Big data project aims to improve Dutch flood control, save the government millions

The initiative aims to provide water experts with a real-time intelligent dashboard

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  Software

A big data project called Digital Delta aims to investigate how to transform flood control and the management of the entire Dutch water system and save up to 15 percent of the annual Dutch water management budget.

IBM will collaborate with Rijkswaterstaat, the part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment that is responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the waterways and water systems in the Netherlands. The project also involves the University of Delft, local water authority Delfland and the Deltares Science Institute, the organizations said in a joint news release Tuesday.

They will investigate whether data gathered by more than 100 different projects in the Netherlands that deal with water management can be combined and be made accessible to accelerate water management innovation, said Djeevan Schiferli, an IBM Business Development Executive who is involved in the project.

If the research is successful, the system can be applied to other areas in the world, Schiferli said. The principle has already been discussed with governments in the U.S. in New York and New Orleans, as well as in Japan, South Korea and Australia, he said.

In the next 12 months, the Digital Delta group will investigate how to integrate and analyze water data from a wide range of existing sources, including precipitation measurements, water level and water quality monitors, levee sensors, radar data, model predictions, and current and historic maintenance data from sluices, pumping stations, and locks and dams, the group said.

Because 55 percent of the Dutch population lives in a location prone to flooding, every water-related event is critical and can impact businesses, agriculture and citizens' daily lives, they said.

Due to this, the Dutch water management budget adds up to €7 billion (US$9.2 billion) each year, and costs are expected to increase €1 billion to €2 billion by 2020, unless something is done, according to the release. By combining data, Digital Delta thinks it can save up to 15 percent, Schiferli said.

Digital Delta wants to reduce costs by dealing with IT and the available data in a better way, he said. At the moment, parties use a third to half of their budgets to collect and disseminate the data, according to Schiferli. "And that is even before the data can be interpreted," he added.

The initiative aims to provide water experts with a real-time intelligent dashboard to harness information so data can be shared immediately across organizations and agencies, according to the release. Involved organizations can use the dashboard to help prepare for imminent difficulties as well as enabling authorities to coordinate and manage response efforts. Over the longer term, the project aims to enhance the ongoing efficiency of overall water management, it added.

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