Can Blockchain Solve Jordan’s Water Crisis

I present below a version of a business concept based on Ethereum blockchain technology. This article is an edited version of a paper I submitted as part of an academic work.

 

The problem

According to USAID, Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water availability per capita in the world. It is the 3rd most arid country in the world.  According to a World Bank analysis of climate projections for Jordan, between 2020 and 2030 temperatures will rise by one to two degrees Celsius.

It is estimated that 50% of water losses are due to leakage, theft and under billing – a loss of half a billion dollars yearly. Recovering such an amount would significantly help the country reducing its public debt. Agriculture consumes 50% of the water supply, but contributes only 3% of Jordan’s GDP.

Thousands of Syrian refugees have settled in camps in the north of Jordan. Locals believe that refugees receive a bigger allocation of water. While in the capital, Amman residents of the eastern part of the city believe that residents of the wealthier western part receive a bigger water allocation.  Water shortage has created distrust and led to tension between the communities and the authorities. In Jordan water distribution takes place once a week and sometimes once every 2 weeks.

The water market in Jordan in relatively small and is divided geographically between 3 water companies which were created as part of a public sector reform. These companies are:

In addition to this, Jordan benefits from the continuous support of USAID, which is considered Jordan’s water partner. Since 2000 till 2008, USAID has spent around $700 million on projects involving the water sector in Jordan. Mercy Corps is another international partner that focuses on rehabilitating water infrastructure in the northern part of Jordan.

 

The technology

Blockchain can be used to capture and analyse data about climate change, levels of humidity in the air, and soil and other bio data. However, these areas are beyond the rubric of this business concept.

Blockchain is a “game changer” technology, that can provide data in a specific catchment, and thus can help preventing theft and misallocation of water as the records are transparent and immutable. Using blockchain can help create a “water ledger”. The decentralisation of the ledger prevents data concealment, enabling all stakeholders in the ecosystem to access data about water quality and quantity. This democratisation of data would mitigate tension in communities.

Blockchain can reduce data inconsistencies by showing accurate levels and quality of water in basins and aquifers, the quantity and quality of water flow in pipes, and leakages’ prediction.

Technology integration is one of the key factors for maximising the utility of blockchain. Therefore, combining blockchain with IoT can take the business model and operations to a different level of efficiency.

Smart meters can transmit accurate data on consumption and pricing, and thus reducing under billing. Blockchain makes this data readily available to stakeholders, reducing cost associated with manual reactive maintenance, and inefficiencies in operations.

Smart sensors can collect real-time and transparent data on water quality and quantity. It provides data about pumps’ performance and pipes leakages, enhancing failure prediction and proactive maintenance.

Digital imagery from satellite to spot depletion of aquifers can provide can enable better planning and strategising at a country wide level. NASA is already cooperating with Jordan in this field. Transmitting these images to the blockchain will make it readily available to all partners in the ecosystem and beyond.

Another technology which can prove crucial to predicting consumption behaviour is the Big Data analytics, which rely on “clustering algorithms”. It is argued that Big Data analytics can use attributes such as location, class, size of property, number of residents, annual income level, credit score, and historic average consumption to analyze and compare usage patterns while smart meters can predict water flow to customers’ premises, leaks, and also eliminate under billing.

Blockchain has the ability to streamline all the data collected from these different sources, hash it, time-stamped it, and allow the network participants in particular and the ecosystem in general to collaborate laterally in order to solve Jordan’s water problem.

Currently, the stakeholders work in silos. This centralised design suffers from, technical deficiencies, organizational inefficiencies, and an inability to meet supply and demand. Centralized organizational culture promotes protectionism and data hoarding. Local authorities and water companies are highly inefficient and bureaucratic.

 

blockchain water crisis

                                SALSABIL Dapp - business model.

 

Organizational setting

Blockchain will disrupt stakeholder’s current work practices. The decentralised characteristics of blockchain enhance lateral integration, efficiency and transparency.

Internal and external changes are necessary. Internally, stakeholders need to introduce a decentralised structure, enhance decision-making, data storage and information quality to enable innovation and dynamic capabilities.

Local authorities and water companies, should sense the urgency for change. They should shape a new vision, SMARTER goals and better policies, then seize the new technology to increase operational efficiencies, transparency and water conservation.  They should invest in training on new technologies and introduce a culture which fosters trust and digital transformation.

Externally, network participants would need to open up their communication channels, form teams which meet regularly, improve cooperation, promote knowledge and skills exchange. They need to harness the mix of internal capabilities and technological transformation to reduce cost, streamline operations and enable a wider stakeholder accessibility to data.

Finally, Jordan can be an ideal case to test the power of blockchain in solving water problems associated with theft, leakage, and underbilling. Blockchain can indirectly solve social problems resulted from distrust and tension between communities and local authorities. Technology integration allows blockchain to showcase its maximum capabilities. When this is supported by an agile organizational structure, blockchain would definitely act as a catalyst for increasing efficiency and reducing cost.