Fairfax Water’s Tammy Powlas on producing good quality water cheaply

We talk to utilities a lot here on GreenMonk, but mostly electrical utilities. Recently I had an opportunity to talk to Tammy Powlas of water utility Fairfax Water to learn more about what they do.

It was a fascinating chat we had. Fairfax water makes extensive use of technology and also embue a culture in their employees of putting the customers’ needs first, and as a result, they produce safe, consistent, and cheap water for their constituency. This is vital work considering how important water is to our everyday lives.

Here is a transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV. I am talking today to Tammy Powlas who is a senior business analyst with Fairfax Water. Tammy, water utilities, it’s an interesting field and one that we don’t talk about enough often. I think people take water for granted often, but it’s one of our more valuable resources. Can you give us a bit of background first on Fairfax Water? What kind of size are you, who do you deliver water to, and what kind of challenges you’re facing, that kind of thing.

Tammy Powlas: Okay, yes, Fairfax Water, we are the largest water utility in the State of Virginia. Currently, we serve 1.7 million people water, and one out of every five Virginians gets their water from us. We serve the Fairfax County and surrounding counties. One of our challenges or immediate challenges is we’re acquiring two new water utilities in our area. The other thing about Fairfax Water, we pride ourselves on being one of the lowest cost water utilities in the Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland area.

Tom Raftery: Great! So you give cheap water to people. Does that necessarily mean that’s good water?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! We have a lab group who does testing. We have two sources of water. They are very active in testing that. Our customers can request at anytime, what’s the quality of the water. So we pride ourselves on giving the best lowest cost water in the D.C. area, and it’s always available.

Tom Raftery: And to coin the phrase, do you eat your own dog food, are you a —

Tammy Powlas: Yeah, I am a Fairfax Water customer. I live in Fairfax County. I have been a Fairfax Water customer since 1999. I’ve had good service from Fairfax Water as a customer. I do eat my own dog food, yeah.

Tom Raftery: So how do you manage to keep the prices down?

Tammy Powlas: Well, for us, I think it comes from the general manager on down. We are public sector water utility, I forgot to mention that. So revenue, we’re not tied to revenue, but we pride ourselves on always doing what’s the least cost or what’s the most cost efficient thing for our customers. So everything always has to have a business case. We do a cost benefit analysis, and it’s always questioned from the general manager, the finance manager, is this going to fit our customers, is this the best solution for our customers. So we pride ourselves on always thinking in those terms and the whole company does.

Tom Raftery: Okay. Is technology helping out at all?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! We’ve been using the SAP utilities solution since 2004, and that has really helped us integrate all our solutions together from billing, from maintenance, and very importantly, financials. So that helps us manage the cost, manage our maintenance, manage our bills, everything is all together. We have integrated financial statements in SAP that even using a business object software, it’s all come together and really helped us be more efficient for our customer.

Tom Raftery: Okay. I mean water utilities, and utilities in general, have large issues around infrastructure management. How do you handle that?

Tammy Powlas: That’s handled also in SAP using the Plant Maintenance Solution. We’ve been lucky, because our infrastructure is relatively new compared to our surrounding utilities, surrounding jurisdictions like Washington, D.C. which to me has a lot of issues with the aging infrastructure. So for us, we’re very active in predicting what’s going to go wrong, planning our maintenance, so that’s part of our whole company.

Tom Raftery: Sure! I mean what are plans moving forward for tech roll outs and the interesting projects on the horizon, to help you better serve your customers?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! For sure after data migrations, I would see it’s giving more visibility into how our customers are using the water, how am I consuming the water, how do I compare to my neighbors. So we’ve been relatively lucky. We haven’t had to tell our customers to boil the water, we haven’t had water shutoff, we don’t regulate the water and say you can only water on every other day. So we’ve been fairly lucky with that. But, I think given that people want to be more sustainable, I think they are going to want to see how am I managing my water and how am I consuming and how do I compare to my neighbors.

Tom Raftery: And smart meters?

