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ecoVaro to tackle water stress

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For many people within the UK, water is not really something to worry about. Surely enough of it falls out the sky throughout the year that it does feel highly unlikely that we’ll ever run out of it. There certainly does seem to be an abundance of Branded Water available in plastic bottles on our supermarket shelves.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Despite this, Once-unthinkable water crises are becoming commonplace.  If you consider that In England and Wales, we use 16 billion litres of clean drinking water every day – that’s equivalent to 6,400 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Currently, water companies can provide slightly more than we need – 2 billion litres are available above and beyond what we’re using.  In some areas, though, such as south east England, there is no surplus and, as such, these regions are more likely to face supply restrictions in a dry year.

If we take little moment to reflect on some of the most notable water related stories over the past few years, we’ll start to get a picture of just how real the potential and the threat of water shortages can be.

Reservoirs in Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city, are nearly dry right now. Last year, residents of Cape Town, South Africa narrowly avoided their own Day Zero water shut-off.

It was only year before that, Rome rationed water to conserve scarce resources.

Climate change is likely to mean higher temperatures which may drive up the demand for water (alongside population growth) and increase evaporation from reservoirs and water courses during spring and summer.

The impact of climate change on total rainfall is uncertain, but the rain that does fall is likely to arrive in heavier bursts in winter and summer. Heavier rain tends to flow off land more quickly into rivers and out to sea, rather than recharging groundwater aquifers.

A greater chance of prolonged dry periods is also conceivable.  This combined with the harsh reality that no human population can sustain itself without sufficient access to fresh water.

If present conditions continue, 2 out of 3 people on Earth will live within a water-stressed zone by 2025

 

What is water stress?

Water stress is a term used to describe situation when demand for water is greater than the amount of water available at a certain period in time, and also when water is of poor quality and this restricts its usage. Water stress means deterioration in both the quantity of available water and the quality of available water due to factors affecting available water.

Water stress refers to the ability, or lack thereof, to meet human and ecological demand for water. Compared to scarcity, water stress is a more inclusive and broader concept.

Water Stress considers several physical aspects related to water resources, including water scarcity, but also water quality, environmental flows, and the accessibility of water.

Supply and Demand

Major factors involved when water scarcity strikes is when a growing populations demand for water exceeds the areas ability to service that need.

Increased food production and development programs also lead to increased demand for water, which ultimately leads to water stress.

Increased need for agricultural irrigation in order to produce more crops or sustain livestock are major contributors to localised water stress.

Overconsumption

The demand for water in a given population is fairly unpredictable.  Primarily, based on the fact that you can never accurately predict human behaviour and changes in climate.

If too many people are consuming more water than they need because they mistakenly believe that water is freely available and plentiful, then water stress could eventually occur.

This is also linked to perceived economic prosperity of a give region.  Manufacturing demand for water can have huge impact regardless whether water is actively used within the manufacturing process or not.

Water Quality

Water quality in any given area is never static.  Water stress could happen as a result of rising pollution levels having a direct impact on water quality.

Water contamination happens when new industries either knowingly or unknowingly contaminate water with their industrial practices.

Largely, this can happen and frequently does so because these industries do not take effective control of monitoring and managing their impact on communal water supplies.  Incorrectly assuming this is the responsibility of an additional third party like the regional water company.

The truth is, water quality and careful monitoring of it is all of our responsibility.

Water Scarcity

Simple increases in demand for water can in itself contribute to water scarcity. However,  these are often preceded by other factors like poverty or just the natural scarcity of water in the area.

In many instances, the initial locations of towns or cities were not influenced by the close proximity of natural resources like water, but rather in pursuit of the extraction of other resources like Gold, Coal or Diamonds.

For Instance, Johannesburg,  South Africa is the largest City in South Africa and is one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world. It is also located in the mineral rich Witwatersrand range of hills and is the centre of large-scale gold and diamond trade.

Johannesburg is also one of the only major cities of the world that was not built on a river or harbour.   However, it does have streams that contribute to two of Southern Africas mightiest rivers – Limpopo and the Orange rivers.  However, most of the springs from which many of these streams emanate are now covered in concrete!

