell us what you think-about making world's water