Tammy Powlas: Smart meters, we have not looked at that yet. I think that is coming. What’s interesting is some of these jurisdictions that we’re getting, they have automated meter readings, and I think that will come. I think that’s got to be on the horizon. I am giving you my personal opinion, I don’t speak to Fairfax Water but I think that’s going to happen for sure, because I think the customer demand hasn’t happened yet, but I think that’s going to happen over time.

Tom Raftery: As people see the advantages of the smart meters for electricity.

Tammy Powlas: Yeah, absolutely! I can see that today with my own electric bill. I can log on and do all that and there’s a lot of benefits to that and there is a lot of incentives for the utility company as well.

Tom Raftery: Okay, cool! Tammy, that’s been great. Thanks once again for talking to us today.

Tammy Powlas: Absolutely! Thank you, thank you Tom!


IBM tackling water issues globally

Home electricity consumption

Water, water everywhere…

Water is becoming scarce resource globally – even more-so in rapidly growing urban environments.In fact, according to the UN, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century. – See more at: Also, increased droughts, and flash floods are not helping matters.

To help alleviate this, it is great to see IBM stepping up to the challenge and helping with the issue in various communities:

  1. In London for example IBM announced that it will be working with Thames Water to improve operations and customer interaction. According to the announcement, the alliance will analyse big data and social media to boost “safety, reducing total expenditure and environmental impact alongside lowering energy and chemical costs”. This is important as Thames Water ramps up to meet the obligations of the next regulatory period (Asset Management Programme 6 – AMP6) from 2015-2020.
  2. IBM are also using big data and analytics to help the Arad Group process water consumption data of water meters. The Arad Group has water utility customers in 50 countries worldwide who could potentially benefit from this getting quick insights into water losses in its system. This solution also reduces by around the number of technician visits required by about 50%, freeing up those hours for more valuable work.
  3. IBM and Waterfund LLC, have signed up the Ministry of Water and Environment of Uganda to become the first African nation to become a member of the Water Cost Index (WCI). The Water Cost Index calculates the unsubsidised cost of freshwater production, to bring financial transparency to investors in water infrastructure. The hope is that this will help Uganda attract private sector funding and facilitate Uganda in the provision of clean and safe freshwater for its citizens.
  4. In South Bend, Indiana, federal requirements to change the way the sewer systems work meant that this small city (pop. 100,000) was going to be faced with a bill in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    To avoid this they instrumented their sewers, and wirelessly piped the information from these sewers to IBM’s Intelligent Operation Center (IOC). South Bend now has the most instrumented sewer system in the world, reducing the number of waste water overflows and keeping the local water system cleaner. The system saves South Bend $100m in water capacity and reduces the number of fines South Bend would have been subject to by $600,000
  5. IBM has worked with partners to manage Lake George, one of New York’s most pristine natural ecosystems. This project aims to create a sophisticated lake environmental monitoring and prediction system giving scientists and the community a real-time picture of the health of the lake. The hope being that the software and lessons learned can ultimately be used to help other lake systems worldwide.
  6. And, IBM worked with the Dutch Ministry of Water (Rijkswaterstaat) on a project called Digital Delta. Theis project aims to provide realtime information on water quality, the impact of extreme weather events, and the risk of floods or droughts. It will enable relevant agencies to share this information quickly so response efforts can be quickly coordinated.

Ready access to water has been an issue for mankind since the dawn of time. With our ever growing global population, water is going to become an ever more pressing concern. Companies like IBM who can help alleviate some of these issues will no doubt have a ready market for the foreseeable future.

Image credit Tom Raftery


IBM launch Intelligent Water for Smarter Cities


Intelligent water is the latest addition to the IBM Smarter Cities portfolio.

in the world’s cities are growing at an astounding rate. For the 1st time in history, over 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. Over 1 million people are moving into cities every week, and it is estimated that by 2050 70% of people on the planet will live in cities.

