IBM Steps Up Water-Management Projects Around the Globe

IBM Steps Up Water-Management Projects Around the Globe

From China to Chesapeake Bay, IBM has kicked off four projects that will sharpen its focus on water issues.

Using its World Community Grid, IBM plans to harness the computing power of more than a million idling PCs to help researchers crunch the numbers on big water projects around the world.

The first project, conducted by the University of Virginia Watershed Sustainability project, will model the effects of agricultural, commercial and industrial actions on the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay.

By simulating and analyzing how choices made by the fishing industry, farmers, real estate developers, urban planners and conserationists, the researchers hope to be able to better understand the outcomes of complex decisions on watersheds that affect millions of people.

"Responsible and effective stewardship of complex watersheds is a huge undertaking that must balance the needs of each unique environment with the needs of the communities that depend on them for survival," Philippe Cousteau, co-founder of Azure Worldwide, which helped develop the project, said in a statement. "I'm confident that this partnership will help provide the tools we need to meet this challenge head-on."

The second project announced by IBM today is called "Computing For Clean Water," and seeks to improve water filtering practices. The project is takign place at Tsinghua University's newly launched Centre for Novel Multidisciplinary Mechanics in China. The goal of the project is to create new methos of filtering and scrubbing polluted water, as well as desalinating salt water, for less money and with less energy use than current methods.

Scientists at Tsinghua University will produce millions of computer simulations to model how water molecules interact with one another and against the walls of carbon nanotubes that will be used to filter the water of pollutants or salt.

In Brazil, IBM today unveild a third project from the Inforium Bioinformatics in collaboration with FIOCRUZ-Minas. That project is working to develop a cure for schistosomiasis, a parasite-based disease that thrives and spreads in dirty water, and is prevalent in tropical regions. The World Health Organization says it kills anywhere from 11,000 to 200,000 people every year and infects about 210 million individuals in 76 countries.

The World Community Grid technology will allow researchers to screen 13 million possible drug compounds against 180 protein structures that are associated with the schistosomiasis parasite.

These three projects all harness the power of the World Community Grid, which we first reported on in 2008, when the Grid took on a project to develop more nutritious rice. The project relies on individuals donating their idle PC cycles to research projects, and more information on the Grid as well as other projects Grid-connected researchers are working on is available at WorldCommunityGrid.org.

In a fourth announcement today tied to World Water Week, IBM said it will partner with The Nature Conservancy on the Rivers for Tomorrow project, an online tool for helping watershed managers map, analyze and share detailed data about the health of local freshwater river basins.

The partnership, which will kick off this fall, works along the same lines as the World Community Grid's Chesapeake Bay project, providing data and computer models to researchers, watershed managers and community members to help determine how land use affects water quality and to help inform clean up programs.

The first projects in the Rivers for Tomorrow partnership will take place in Brazil's Paraguy and Parana river basins; once that project is underway, the tools will be provided to watershed managers around the world.

"Waterways are the lifeblood of our planet, and responsible stewardship means that experts must have access to the right kind of information about these ecosystems, and the tools to interpret and share the data, this is what ought to drive clean up efforts," John Tolva, technology director of IBM's Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, said in a statement. "That's why IBM is so pleased to be working with The Nature Conservancy on the Rivers for Tomorrow project, which we believe will equip stakeholders with new and clearer perspectives about our watersheds, and help them make smarter decisions."

Photo CC-licensed by SergioTudela.