Water Stress and Agriculture

Peter Buss, co-founder of Sentek Technology calls ground moisture a water bank and manufactures ground sensors to interrogate it. His hometown of Adelaide is in one of the driest states in Australia. This makes monitoring soil water even more critical, if agriculture is to continue. Sentek has been helping farmers deliver optimum amounts of water since 1992.

The analogy of a water bank is interesting. Agriculturists must ‘bank’ water for less-than-rainy days instead of squeezing the last drop. They need a stream of real-time data and utilize cloud-based storage and processing power to curate it.

Sentek’s technology can be found in remote places like Peru’s Atacamba desert and the mountains of Mongolia, where it supports sustainable floriculture, forestry, horticulture, pastures, row crops and viticulture through precise delivery of scarce water.

This relies on precision measurement using a variety of drill and drop probes with sensors fixed at 4” / 10cm increments along multiples of 12” / 30cm up to 4 times. These probe soil moisture, soil temperature and soil salinity, and are readily repositioned to other locations as crops rotate.

Peter Buss is convinced that measurement is a means to an end and only the beginning. ‘Too often, growers start watering when plants don’t really need it, wasting water, energy, and labour. By accurately monitoring water can be saved until when the plant really needs it.

Peter also emphasises that crop is the ultimate sensor, and that ‘we should ask the plant what it needs’.

This takes the debate a stage further. Water wise farmers should plant water-wise crops, not try to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and dry years return.

The South Australia government thinks the answer also lies in correct farm dam management. It wants farmers to build ones that allow sufficient water to bypass in order to sustain the natural environment too.

There is more to water management than squeezing the last drop. Soil moisture goes beyond measuring for profit. It is about farming sustainably using data from sensors to guide us.

Ecovaro is ahead of the curve as we explore imaginative ways to exploit the data these provide for the common good of all.

A Quarter of the World’s Population, Face High Water Stress

Data from WRI’s Aqueduct tools reveal that 17 countries – home to one-quarter of the world’s population—face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress, where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80% of their available supply on average every year. 

Water stress poses serious threats to human lives, livelihoods and business stability. It’s poised to worsen unless countries act: Population growth, socioeconomic development and urbanization are increasing water demands, while climate change can make precipitation and demand more variable.  

How to manage water stress

Water stress is just one dimension of water security. However, like any challenge, its outlook depends on adequate monitoring and management of environmental data.

Even countries with relatively high water stress have effectively secured their water supplies through proper management by leveraging the knowledge they have garnered by learning from the data they gathered.

3 ways to help reduce water stress

In any geography, water stress can be reduced by measures ranging from common sense to innovative technology solutions.

There are countless solutions, but here are three of the most straightforward:

1. Increase agricultural efficiency: The world needs to make every drop of water go further in its food systems. Farmers can use seeds that require less water and improve their irrigation techniques by using precision watering rather than flooding their fields.

Businesses need to increase investments to improve water productivity, while engineers develop technologies that improve efficiency in agriculture.

Consumers can reduce food loss and waste, which uses one-quarter of all agricultural water.

2. Invest in grey and green infrastructure:  D Data produced by Aqueduct Alliance  –  shows that water stress can vary tremendously over the year.  WRI and the World Bank’s research shows that built infrastructure (like pipes and treatment plants) and green infrastructure (like wetlands and healthy watersheds) can work in tandem to tackle issues of both water supply and water quality.

3. Treat, reuse and recycle:  We need to stop thinking of wastewater as waste.

Treating and reusing it creates a “new” water source.

There are also useful resources in wastewater that can be harvested to help lower water treatment costs. For example, plants in Xiangyang, China and Washington, D.C. reuse or sell the energy- and nutrient-rich byproducts captured during wastewater treatment.

Summary

The data is undeniably clear, there are very worrying trends in water.

Businesses and other other organisations need to start taking action now and investing in better monitoring and management, we can solve water issues for the good of people, economies and the planet. We collectively cannot kick this can down the road any further, or assume that this problem will be solved by others.

