IBM’s research and development division is working with conservation non-profit The Freshwater Trust (TFT) and remote monitoring solution provider SweetSense to explore how blockchain can accurately monitor and track groundwater use.
IBM Research announced that the pilot project, which is jointly funded by the Water Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, will demonstrate how blockchain technology and remote Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can accurately measure groundwater usage transparently, and in real-time in California’s Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta, one of the largest and most at risk aquifers in North America.
Water extraction data will be transmitted by IoT sensors to orbiting satellites and then to the IBM Blockchain Platform, which will record of all data exchanges or transactions made in an append-only, immutable ledger. Water consumers, including farmers, financers and regulators will all be able to monitor and track the use of groundwater to demonstrate how sustainable pumping levels can be achieved through the trading of groundwater use shares in the State of California. The system will also enable individual users who require groundwater amounts beyond their share cap to purchase groundwater shares from users who do not require all of their supply at a market-regulated rate.
“By remotely monitoring groundwater use using our sensors, we’re able to help improve and maintain sustainable access to water supplies for people, farmers, and livestock,” said Evan Thomas, CEO of SweetSense and Mortenson Chair of Global Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. “The work we’re doing in Africa is directly translatable to California. “Our research team at the University of Colorado will assist in modeling groundwater use through the sensor data and satellite detected rainfall and weather correlations.”
SweetSense’s sensor technology is currently monitoring the groundwater supplies for over a million people in Kenya and Ethiopia, with plans to scale to 5 million by the end of the year. The sensors and the blockchain system will be piloted in River Delta, an area often referred to as the “nexus of California’s statewide water system.”
Dr. Solomon Assefa, Vice President, Emerging Market Solutions and Director, IBM Research – Africa, said that based on a research project in Kenya with USAID, the Millennium Water Alliance and other partners, they are now applying their expertise in building decision support systems for water management for surface and groundwater data aggregation, workflow optimization and analytics to address similar challenges in California.
“With the addition of the blockchain we can bridge critical trust and transparency gaps making it possible to build a robust, scalable and cost-efficient platform for managing precious groundwater supplies anywhere in the world,” Assefa said.
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