Dateline: UN Water Conference, New York, World Water Day 2023.
A seismic moment. The moment where mankind must grasp the nettle and commit to solving water, or face an unimaginable and intolerable future.
There are no easy answers to the accelerating number of worsening drought and flooding crises destroying lives and environments around the world, but answers do exist.
And among all the Water Action Decade commitments the UN will gather from governments, organisations and NGOs over the next two days, one in particular stands out.
In a blog today, Melanie Nakagawa announced “a first-of-its-kind leak detection technology replenishment project in London”
Now this might not be remarkable if Melanie worked in the water sector, or for one of its regulators or contractors. Or even if she were a state official or politician. But Melanie works for Microsoft. She is Chief Sustainability Officer.
Why is a global household name not normally associated with the operational work of utilities going looking for water leaks?
New water positive partnership
The answer is because Microsoft is at the vanguard of a blossoming new corporate movement to replenish our watersheds, called water positivity.
I’ve blogged about water positivity before and, full disclosure here, my company FIDO Tech is the central part of this project, which also includes London’s major water provider, Thames Water.
But it’s still huge, because it means two really important things. First, that truly sustainable corporations know they can only succeed if society and the environment has a healthy future too. And, second, that they bring with them transformational skills and resources which are in short supply in a sector too often constrained by affordability and risk-aversion.
Water positivity is not about offsetting actions in one community by doing something somewhere else. It’s fundamentally about over-compensating for your actions at the point of impact – and proving it. Put simply, putting more back into a river basin than you take out of that same river basin. It’s immediate, it’s transparent and its hyper-local. That’s a crucial difference.
Around 30% of world water is leaked
For FIDO Tech, this is exactly what we set out to do when we launched our artificial intelligence three ago and it’s why we are creating this catalytic community.
The beauty of the water positive movement is that what makes AI so disruptive, is what makes water positivity possible. It’s quantifiable, it’s transparent, it’s immediate and it’s local. It has a real impact.
The AI water revolution democratising digitisation for all
But the really brilliant thing for me is that, at the same time as we’re delivering tangible, measurable benefits locally, our model democratises water network digitisation more widely. Every water leak FIDO finds in central London adds a little more knowledge into FIDO’s neural networks, making it better at finding leaks anywhere in the world.
Forward-thinking utilities will contribute to a greater global good and extend the water positive impact still further.
But why stop there? We are already working on gamifying community action on leak detection to effectively crowd-source extra resource. We could even use verified real-time volumetric data to add extra meaning to customer behaviour campaigns or in STEM activities for young people.
These things are on the way with ever increasing speed as more catalytic communities become reality.
Make WWD23 the birth of a catalytic movement
I didn’t invent the term, but the idea of ‘catalytic communities’ isn’t wholly new. The term reflects the serendipitous reaction which happens when stakeholders with disparate skills collaborate strategically on a fundamentally-shared value, in this case water scarcity. They bounce off each other sparking ideas that none of them could deliver on their own, attracting others into an expanding action-oriented ecosystem.
I am not the only one who believes such communities can generate and test solutions to water problems far faster than traditional approaches. World Water Day 2023 is the moment for them. The new partnership in London may be the first, but I am confident that immediate improved evidenced outcomes will spur on more until we coalesce into a world-wide movement.
I am committed to this. So, on WWD23 as organisations pledge their commitments to the Water Action Agenda, here’s mine. I commit FIDO to being a force for change and staying permanently non-proprietary and completely agnostic over where we get our data from, who uses it and how; and to forging catalytic communities wherever we can.
We’re brave, we’re curious, we’re all-in, we leave no one behind. With actionable AI at the core, who knows what else can we learn, achieve and prevent together. Join our AI water revolution, today.