Water, nature, and technology in the information era
Posted on Uncategorized September 8, 2021 by Vittorio Bonomi
Water, nature, and technology in the information era
Investing in nature and technology to protect our water and our assets
We live in an inherently complex world, and with every passing seconds it feels like it is getting more and more so. At the same time, the rate of increase in our knowledge of the world we inhabit is accelerating, providing us with more awareness of the multitude of challenges that face us, but also of potential solutions we can invest in to address them.
Since the 1900s, the speed at which human understanding of the world around us has increased is mind-blowing. In his 1982 book, Critical Path, American architect and systems theorist Richard Buckminster Fuller put forward his estimations for the speed of “knowledge doubling”, i.e., how long it takes humankind to double our knowledge. Under this theory, Buckminster Fuller posited that if we took all the knowledge humans accumulated by year one CE as single unit of knowledge, it took roughly 1500 years for it to double to two units. Since then, the rate of acceleration has increased dramatically — taking just 250 years from to double again by 1750, another 150 years to double once more by 1900. By World War II, this human knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today this process takes just 13 months, it is anecdotally said that with the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) knowledge could double as often as every 12 hours.
So, what does this exponential growth of of knowledge mean for us practically? Put simply, it means power, the power to choose how we address the problems that lie in our path. This power stems from both our understanding of the world and its challenges, and to the technologies we have developed to address them.
Today on our blog, we are going to take a closer look two tools in our water challenge toolkit: nature, and technology. From a superficial standpoint, they are incredibly different, even diametrically opposed, with looking back to what has always been, and the other looking forward into the future. But that is simply the mechanism, because when it comes to making decisions about any tool, what is key is that we take the steps to invest wisely at the right time and get out ahead of issues, which is what we are all about at Water Security Systems through our passive and active leak detection systems.
Let’s start by taking a look at our nature-based tools. While we all know that water is a natural resource but when it comes to the water in our homes, it’s easy to forget its origins. If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that for those of us in South Florida, when we turn on the tap, we are bringing water from our nearby Biscayne and Floridan aquifers into our homes. To address the issue of rising treatment and environmental costs of water supply, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has turned to our knowledge of natural cycles and processes in to improve the quality of our water, ensure its abundance, in turn reducing the cost of water supply while supporting flood risk management for South Florida’s residents.
To do so, the SFWMD is working in partnership with landowners and ranchers in the Northern Everglades through Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs that acknowledge the vast future downstream benefits that can be obtained through a more holistic approach to farming and land use practices upstream. Through this program, SFWMD is investing in and ensuring future water supplies for the areas it serves by paying ranchers for water-related ecosystem services, such as water retention in this case, through changes to their farming practices. In this way, SFWMD can slow down the delivery of water to the headwaters of the Everglades, supporting regulation of mosquito populations while achieving water storage and habitat benefits for the area. Today, the program has 15 PES projects, providing over 100,000 acre-feet — equivalent to over 33.5 billion gallons, or some 50, 000 Olympic swimming pools’ worth — of water retention capacity on these lands.
If we step down from the district level to the household level, we’ll find that a lot of research has also been done on how we can work with natural processes to yield many benefits including improving our quality of life, protecting our assets, and decreasing utility and home maintenance costs. For example, rain gardens, which are shallow depressions filled with plants that are designed to hold large amounts of water, can capture excess rainwater during storms and allow it to soak into the ground, reducing runoff on your property, and pressure on the city’s stormwater infrastructure, keeping the excess water our of the sewer system and our basements during intense storms. These beautiful natural tools, as well as providing much appreciated splashes of green in our urban lives, also clean pollutants from stormwater runoff, and provide habitats for birds, bees, and butterflies.
Now, turning to technology-based tools and the real-time data and insight they can provide us so that we can act in a timely manner. With arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, a decade ago, experts in all sectors have been considering how smart technology can support the ongoing automation of traditional industry. In particular, the internet of things (IoT) and large-scale machine-to-machine-learning are creating opportunities to improve communication and self-monitoring, allowing automated the diagnosis of issues, and where necessary and practical, without the need for human intervention.
Advanced technological solutions for water management are available at multiple scales, to tackle various kinds of water challenges, including quality control, flood protection, and resource conservation. In South Florida, the SFWMD has invested monitors a whole range of indicators using sensors across the water management system communicating real-time data back to the District’s environmental database, DBHYDRO. Through this portal, SFWMD and the public can look up information on daily rainfall in a given area, groundwater levels of specific wells, and access water quality information from individual monitoring stations. But what do these millions of data points do for us? As we said earlier, knowledge is power, and this close monitoring of multiple indicators across the region allows the SFWMD to carry out their work protecting South Florida’s water supply, ensuring safe and consistent access to a high-quality resource, and reducing the risk of flooding in the region.
At the household level, data is just as important, though, thankfully, there are less parameters for us to be mindful of. The technological wave brought by Industry 4.0 has brought many advances to make our daily lives smoother, primarily through IoT technology that allows interconnectivity between various devices, for example connecting our smart phones to our cars, fitness trackers, baby monitors, and water leak detection devices.
At Water Security System, we have spent years working on our technological solutions, refining them to improve their accuracy and ensure a smooth user experience. Our leak detection technology allows the detection of water leaks through strategically placed sensors, near air conditioning devices, water heaters and other relevant appliances, to discover issues the moment they start, instead of waiting until the water damage becomes evident either on our property, or through sudden increases in our water bills. Our products also include state-of-the-art flow monitoring, either at the main entrance to the building or at a branch connected to water-intensive appliances, which alert our clients to any changes in flow that are consistent with a leak or a pipe burst. Data from these devices is centralized in the Water Security System SaaS Cloud, which clients can access via the Homeowners app to have a real-time picture of what’s going on in their pipes. For property managers, the Property Manager Dashboard is available to provide information on water usage for each apartment. In both cases, the option to include an automatic shut-off valve that activates when an issue is detected, preventing the accumulation of damages. In this way, Water Security System offers users the power of knowledge and the ability to act through technology, bringing much valued peace of mind.
Contact us today to learn about how you can access these benefits and reap the benefits of the Industry 4.0 in your home.