Water, Water, Everywhere: Using Information Technology to Address Water Industry Issues

There's no doubt this blog has focused recently on issues related to the smart grid. Between the launch of Hohm and the Smart Energy Reference Architecture, we've been busy, as energy issues seem to be where a lot of people are expending tremendous excitement and energy.

However, this focus in one area can't cause us to neglect significant issues in yet another. We need to acknowledge that, just as we need to address future demand electricity for now, we also need to address future need for water.

Worldwide, water issues are a front and center topic. Whether it is in Spain where water is the new battle ground, the water restrictions in Australia, or the issues in the United States, where California, Texas, and Georgia have all dealt with severe and lingering droughts in recent years. I'm sure there are dozens of other large and small scale water shortages elsewhere around the world. That gives us reason to begin dedicating more time to introducing our blog readers to these issues, and how information technology as well as Microsoft and partner solutions, can help address these issues.

First, however, we need to know what the issues are. The World Water Council says that within the next 50 years, the world population will increase 40-50%, resulting in increasing demand for water, with its concomitant industrialization and urbanization. Water is like electricity in that people in developed countries are very comfortable flipping a switch or turning a spigot to receive the low cost commodities of electricity and water. When water is not available, it does not flow.

Microsoft is hearing more these days from our water customers. They are asking us to help them optimize the effectiveness of their operations, to increase the value of their investments in technology so that more of their retained earnings can invest in the expanding infrastructure they -- we -- will need in the future.  

Like their counterparts in electric and gas, water utilities have many of the same IT needs. They need data and information that are normalized, with high-integrity. They need to model their decision processes so that improvements and efficiencies can be created. They need forced collaboration and decision support tools to accelerate better decision making.

The overriding goal is to give people the information they need, whether they are engineers, plant operators, plant managers or VPs of operations.

We have an extensive body of case studies on how our technology solutions have helped utilities in this chore of delivering water to their customers. We hope to highlight more of these in the coming weeks and months. The Microsoft Worldwide Power & Utilities Group is dedicated to the Power and Utilities industry, including electricity, gas and water.


One good example that I will leave you with is the work being done by Metro Vancouver Water in Canada in conjunction with our partner OSIsoft.  There they are optimizing their operations through aggregation of information and visualization. In the words of Metro Vancouver, “OSIsoft technology and Microsoft technology allows us to empower our users to make better decisions.” We love that. 

You can view the video on the Microsoft Utilities website under videos or click on the screen shot. More water solution blogs will be on the way. – Jon C. Arnold