Many of you remember the drought that hit Georgia back in 2007, when Lake Lanier, the 38,000 acre reservoir that supplies the Atlanta area, was down twenty feet and causing fears of depletion. Severe water restrictions had to be put in place to keep the lake from running dry. It was so dry that the governor held a service to pray for rain.
With temperatures on the rise, the folks down there know that this was no fluke. So they began investigating where they might be able to conserve water on a regular basis. One area where much of the water is used is in agriculture, and as it turns out, it is not typically used very efficiently. A joint project between the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District introduced a 100 square mile wireless broadband network to conserve water. What is this, you say, another iPhone app?
Well, not exactly, but not that far off either. Farmers in the program use data transmitted across the network to fine-tune their irrigation — saving hundreds of millions of gallons of water every year.
To be precise, farmers using this network realized a savings of 267 million gallons of water over a two-year period. This represents a 15 percent reduction in water use, according to David Reckford, director of the Lower Flint River Basin Project for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia. Based on this early success, the program is being expanded into a five country area. Of course, bringing in broadband internet will have other benefits for the region as well, such as allowing them to follow Triple Pundit.
Seriously though, this type of precise targeted delivery is going to be essential if we are going to be able to maintain a robust water supply in the face of rising population.
In fact, the same principle is being used halfway around the world in numerous developing countries in a very low-tech manner, using the ancient technique of drip irrigation. Early this past Spring, I posted another article about a similar technique applied to fertilizer, which is helping to stave off hunger for thousands in Bangladesh.
RP Siegel is co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails which deals with climate change, oil spills and carbon sequestration. He and his writing partner are now beginning work on a sequel that deals with the question of water.
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