It is time, for a collective sense of responsibility and for everyone to invest in future prosperity of our Planet as a collective whole.  Ecological preservation should be at the forefront of all business plans because at the end of the day profit is meaningless without an environment to enjoy it in!

Want to find out more?

Contact Denizon today to find out how we can your organisation overcome business challenges.

  • 0843 289 4539 (UK)
  • +353-1-443-3807 (Irl)

Is Your Project Agile, a Scrum or a Kanban?

Few projects pan out the way we expect when starting out. This is normal in any creative planning phase. We half suspect the ones that follow a straight line are the exceptions to the rule. Urban legend has it; Edison made a thousand prototypes before his first bulb lit up, and then went on to comment, “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. Later, he added that many of life’s failures are people who did not realize just how close they were to success when they gave up.

So be it to this day, and so be it with project planning too. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to it. Agile, Scrum and Kanban each have their supporters and places where they do well. Project planning often works best when we use a sequential combination of them, appropriate to what is currently happening on the ground.

Of the three, Agile is by far the most comprehensive. It provides a structure that begins with project vision / conceptualisation, and goes as far as celebration when the job is over, and retrospective discussion afterwards. However, the emphasis on daily planning meetings may dent freethinking, and even smother it.

Scrum on the other hand says ‘forget all that bureaucracy’. There is a job to do and today is the day we are going to do it. Although the core Agile teamwork is still there it ignores macro project planning, and could not be bothered with staying in touch with customers. If using Scrum, it is best to give those jobs to someone else.

The joker in the pack is Kanban, It believes that rules are there to substitute for thought, and that true progress only comes from responsible freedom. It belongs in mature organizations that have passed through Scrum and Agile phases and have embarked on a voyage towards perfection.

That said, there can be no substitute for human leadership, especially when defined as the social influence that binds the efforts of others towards a single task.

Becoming Nimble the Agile Project Management Way

In dictionary terms, ‘agile’ means ‘able to move quickly and easily’. In project management terms, the definition is ‘project management characterized by division of tasks into short work phases called ‘sprints’, with frequent reassessments and adaptation of plans’. This technique is popular in software development but is also useful when rolling out other projects.

Managing the Seven Agile Development Phases

  • Stage 1: Vision. Define the software product in terms of how it will support the company vision and strategy, and what value it will provide the user. Customer satisfaction is of paramount value including accommodating user requirement changes.
  • Stage 2: Product Roadmap. Appoint a product owner responsible for liaising with the customer, business stakeholders and the development team. Task the owner with writing a high-level product description, creating a loose time frame and estimating effort for each phase.
  • Stage 3: Release Plan. Agile always looks ahead towards the benefits that will flow. Once agreed, the Product Roadmap becomes the target deadline for delivery. With Vision, Road Map and Release Plan in place the next stage is to divide the project into manageable chunks, which may be parallel or serial.
  • Stage 4: Sprint Plans. Manage each of these phases as individual ‘sprints’, with emphasis on speed and meeting targets. Before the development team starts working, make sure it agrees a common goal, identifies requirements and lists the tasks it will perform.
  • Stage 5: Daily Meetings. Meet with the development team each morning for a 15-minute review. Discuss what happened yesterday, identify and celebrate progress, and find a way to resolve or work around roadblocks. The goal is to get to alpha phase quickly. Nice-to-haves can be part of subsequent upgrades.
  • Stage 6: Sprint Review. When the phase of the project is complete, facilitate a sprint review with the team to confirm this. Invite the customer, business stakeholders and development team to a presentation where you demonstrate the project/ project phase that is implemented.
  • Stage 7: Sprint Retrospective. Call the team together again (the next day if possible) for a project review to discuss lessons learned. Focus on achievements and how to do even better next time. Document and implement process changes.

The Seven Agile Development Phases – Conclusions and Thoughts

The Agile method is an excellent way of motivating project teams, achieving goals and building result-based communities. It is however, not a static system. The product owner must conduct regular, separate reviews with the customer too.