Event Digital Solutions Europe

Blockchain: enabling transparency for water data sharing

Friday, 7 February 2020

Blockchain’s past: falling down the rabbit hole

The second Aquatech Online BreakOuts, which brought together an all-female panel for a live and engaging discussion on blockchain in water.

Over 400 people registered from nearly 60 countries to find out about blockchain applications in water: the past, the present and the future.

Led by moderator Emma Weisbord, digital water consultant at Royal HaskoningDHV, the panellists included:

  • Katrina Donaghy, co-founder and CEO of Civic Ledger, (Australia)

  • Emma Wattie, director, Atlantic Water Network (regional partner for Atlantic DataStream) (Canada)

  • Carolyn DuBois, director, water program, The Gordon Foundation (Canada).

Emma Weisbord kickstarted the session by saying “falling down the blockchain rabbit hole” was her pivot into the digital water space.

“In the water sector, we often ask each other about our “water” origin stories, as we all have them. Blockchain is the same - blockchain origin stories often begin with falling down the rabbit hole.”

Providing context on blockchain, she described it as “a distributed database which allows different parties of common interest to agree on an immutable and transparent record of an exchange of a particular kind of asset."

This could be a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, or "the movement of goods through a supply chain, or as we will see, data and water”.

Blockchain’s present: water quality monitoring in Canada

Two speakers from Canada, Emma Wattie and Carolyn DuBois, discussed how blockchain enabled better communication and transparency for data sharing in Canada.

Atlantic Network was working with multiple grass-roots organisations, including non-profits, who have concerns about local water quality and were collecting samples.

With multiple datasets being generated but remaining in the groups, a partnership with the Gordon Foundation was signed to help utilise blockchain for secure data sharing.

As a result, the groups created a "neutral" bucket for group data storage and monitoring.

“Datastream helps to put the monitoring groups and all the data they collect, on the map, quite literally,” said Carolyn DuBois. “It enables access to full water quality data, which is fully open access so people can download completely.”

She added that the open-access platform for data sharing provided a distributed ledger using the Ethereum network.

“If people were previously unwilling to use data on an open-access site, it often came down to trust,” she added.

The traceability was designed to allow users to see how data could change over time, improving security and authenticity.

Blockchain’s future: water trading rights in Australia

Civic Ledger’s co-founder and CEO, Katrina Donaghy discussed a trial in the Far North Queensland region, Australia where blockchain is being applied to the agricultural sector for water trading rights.

“We’re digitising water markets to remove intermediaries in the transaction, to enable irrigators to participate in those markets more efficiently,” she said.

“So in effect, we’re working with water rights: responsibilities, restrictions and interests on how water is traded."

In Australia, water markets are worth UAD$3.2 billion dollars, underpinning the agricultural sector, which exports food across the world.

Donaghy said the current water trading mechanisms are "complex", and there are "challenges around pricing – what is the real value of water?" she asked.

She said the trial would help to understand how blockchain technology can help to underpin the emerging water markets in Northern Australia.

Using the Ethereum blockchain, she said it would eventually enable "complete data".


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