Published: Feb. 22, 2019

Evan ThomasA recent article published in Forbes discusses how researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder are teaming up with tech giant IBM, nonprofit organization The Freshwater Trust (TFT), and sensor provider SweetSense Inc. to pilot blockchain and satellite-connected sensor solutions to track groundwater usage in California.

By transmitting water extraction data to satellites, the project’s scientists and engineers hope to show how remote IoT sensors can precisely measure groundwater usage in real time and how blockchain can create a water-trading platform.

The group plans to pilot the system in northern California’s 1,100-square-mile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is home to dozens of protected fish, plant and animal species, as well as the source of water for the San Francisco Bay Area and much of Southern California.

The pilot will allow the group to establish a web-based dashboard for farmers, financers and regulators. Individual users of the groundwater will be able to monitor and track the use of groundwater, trade groundwater use shares and purchase shares from other uses. In addition to their work in California, the engineers are also using these technologies to monitor groundwater use in Kenya and Ethiopia as part of several USAID programs.

“By remotely monitoring groundwater use via our sensors, we’re able to help improve and maintain sustainable access to water supplies for people, farmers, and livestock. The work we’re doing in Africa is directly translatable to California,” said Evan Thomas, associate professor and Mortenson Chair of Global Engineering in civil, environmental and architectural engineering at CU Boulder and CEO of SweetSense.

The project is being funded by the Water Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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