This unprecedented growth in urban populations makes the provision of basic services like transport, security, water etc. increasingly complex. This is irrespective of whether the city is a mature city or a developing one. It was against this backdrop that IBM launched its Smarter Cities product.

At the core of this offering is its Intelligent Operation Center (IOC) which takes inputs from systems throughout the city and depending on the input, raises alerts, kicks off workflows, or displays the information on any of a number of dashboards which can be configured to display differing information based on a user’s login.

The newly announced Intelligent Water offering is yet another module capable of working with the IOC. In their briefing call, IBM were at pains to point out that their experience working with custom projects like the ones in Galway Bay, the Washington DC, and the Dubuque, Iowa all helped shape this new product.

Water issues are global in their reach, even if the difficulties differ from region to region (i.e. drought in Texas, flooding in Thailand, water quality in India).

IBM’s Intelligent Water helps organise water-related work. It drives proactive maintenance and schedules the maintenance so that the majority of the time is spent actually doing the maintenance, as opposed to driving between destinations. It allows water managers to see where the water is going – is it being delivered to customers, or disappearing through leaks in the pipework? Are customers using it effectively or not?

It integrates with geospatial packages and has map-based views, there are analytics for optimized scheduling, work order reporting, water usage reporting and display dashboards with roles-based information display. It is possible therefore to create views for the public (to display on the municipality’s website, for example), views for the Mayor’s office and others screens for the water planners and water operators.

According to IBM, Intelligent Water is available today. It comes with IBM’s business intelligence reporting tools as part of the solution and is available in standalone, cloud or hybrid versions.

I’m open to correction, but I’m not aware of any other company offering a comprehensive city management software solution like this. With cities growing at the rates they are, and most resources being finite, management solutions like this are going to be in greater and greater demand.

Photo credit Tom Raftery


The day that we see all devices which consume water having networked flow meters is still a ways off


Photo credit Hypergurl – Tanya Ann

I wrote a post a couple of days ago asking the question How long until all devices which consume water have networked flow meters? after talking to Oracle VP Industry Strategy, Guerry Waters about Oracle’s recently released “Testing the Water: Smart Metering for Water Utilities” study.

Having put the question out there, I’m now going to discuss some of the factors which will influence the answer!

The first thing to realise from the Oracle data is that 76% of homeowners in the US are concerned with the need to conserve water in their community and 71% believe that having access to detailed consumption data would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use. So barring and big PR disasters like the PG&E Smart electricity Meter fiasco in Bakersfield, it would seem that the vast majority of consumers are bought into the idea of having smart meters to help lower water consumption.

How about the utilities? It looks like if they do decide to rollout smart water meters, they’ll very much be pushing an open door.

Funnily enough this is where it starts to get a bit nuanced!

First off, 83% of utilities who have conducted a cost-benefit analysis (n=86) support the adoption of smart meter technology, so that’s a good start, right?

Well, yes, but what are the motivations of the utilities?

It turns out that they are far more interested in using smart meters to enable early leak detection than in supplying customers with tools to monitor/reduce their consumption!

Right away this is problematic, if the aims of the utilities and their customers are not aligned, then this will greatly complicate any rollouts. Also, if the utilities are not strongly focussed on providing consumers with tools to reduce their consumption, any such tools which are provided to homeowners would most likely be sub-optimal (an after-thought).

Then, when asked what they perceived as roadblocks, the water utilities cited the lack of cost recovery or measurable ROI as well as the up-front utility expenses required – in fact, 64% of utilities are not even currently considering a smart meter program!

So, until the water utilities are as enthusiastic to roll out smart meters as their counterparts in the electrical utilities are, then the day that we see all devices which consume water having networked flow meters is still a ways off.

Of course, in the case of the electric utilities, their enthusiasm is certainly not hurt by the amount of recovery act monies being pored into smart grids!


How long until all devices which consume water have networked flow meters?


Photo credit bmitchellw

Oracle published the results of a very interesting study recently called Testing the Water: Smart Metering for Water Utilities.

