State tack­les drought with IOT & Blockchain

Porterville Recorder - - AGRICULTURE -

The Fresh­wa­ter Trust (TFT), a 501(c)(3) non­profit work­ing to pro­tect and re­store fresh­wa­ter ecosys­tems, is part­ner­ing with IBM Re­search (NYSE: IBM ) and Sweet­sense Inc., a provider of low-cost satel­lite con­nected sen­sors, to pilot tech­nolo­gies which can ac­cu­rately mon­i­tor and track ground­wa­ter use in one of the largest and most at risk aquifers in North Amer­ica. Ad­di­tional re­search sup­port will be pro­vided by the Univer­sity of Colorado Boul­der.

Jointly funded by the Wa­ter Foun­da­tion and the Gor­don and Betty Moore Foun­da­tion, the project's sci­en­tists and engi­neers will demon­strate how the blockchain and re­mote IOT sen­sors can ac­cu­rately mea­sure ground­wa­ter us­age trans­par­ently, and in real-time in Cal­i­for­nia's Sacra­mento San Joaquin River Delta.

The sen­sors will trans­mit wa­ter ex­trac­tion data to or­bit­ing satel­lites and then to the IBM Blockchain Plat­form hosted in the IBM Cloud. The blockchain will record of all data ex­changes or trans­ac­tions made in an ap­pend-only, im­mutable ledger. The blockchain also uses "smart con­tracts," whereby trans­ac­tions are au­to­mat­i­cally ex­e­cuted when the con­di­tions are matched.

Through a web-based dash­board, 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. In­di­vid­ual users who re­quire ground­wa­ter amounts be­yond their share cap will be able to "pur­chase" ground­wa­ter shares from users who do not re­quire all of their sup­ply at a mar­ket-reg­u­lated rate. For ex­am­ple: A straw­berry farmer is plan­ning to take the sea­son off to pre­pare for an or­ganic crop the fol­low­ing har­vest. The farmer can trade or sell her wa­ter cred­its on the blockchain to an­other farmer.due to a par­tic­u­larly dry sea­son a win­ery re­al­izes it will need ad­di­tional ground wa­ter to avoid los­ing the vin­tage. The vint­ner can pur­chase ad­di­tional wa­ter shares, with­out neg­a­tively im­pact­ing the aquifer."the fu­ture suc­cess of these sus­tain­abil­ity plans hinges on be­ing able to track and re­port ground­wa­ter use, and likely will also re­quire a ro­bust way to trade ground­wa­ter shares as well," said Alex John­son, Fresh­wa­ter Fund Di­rec­tor with TFT. "Our strate­gic in­tent is to har­ness new tech­nolo­gies to de­velop a sys­tem that makes getting ground­wa­ter more sus­tain­able, col­lab­o­ra­tive, ac­cu­rate and trans­par­ent process, which is why we are us­ing the blockchain. We now have the project team and fund­ing to do it, and a strong net­work of part­ners in the re­gion that are open to an ini­tial test­ing and build­ing phase."

"Based on a re­search project in Kenya with USAID, the Mil­len­nium Wa­ter Al­liance and other part­ners we are now ap­ply­ing our 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," said Dr. Solomon Assefa, Vice Pres­i­dent, Emerg­ing Mar­ket So­lu­tions and Di­rec­tor, IBM Re­search - Africa.

The group will pilot the sys­tem in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia's Sacra­mento-san Joaquin River Delta, an area of­ten re­ferred to as the "nexus of Cal­i­for­nia's statewide wa­ter sys­tem." The river delta cov­ers 1,100 square miles and pro­vides wa­ter to the San Fran­cisco Bay Area and coastal and south­ern Cal­i­for­nia and sup­ports dozens of legally pro­tected fish, plant and an­i­mal species. In ad­di­tion, nearly 75% of this land is used for agri­cul­ture.

The sen­sor tech­nol­ogy is pro­vided by Sweet­sense Inc, which 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 sen­sor data are trans­mit­ted over satel­lite net­works to an on­line data an­a­lyt­ics plat­form.

"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. The work we're do­ing in Africa is di­rectly trans­lat­able to Cal­i­for­nia," said Evan Thomas, CEO of Sweet­sense and Morten­son Chair of Global Engi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Colorado Boul­der. "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."

The col­lab­o­ra­tion be­gan in re­sponse to the Sus­tain­able Ground­wa­ter Man­age­ment Act (SGMA), which was signed into Cal­i­for­nia law in 2014. SGMA man­dated the cre­ation of Ground­wa­ter Sus­tain­abil­ity Agen­cies (GSAS), lo­cal groups that are re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing re­gional ground­wa­ter sup­plies are sus­tain­ably man­aged. The GSAS are charged with de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a plan to make their lo­cal ground­wa­ter us­age sus­tain­able by 2040.

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