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Water scarcity is a critical issue. It’s a shocking to know that 2.1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation. While achieving universal global access to water and sanitation services by 2030 is among the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the World Health Organization estimates that 90 countries will fall short. With every manufactured product using water during some part of the production process, industrial water usage equals 30-50 percent of water usage by region. It’s predicted that the amount of water need for manufacturing is expected to rise 400 percent through 2050. Water scarcity is also significantly threatening agricultural productivity and crop protection efforts. There is a need for change – urgently.

While these grim realities can’t be ignored, I recently attended an event at Ecolab, our partner and a global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, that offered reason for encouragement. Nalco Water, Ecolab’s global water management business, created Water University, a hands-on training facility for clients and associates to engage with Nalco’s 200 scientists on water conservation solutions. Christophe Beck, executive vice president and president of Nalco Water, shared with us their goal by 2030 to work with customers and partners to help save 300 billion-gallons of water annually – equal to the yearly drinking needs of more than one billion people, in partnership with its customers.

Can data save water?

Microsoft is proud to partner with Ecolab on solutions powered by Microsoft Cloud technologies that accelerate how industries tackle the global water crisis. Scientists at Nalco Water can remotely capture real-time data, from processes anywhere around the world, and deliver the intelligence that enables their field personnel to manage those processes for more than a million customers worldwide. Striving to offer a ‘virtuous cycle’ of reducing, reusing and recycling water for better results and decreased operating cost, Nalco Water takes advantage of cloud-based services, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver solutions with the power and scale to meet demand.

The question that Microsoft and Ecolab are answering for customers: can data help us save water? Is it possible for businesses in industries such as energy, metals, chemical, food and beverage, manufacturing and healthcare, to achieve net-zero water usage, meaning produce goods and support crop protection practices with the absolute minimum amount of freshwater? The answer, of course, is yes!

To help you understand how Ecolab is conserving water with data, this one-minute video provides insight. Take another minute to watch this video and learn how Ecolab is using 3D TRASAR technology, built on Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT suite, for round-the-clock monitoring of 10,000+ water systems. It’s truly game-changing!  Thousands of sensors, in facilities across the globe, send information to the cloud every six seconds, empowering scientists to better understand their customers’ operations and discover new ways to conserve, reuse or recycle water. In fact, Ecolab saved 140 billion gallons of water last year alone!

Microsoft’s commitment to environmental sustainability

At Microsoft, we’re tapping into the power of digital transformation to advance our own commitment to environment sustainability and renewable energy practices. During our time at the Nalco Water University’s grand opening, Chris Sakalosky, Microsoft’s vice president for the U.S. National Healthcare Organization shared how Microsoft partners with Ecolab to ensure the sustainable management of water resources across Microsoft’s operations.

Ecolab’s free, publicly-available Water Risk Monetizer tool, powered by Microsoft technologies, helps us increase our understanding of water-related risks and impacts to our business and to the communities we serve. Armed with this intelligence, we developed a strategy to use recycled water and Nalco Water technology in our data centers to save more than $140,000 in water costs per year and avoid the use of 58.3 million gallons of potable water per year.

When it was my turn to deliver a keynote to Nalco Water’s field team, I was pleased to share how Microsoft works with agribusiness, chemical and power companies to help predict maintenance and respond to potential equipment issues before they occur. I continue to be amazed at the work being done by Microsoft partners and customers to solve some of the world’s most urgent environmental issues—from food security and water scarcity to farming productivity and crop protection.

Indeed, at a global level, 69 percent of the world’s freshwater withdrawals are committed to agriculture. With three-quarters of the extreme poor depending on farming for their livelihood, water scarcity will significantly threaten agricultural productivity. Let’s look at how our partners and customers are using Microsoft cloud technologies to transform farming:

Blackhills Farm, a 990-acre cattle and sheep farm in New Zealand, relies on an Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) solution to monitor and manage its irrigation systems and water use from mobile phones. Created by WaterForce using Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure-ready Wonderware Online and Microsoft Azure, the remote monitoring and control system in the cloud brings information, analytics and automation to the farm. The IIoT solution enables farmers to operate irrigation pivots with greater agility, efficiency and sustainability.

 

By enabling its staff to access and analyze plant data, Syngenta, a global Swiss agribusiness, realized efficiency improvements in a 100-million-gallon plant, including savings of more than 68 million gallons of water, and nearly 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity, for increased plant efficiency and yield, while reducing overall cost. Syngenta turned to our partner, OSIsoft’s PI System for a software-as-a-service model, based on Microsoft Azure, that enables them to collect, analyze, visualize and share large amounts of high-fidelity, time-series data from multiple sources to people and systems across all operations.

Another farmer who wrestled with the too-much or too-little water issue is Tim Humphris, who runs a dairy farm in Kyabram, Victoria. Today, he uses his smartphone or computer to tap into WaterPool, a farmer-owned cooperative that allows farmers to trade water across the region. Instead of waiting a week to complete a water trade, Humphris can use the 24-hour online trading room service, running on Microsoft Azure, to can keep an eye on water prices round-the-clock, ensuring water is in his account in as little as four hours.

Imagine not knowing where 33 percent of your city’s water goes? That’s the issue Microsoft is helping a team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) tackle. With the looming water crisis in Bangalore, India, cause for grave concern, IISc scientists are creating intelligent waters systems to track consumption using services from Microsoft Azure to collect and process data from the network of IoT sensors.

It’s exciting to see how the cloud, data and IoT can transform the future of water. Now we need more organizations to follow in the path our pioneering partners and customers are forging. According to a recent study that Ecolab conducted with GreenBiz Group, 82 percent of the 184 large businesses surveyed say they are not sufficiently using advanced tools and technologies to better manage their water use. With Microsoft’s mission to empower every organization on the planet to achieve more, you can bet we will keep at it— empowering our customers and partners to unlock the data in every drop of water to promote sustainability, reduce waste and do our part to preserve the world’s water supply.

 

Twitter: @ClaudiaRoessler