Now, we have all heard about the compelling case for Smart Meters for electrical consumption (I have written and spoken about it extensively) but in this study Oracle asked utilities and their customers about the benefits of rolling out Smart Meters for managing water consumption.

Part of the reason for undertaking this study was that water shortages are already being seen in the South East United States, Western Canada, and Southern California.

In fact, according to the EPA’s WaterSense site:

  • At least 36 states are projecting water shortages between now and 2013.
  • Each American uses an average of 100 gallons of water a day at home.
  • Approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day or more! Many of these leaks reside in old fixtures such as leaky toilets and faucets. If the 5 percent of American homes that leak the most corrected those leaks?it could save more than 177 billion gallons of water annually!
  • The average [US] household spends as much as $500 per year on their water and sewer bill and can save about $170 per year by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Some of the results of the Oracle water study show that:

  • 68% of water utility managers believe it is critical that water utilities adopt smart meter technologies
  • 76% of consumers are concerned about the need to conserve water in their community
  • 69% of consumers believe they could reduce their personal water use
  • 71% of consumers believe receiving more detailed information on their water consumption would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use
  • 83% of water utilities who have completed a cost- benefit analysis support the adoption of smart meter technology

So, the public is concerned about water conservation and believes that more information would help them reduce their consumption of water. The majority of utility managers also believe smart meter technologies are critical, so things are looking rosy so far.

The data output from smart electricity meters is extremely granular and yields very specific energy footprints. With this data it is trivial to identify the devices using the energy down to make and model of the machine. However, this is not the case for smart water meters. Their output is far less granular – it will be quite difficult to map water consumption data from smart meters to individual devices within the house (unless there are flow meters attached to all the devices using water, for example).

What if though, you could tie-in the output of your electrical smart meter and your water smart meters? Analysing the data from the two meters it should be possible to identify at least some of the devices using water (fridge, dish washer, electric shower, etc.). Having this information tied-in to make and model of device would be extremely useful to help identify more water efficient appliances.

Because, for the most part, your water and electricity utilities are separate companies (or different business units within a utility), this is not a solution they are likely to pursue. However, there has been a surge in the number of 3rd party companies working on Home Management Software applications/devices.

Most recently we’ve seen that Apple are looking into the home energy management space, but others big names already involved include Google, Microsoft, Intel and Panasonic to name but a few.

With consumer’s actively interested in receiving more information about their energy and water usage and with the value that this data has, it is a no-brainer that Home Management Software will manage water consumption as well as energy in time.

How long before it is mandatory that all devices which consume water have networked flow meters and all homes have smart water meters?


IBM’s John Soyring talks about IBM’s Smart Planet initiatives around water

I posted my video interview with IBM’s John Soyring previously as part of a round-up of my impressions of the IBM Connect09 event. I have since had the interview transcribed so I thought I’d post it once more as a stand-alone post, with the transcription – the content is that good.

Tom Raftery:

Hi, everyone and welcome to GreenMonkTV. My guest in the show today is John Soyring from IBM. John you are a part of the IBM Software Group and we are at the Connect 09 Conference today and we are talking a lot about the Smarter Planet initiative from IBM. So IBM has traditionally been known as Big Blue. Are you guys now going to rebrand as Big Green?

John Soyring:

Well, certainly someone referred to that, but blue is important too because of the color that water appears to many peoples as well and water is part of our projects.

Tom Raftery:

The Blue Marble.

John Soyring:

It is.

Tom Raftery:

So tell us about some of the stuff you are doing around water, for instance, since you brought that out.

John Soyring:

Yeah, I would be happy to. So we have selected water because we know that there is already a shortage, globally, of the amount of potable water available to people and the lack of potable water is a major cause of health problems in parts of the world and has adverse impacts on economy; so right now is a problem already, a pretty severe problem.

Secondly as you look at supply and demand the amount of fresh water on the face of the earth or drinkable water or water that’s easily purified to be drinkable is finite in nature, it hasn’t changed over centuries really and the total amount – it is a very significant amount.

