This Week in Sustainability: How Technology is Transforming Water Conservation

| Josh Henretig

treesTreeHugger featured a project called FLOW-AID, a mouthful of an acronym that stands for Farm Level Optimal Water Management Assistant for Irrigation Under Deficit. The project is aimed at developing new technologies for irrigation and drainage by drawing on Big Data solutions. Irrigation and drainage are both crucial components of farming. By incorporating solar-powered, low-cost wireless sensors that provide real-time data to farmers, FLOW-AID may be able to increase water use efficiency by 60 percent while reducing fertilizer demands by up to 30 percent. These sensors modernize one of civilization’s oldest trades and stand out as yet another example of how information technology is helping society achieve sustainable solutions in a twenty-first century world.

Elsewhere, GreenBiz examined the connection between water and energy use to argue that water and energy conservation can go hand in hand. Coal, nuclear and natural gas energy sources all use steam to create electricity. Steam production requires massive amounts of water— approximately 190,000 million gallons per day. This accounts for 39 percent of all freshwater withdrawals in the U.S. Katie Zerrenner, the article’s author and an advocate for energy and water policy with the Environmental Defense Fund, argues that energy and water policy planners need to collaborate and that miscommunication often masks opportunities for energy and water policymakers to mutually benefit from new technologies and infrastructure. At Microsoft we’ve long realized the relationship between water and energy conservation in our data centers—our San Antonio data centers uses recycled water for cooling—and encourage efforts to reduce environmental footprint across energy, water and waste.

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