IBM Research and sensor tech provider SweetSense have reportedly partnered with non-profit organization The Freshwater Trust (TFT) and the University of Colorado Boulder to use blockchain and IoT technology to sustainably manage groundwater use in what they describe as “one of the largest and most at risk aquifers in North America” — located in northern California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing rock, from which groundwater can be extracted and distributed across a region’s ecosystem. Covering 1,100 square miles, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is reportedly considered to be the "nexus of California's statewide water system," and will thus be the testing ground for the new sustainability pilot.
According to the press release, the project will involve the use of IoT sensors to transmit water extraction data to orbiting satellites, which are simultaneously used to detect rainfall and weather correlations. The data will then be recorded onto the cloud-hosted and smart contract-compatible IBM Blockchain Platform.
Water consumers — including farmers, financers and regulators — can use a web-based dashboard to interface with the blockchain and monitor groundwater use in real time.
With accurate tracking in place, the system can then be used to issue so-called “groundwater shares” that can be purchased and traded by actors in the region, so that those who do not require all their assigned water supply can exchange it as credits with those who require more.
To contextualize the initiative, the press release notes that TFT has helped to establish the Northern Delta Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which integrates multiple smaller agencies under one canopy to work together on sustainable groundwater usage. The agency is one of a series of such entities statewide, which were mandated to tackle the environmental challenge after California signed its Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) into law in 2014.
Beyond the U.S., SweetSense has reportedly been implementing its sensor technology to monitor groundwater supplies for over a million people in Kenya and Ethiopia, with plans to expand to 5 million by the end of 2019.
As reported last fall, the World Economic Forum (WEF) foundation has outlined more than 65 blockchain use cases for solving the “most pressing” environmental challenges globally. Beyond improving legacy systems, the WEF foundation proposed that blockchain solutions will, among other areas, completely transform the management of supply chains, decentralized energy and water systems, sustainable fundraising sources and carbon markets.