Yet, the demand with population growth and with the growth of certain economies around the world where more and more people are demanding water not only for their own personal use, but also for commercial use – there is an increased stress on the system. So we look at it from a macroeconomic standpoint and say there’s has got to be something we could do to help here.

So this team got together and said how could we apply technology to help all of the world of water, whether it’s managing water resources or helping people to better distribute the water or very importantly how to make more intelligent decisions on how to consume water.

So if I use one example as representative and I won’t give out their specific numbers because they share them on confidence with me of what they are doing, but as an example the country of Malta we were very fortunate to work with them, because of the work they were already doing and recognizing that water is extremely important to the people, the citizens of Malta and the visitors, but very importantly as they continue to grow their economy an increased availability of water is going to be critical to that.

What they told me, 100% of the water comes from rain catchments that’s about 55-60% of the total supply and about 40% or 50%, it varies, I believe, during the year is seawater from the Mediterranean Sea that’s desalinated, purified, and then distributed. Now, as I had the benefit of coming and visiting some of their desalination centers and purification centers, and they were already using state-of-the-art technology.

Now in the future will there be a better technology with nanotechnology and other on filtration systems? Very likely; so it’s great to be able to work with some people who already on the leading edge of pushing the technology to it’s boundaries.

The second is how you would distribute that water, because today water in almost all cities and regions of the world or countries in the world is heavily subsidized by tax payers. Consumers don’t really realize the true cost of water because the price…

Tom Raftery:

Water is free. You just turn the tap and there it is.

John Soyring:

It is so inexpensive the monthly bill that people perceive it to be free, but in reality the cost is much higher that what they are being charged. With governments – city, regional, federal governments around the world being stressed because there’s a gap between the taxes they collect and the amount that they are spending is not a sustainable economic model.

So eventually water will have more and more market prices and for decades, now I have been projecting personally. This is my own personal opinion that the price of a barrel of water will far exceed the price of a barrel of oil. And what’s important is we can live without a barrel of oil, we’ve got alternatives to oil. It’s going to take a while to develop those, but we don’t know really have alternatives to water that we have to drink and survive whether it’s animals or human beings in that category.

Tom Raftery:

Because I saw in a statistic recently that it takes 16,000 liters of water to produce one kilo a beef.

John Soyring:

It is expensive and the other thing I found recently and it takes quite a few liters of water to produce a one liter of beer.

Tom Raftery:

I’ll give up the beef, I won’t give up with the beer.

John Soyring:

I happen to be a real big fan of one of your Irish beverages.

Tom Raftery:


John Soyring:

Yes, the Guinness is just absolutely wonderful, but think about this and Malta is pretty representative of many other countries. We create this purified drinkable water very expensively on a per liter basis, we distribute it, our water systems are very old, many times measured in centuries not just decades.

There’s leaks in the system, so there’s loss of water in the distribution system, loss of water when they get in to the buildings – the residential homes or commercial buildings, loss in the building is pretty bad also from a health standpoint because it creates mould which has adverse affect on the living beings that are in that home or that commercial building; but, very importantly when you think about we designed our plumbing systems that assume as you pointed out water is free.

So we use it for all sorts and I was shocked as I talked to the CEOs of different water utility companies around the world that’s a very higher percentage of water that’s just flushed down the toilet; a very significant part and that when you look at the majority of it that’s actually going for irrigation for the grasses and lawns, or for the flowerbeds, for vegetable gardens, for trees, for irrigation, for farms, it’s a very high percentage. None of it really needs the quality of potable water that we have.

Tom Raftery:

So there’s a disconnect there between the amount that’s flushed down the toilet and what could be used for irrigation purposes?

John Soyring:

And the interesting thing, as I was in Malta meeting with some of the government leaders and the business leaders in Malta and on my flight back to the United States the airline had copies of the Financial Times and I was reading through a section and it was a Middle East country, I believe it was Qatar back in about April had a paid section that they put in and talked about the different parts the government one of which is water management.

