Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2011 - (Page 26)

Information and Water New technology can aid water systems in allocating resources, modifying consumer behavior and even predicting the weather. BY MICHAEL SULLIVAN, IBM SMARTER WATER THERE IS GOOD reason to worry about the global water supply — the population is growing at an astronomical rate while there is a finite amount of fresh water. And the water supply is becoming even more finite due to increasing demand and changes in the environment. Not surprisingly, a chorus of analysts and scientists project widespread shortages in the near future. In the meantime, a shrinking water supply has lead to rate hikes, violent outbreaks and harm to public health. In places where droughts are a chronic problem, it’s not surprising that water is precious. Oddly, though, even in places where water is plentiful, such as Florida, there is a constant struggle to meet demand. In fact, earlier this year, on the heels of a dry winter, the South Florida Water Management District recently declared a water shortage. As a result, farms, nurseries and golf courses have been ordered to cut water use by 15 percent. It may have been a particularly dry year in Florida, but even during wet years, the state often has problems maintaining supply because it lacks land where it can store water. The ramifications of the dwindling water supply are catastrophic. Obviously, water is essential to human survival. Beyond that, though, there are potentially staggering economic, health and political consequences of a global water shortage. One thing we’ve already seen is a sharp rise in food prices; in fact, prices have jumped 26 • Second Quarter 2011 so high and at such a rapid pace that there’s mounting concern that we may soon experience a food price crisis. By the Financial Times’ account, farmers must increase food production by 70 percent to meet a global population of 9 billion in 2050. It’s not clear how farmers will nearly double production at a time when water supplies will decrease and demand is likely to surge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has called for innovations in water management, and suggests that urban farming, in which city dwellers reuse water to grow crops in their backyards, could be one way to combat rising food prices without significantly increasing water consumption. Technological advancements have long aided U.S. farmers, contributing to unprecedented efficiencies over the last century; technology will also likely prove invaluable in the coming years as farmers look to data analytics to grow more with less.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2011

Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2011
From the President
Reducing Energy Costs for Public Water Systems
Are You There Yet? Evaluating Your Portfolio
Where the Dollars Are: The Low Hanging Fruit in Money and Energy Savings
Information Technology and Water Systems
Stormwater Solution
The Next Workforce
Water University Graduates
The Voice of Rural Water: Rural Water Rally 2011
Regulatory Update
Throwing My Loop
Index to Advertisers/
From the CEO

Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2011