This article examines how blockchain and IoT can assist in managing drinking water supply. Implementation should prioritize inclusive knowledge distribution rather than technical aspects to bridge access gaps between the Global North and South. It should also consider potential knowledge disparities and foster cooperation through centralized governance.
The scarcity of safe drinking water is a growing challenge, particularly due to climate change, which disproportionately affects vulnerable populations. Currently, there are 1.42 billion people residing in areas highly vulnerable to water scarcity. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 aims to ensure clean water and sanitation for all by 2030, but achieving this goal requires innovative approaches.
In the UNCTAD Technology and Innovation Report 2021, 11 frontier technologies were identified as potential accelerators for SDG achievement. Of these, Blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been applied in various private projects in countries like South Africa, South Korea, and Japan to address water mismanagement. However, the implementation of these technologies may widen the global North-South divide and create disparities within countries. Therefore, this article briefly assesses the potential of blockchain and IoT as a green opportunity to bridge economic, social, and digital gaps within G20 nations, using them as tools for water management.
Blockchain is a digital ledger technology that enables transparent access to and trade in online data. It stores data across multiple computers, preventing retroactive alteration without modifying the original records. On the other hand, IoT comprises a network of sensors and devices that collect information, which is then centralized for analysis. When combined, blockchain and IoT create audit trails that facilitate the transparent collection and analysis of unmodifiable data stored in a decentralized manner.
The decentralized nature of blockchain makes it suitable for areas without direct access to data centers. It reduces dependency on physical infrastructure and allows regions lacking digital or electrical infrastructure, or technical expertise, to benefit from blockchain technology.
Opportunities in Water Management
In water management, blockchain can establish an efficient trust mechanism for water resource utilization. It enhances traditional storage and management of drinking water data, facilitates the issuance and tracking of water permits, and improves the security and verifiability of permit information. IoT complements blockchain by providing sensor data on water levels, water quality, and salt-water intrusion. The IoT devices share this data for analysis in a collective cloud.
The transparency, adaptability, accessibility, and decentralized nature of blockchain make it suitable for water management in situations where central authorities mismanage water or where local actors have no control over water distribution. By combining blockchain and IoT-powered sensors, we can optimize water data collection. Such a process ensures accurate and reliable information on water quality, identifying areas with poor water quality, and clarifying responsibilities. Theoretically, this can ensure water security.
Risks and opportunities when using Blockchain and IoT
To evaluate whether we can consider blockchain and IoT as a green opportunity for democratizing access to drinking water, we have to first address the environmental, political, and social risks. Social risks pertain to the impact on communities where these technologies are implemented. The political risks encompass the governance of these communities. The transparency of blockchain poses a potential threat to existing social and political structures. This happens by potentially reshaping power dynamics within a community. Additionally, the implementation of blockchain and IoT can exacerbate local inequities by widening the gap between those familiar with these technologies and those who are not.
However, these technologies also present social and political opportunities that can counterbalance the risks depending on individual preferences. Blockchain promotes transparency. It can foster trust among those affected by new water management approaches. It also enables them to adjust their water usage accordingly. This promotes general welfare, empowering communities to become more self-reliant and resilient through efficient water management. In terms of environmental opportunities, there is an emerging energy-efficient alternative known as green IoT. This aims to reduce or eliminate GHG emissions associated with existing IoT applications. Doulton filters have always designed products with sustainability in mind. We always ensure that economy and ease of operations are key advantages of our filters.
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If your water source is borewell/tanker etc with TDS above 500 ppm, we do not recommend Doulton Water Filters.