I taught that it was just absolutely visionary what they are doing because the leaders in Qatar were setting goals for the future, they wanted to able to — every time they created a liter of a drinkable water, they want to able to use that liter seven times before they dispose of that.

Tom Raftery:


John Soyring:

Now, so that’s a great vision. Now the question is from our system today that use the water once in 95% plus of the cases, how can we get to a case where we are satisfy a vision like Qatar has of using it seven times?

Certainly a new plumping system would do, but another thing is if we have the intelligent sensors of where the water is being used, then we can people aware of their consumption habits are we’ve certainly seen that in hybrid vehicles that when they no what their patrol consumption is they try to optimize that and change behavior.

Now if we can make that information available to the consuming public and also if they know what the real cost of water is and the benefits, we think we can precipitate some of that change.

So that’s what we are doing and for the smart water grid in Malta, we’ve signed several other deals and just issued press release earlier this week, one for the lower Colorado River Authority, which is a watershed in Texas supplying water to central Texas.

One is in Japan with a water utility, one is in Australia, and then there’s a variety of other projects anywhere from working on the Hudson River in New York, which has in its 1960s and 1970s, unfortunately, became very polluted.

Tom Raftery:


John Soyring:

To be able to place sensors through the river to identify when various chemicals – whether it’s agricultural runoff, industrial chemicals, personal use chemicals, because people are using medications, but they eventually flow out of you body, usually get flushed down the toilet, but they end up not being separated during the water purification process for sewage, and when they do the sewage processes it mixes in the river.

So if we put sensors in the river, we can identify the source and start to mitigate the pollution problem by hitting it at the source as soon as possible.

Tom Raftery:

You did a project in Galway Bay in Ireland as well.

John Soyring:

Yeah, absolutely, and as you know being Irish the Bay in Galway is probably the major source of economic growth for the city of Galway and the surrounding region, whether it’s the fisheries which depend on the quality of the water, they have better catches if the water quality is better; to Galway is one of the major import and export centers, the ports in Ireland so the commerce of the country of Ireland is very dependent upon the success of it.

Vacationers, people like to bathe in Galway Bay, so by putting sensors throughout on buoys throughout the Bay we are able to capture information and help Ireland be the first country to start satisfying a European regulation where this data has to be captured and made available to the public immediately, so they can make decisions. One of the things that we measure is E. coli high concentrations.

Tom Raftery:


John Soyring:

If the concentration level is below what the Health Department determines is acceptable or the EPA in Ireland they say bathers feel free to go in. Now people can make that decision rather than waiting for a notice and perhaps missing it in the newspaper, going swimming, and then ending up with some health problems.

Tom Raftery:

John, that’s been great. Thanks, for taking the time to come on the show.

John Soyring:

Oh! It’s a pleasure. Thank you for coming here to this event.


IBM’s Software Analyst Connect event, Smarter Planet and sustainability

I attended IBM’s eighth annual Software Analyst Connect (#Connect09) last week in Connecticut. The theme of the event was “IBM Software for a Smarter Planet”.

You have to admire IBM for coming up with the Smart Planet branding strategy. Now anything Smart (Smart Cities, Smart Water even Smart Work) is automatically, subconsciously associated with IBM.

The Connect 09 event itself was superb. The delegates were all analysts and I was humbled to be in the company of so many really bright people.

It was a two day affair broken up into a healthy mix of keynotes, breakout sessions, round tables, an appliance showcase and chats with experts. The content level was very high and the networking opportunities were off the charts (I had face time with Steve Mills, Al Zollar, Sandy Carter and John Soyring (in the video above) to name-drop but a few).

The breakout sessions had titles like:

  • IBM’s Industry Frameworks and Solutions for a Smarter Planet
  • Driving Smarter Business Outcomes with Analytics and Information and
  • Smart Work and Dynamically Adaptive Collaboration

So while the content was quite in-depth and at times extremely technical, unfortunately there wasn’t a strong emphasis on sustainability. This is no big surprise as this was never billed as a sustainability-related event.

