IBM is working with water risk management company Waterfund to develop a Water Cost Index (WCI). The idea is to apply Big Data expertise to analyse diverse unstructured data sets and come up with a WCI framework that would estimate the cost of water around the world. Waterfund will structure and commercialise the WCI.
Population growth, urbanisation and climate change are placing increasing demands on water supplies. According to IBM, over 40% of the world’s population live in water-stressed areas and the number is growing. Monitoring, measuring and analysing water systems enables a better understanding of the issues around water and can help companies, governments and citizens understand and more effectively deal with these issues.
Governments are increasingly forced to turn to the private sector to fund the construction and maintenance of water networks, so a WCI will help measure critical projects on a like-for-like basis. Index values will reflect estimated water production costs for a variety of major global water infrastructure projects.
IBM CTO Peter Williams said “By creating a benchmark cost for water we intend to harness the capital market to this supremely important cause. If we can make it easier to price investments in the water sector, we can improve the flow of capital into an area where it is desperately needed.”
Review: It’s another example of green IT in unexpected places. Working out the relative value of water around the world is no mean feat, but Big Data comes to the rescue again. (Does big data need capitals, can’t we just believe the words?).
It is slightly depressing to think that it’s becoming essential to put a value on water, a commodity than none of us can survive without. Part of the reason for the Index is that it will help in insuring against a lack of water. Waterfund says that “A range of data products and index-linked insurance solutions are now available”.
Come to think of it, the project sounds like it could also generate some useful data for Microsoft’s project to map the world’s ecosystem – perhaps the two companies should be talking to each other.