IoT Innovations That May Help Us Deal with a Dry California

May 26, 2016 | Comments

On April 27th, 10 finalists were announced for Samsung’s Makers Against the Drought Challenge . The competition challenges teams to use the Internet of Things to come up with potential solutions to the California drought crisis.

Among these top ten finalists was a dual-stage air-to-water generation, or AWG machine, proposed by the water technology company DEW. The machine, named PureWater 16, can produce potable water on demand.

As a competition requirement, PureWater 16 uses a Samsung ARTIK module to optimize efficiency. This data platform allows the AWG machine to combine weather data with electricity rates for cost-effective potable water production.

This recent story is just one case among many when it comes to engineers using IoT to help save California’s water.

Cracked, dry and exposed lake bottom  in foreground of bed of Lower Klamath Lake, California with small patch of remaining water in background against backdrop of blue sky and distant barren hills.

Exposed, dry bottom of Lower Klamath Lake in California.

2015 marked California’s fourth consecutive year of record-breaking drought. Since agriculture makes up 80 percent of the state’s water consumption, this sector has been a primary focus in conservation strategies.

Below are two more creative uses of IoT that may help to alleviate California’s water shortage.


Project WIN Improving Irrigation Efficiency

There is enormous potential for water conservation in the irrigation efficiency of farmers’ fields. Community Water Dialogue of the Parajo Valley aims to alleviate this issue with the Wireless Irrigation Network (WIN). The hope is to reduce water consumption of irrigation systems by 30 percent.

Soil tension is a measure of how much water content is present in the ground. By accurately measuring this parameter in real time, farmers can apply more precise quantities of water to their fields and reduce overall water application.

California Agriculture. Soil Watering Irrigation System. Agriculture Theme

Sprinklers irrigate farmers’ fields in California.

The WIN Project measures soil tension through wireless communication towers and connects with sensor technology in real time via the internet. Early adopters of this technology are already seeing 15 to 30 percent in water savings with little or no yield loss.

The creators of Project WIN also aim to make the system affordable and non-committal for growers who want to tap into its benefits. Farmers have the option to rent or purchase the necessary equipment in order to gain access to this database.

In the end, the savings on water can even reduce expenses incurred from this program. Other advantages include reducing nutrient inputs and improving topsoil.


Intel Measuring Snowpack

The whole state of California is at the mercy of Mother Nature. In order to respond to this drought, scientists must try to understand the hydrological mechanisms behind it and whether or not it will get worse.

Nearly one third of California’s water is supplied by snowpack and currently, these vital water reserves are at 20 percent of their normal levels. Intel is collaborating with the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Earth Research Institute to develop a project that measures snow patterns in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The end goal is to use satellite imagery and mapping technologies in order to understand how much water California will have available in the future.

Previously, scientists would have to venture out into mountainous areas and manually measure snowpacks in order to obtain this kind of information. Now, 20 terabytes of data are collected each month and widely distributed to scientists for analysis. Applications of this nature that make use of satellite imagery and GIS platforms are known formally as “precision farming.”

The hope is that by creating a reliable data platform, it will spur research initiatives by other groups and pave the way for more water management strategies.

Scientists need a staggering amount of data in order to fully understand what we are up against. IoT might just be a key player in developing the smart technology we will need in order to effectively alleviate this state-wide water shortage.

To learn more about these three IoT-related innovations, see to following links:


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