Having said that IBM’s larger Smarter Planet strategy talks very much to the Internet of Things vision where everything is instrumented with RFID tags or sensors and inter-connected which has massive potential implications for making the world more sustainable.

Then the talks from Steve Mills referenced IBM’s work with utilities in the Smart Grid arena and the development of the SAFE Framework while John Soyring talked up IBM’s work around the world on Smart Water initiatives.

The one use of the Smart X lingo which IBM use and I do object to is Smart Oilfields. The thinking goes that Smart Oilfields are ones that extract oil more efficiently from the ground. I’m sorry, but CO2 is a pollutant which is endangering all life on this planet. Anything which helps put more CO2 into the atmosphere, cannot be very smart.

It was spectacular to get a chance to record my chat with John Soyring about IBM’s work on water globally. Take 10 minutes to watch the video above. You’ll be glad you did.

Full disclosure, IBM is a client and paid my airfare (economy) to attend the event, accommodation and all delegates received a gift of a solar phone charger.


Never run a conference at a venue that can’t provide water dispensing machines, instead of bottled water

Bottled water is bad

I attend a lot of conferences.

The two most recent ones I was at were both run by SAP. The first was the International SAP for Utilities conference in Munich, the second was the SAP TechEd conference in Vienna. Both events were very interesting for a variety of reasons but both conferences left a nasty (dry) taste in my mouth because the only water available to drink was bottled water!

What is the big deal about using bottled water, you ask?
Well, according to Food and Water Watch:

Bottled water wastes fossil fuels and water in production and transport, and when the water is drunk the bottles become a major source of waste. It takes more than 47 million gallons of oil to produce plastic water bottles for Americans every year. Eliminating those bottles would be like taking 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Each one of those bottles required nearly five times its volume in water to manufacture the plastic and may have caused the release of nickel, ethylene oxide, and benzene. Then, rather than being recycled, 86 percent of them are thrown away. Breaking down these plastics can take thousands of years, while their components seep into our water supplies.

And don’t just take their word for it, check out the NRDC’s page on bottled water. See also’s 5 Reasons not to drink Bottled Water and even Wikipedia’s entry on bottled water vs tap water, which tells us amongst other things that:

In the United States, bottled water costs between $0.25 and $2 per bottle while tap water costs less than US$0.01. In 1999, according to a NRDC study, U.S. consumers paid between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water. According to, about 90% of manufacturer’s costs is from making the bottle, label, and cap.

What’s worse, a significant proportion of bottled water is simply tap water which has been bottled! No, really. Both Aquafina from PepsiCo and Dasani from The Coca-Cola Company originate from municipal water systems, for example!

Despite all that, an estimated 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per annum in the US and around 200 billion bottles globally.

Come on SAP. You are working hard on improving your sustainability message. And by and large are doing a good job at it but really, bottled water? In 2009?

Here’s my challenge to SAP (and all conference organisers) – make commitment that you will never again run a conference at a venue that can’t provide water dispensing machines, instead of bottled water.

Seriously, if you are negotiating with a venue about holding your event and you mention that that is a dealbreaker, they’ll provide the machines.


Get Rich Quick: a green roundup from IBM’s VP Energy and Utility – Show 1: Water

Rich Lechner is IBM’s VP Energy and Environment.

I first met Rich at the Pulse 09 event in Las Vegas earlier this year where he gave a great talk on Sustainability & the role of IT.

Rich has agreed to come on the GreenMonk show monthly to give us a state of the ‘sustainosphere’ from an IBM perspective!

This is month one and we are talking Water – among the many interesting water-related items, watch out near the end for Rich’s alluding to using Demand Response for water flow management!



Ireland is one of the least densely populated countries in Europe and it has some of the highest amounts of rainfall.

After seeing the following presentation about the world’s dwindling water resources the water shortage in Dublin, which I posted about yesterday, appears all the more scandalous.


View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: design crisis)

Thanks to Shel for linking to this presentation on Twitter.