International World Water Day: Water is a Global Issue

In honor of International World Water Day and with the ever-present backdrop of water as a precious, dwindling resource, I couldn’t help but reflect on the innovative technology which has enabled water managers across the world to gain greater insights on regional water resources and distribution. It is encouraging to hear that today’s technology has resulted in more sophisticated and more powerful tools that are improving water distribution, and therefore the way we live.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) recently released its Water Disclosure Global Report for 2011. Designed to raise awareness on water issues around the world, the report is published on behalf of 354 investors representing US$ 4.3 trillion in assets. To kick off the report, Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP wrote:

As this report goes to print, floods are disrupting millions of lives in Thailand and Cambodia, inundating thousands of local businesses and wiping more than 1.5% off Thailand’s GDP. Meanwhile Texas is suffering from a drought that has already lasted 12 months and by August 2011 had cost over $5.2 billion in agricultural losses according to Texas A&M University. Yet the impact of these events goes beyond the local devastation. The Thailand floods have caused disruption to the global supply of computer and automotive components, while events in Texas have led to food and agriculture losses and a reduction in export opportunities. These events are a powerful reminder of the strategic importance that water has for global business.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a look at several water mapping tools, most notably those from the World Resources Institute AQUEDUCT Program and GEMI Local Water Tool ™ (LWT).

What first struck me upon viewing these programs was the sheer ambition of both projects. Each program relies on huge volumes of data collected from various governmental and academic sources all over the world spanning decades of time. In the case of AQUEDUCT, I learned that this program could not have happened without the Coca-Cola Company donating their extensive water risk database and expertise. My next reaction was surprise at the level of programming behind the models. Using ArcGIS API for Flex, AQUEDUCT provides a satellite-type world view of water resources that allows a user to zoom in to the water basin level and use ‘time-aware’ and ‘feature-layering’ functions. The ‘time-aware’ slider tool allows instant progressions of data enabling a rich, visual exploration of historic patterns through time such as population changes, water storage, and well production. The LWT program is visually appealing in its own way and is most useful at a facility with its familiar Google-style neighborhood maps. At some point these tools may ‘merge’ to enable greater visibility into the possible impacts of various scenarios at the local, regional or county levels. These tools are a significant improvement from the first generation water maps that averaged data over larger areas and longer time periods - limiting their usefulness.

Working at one of the leading innovative companies in the world, I am constantly reminded of the amazing potential technology has to improve the way we live, and today I am reminded that innovation is the great enabler that can be applied to even the most basic of needs – water – and make it more accessible to everyone. Trips to many water stressed regions of the world have left me inspired to learn that water managers and business continuity planners have a wealth of tools at their disposal, all because of the innovative use of technology.

I’m proud to work at a company that in 2009 was awarded a Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award for programs and leadership that have advanced water conservation in the Valley. We recently surpassed our 2012 goal to reduce water usage by 10% compared to 2006 levels, achieving a total of 19% reduction in water usage. To date, we have instituted projects that have saved over 51 million gallons of water – the equivalent of 2,500 average size swimming pools!

For more information on Applied’s corporate citizenship and water conservation efforts, check out our Corporate Responsibility page and annual Citizenship Report.

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