Sunday, April 14, 2024

Use AI to drive water solutions


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As the world battles the issues of climate change, there is scope for Barbados to improve its water conservation and energy consumption in the next 10 years with artificial intelligence (AI).

That’s according to Dr Karl Payne of the Centre for Resource Management & Environmental Studies (CERMES), who was one of the panellists at Nation Publishing’s Town Hall Meeting themed Barbados In the Next Ten Years – An Environmental Journey, at the Walcott Warner Theatre, Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, University of the West Indies (UWI).

Payne stressed the need for AI-driven solutions to tackle these issues head-on.

“Imagine a future where AI is integrated into our industries, specifically assisting our water resource managers in making informed decisions,” Payne said. “[With] AI we can gain insights; new insights are not possible without the technology to make better decisions… to deliver a more or less intermittent water supply to the population.”

Payne highlighted the significant potential of AI in optimising water resource management by allowing authorities to determine the precise amount of water required for sustainable use.

Through AI models and data analytics, he is of the view that policymakers and water regulators could gain new insights that were previously unattainable, enabling them to deliver a consistent and reliable water supply to the island.

“I think I’m excited about the potential for AI to be mainstream, to be embedded in operational usage for the day-to-day decisions so that we know how to supply needed policies needed to meet future demand on a changing,” he expressed.

Pending water crisis 

Saltwater intrusion on the island was also highlighted as a critical issue exacerbating the water crisis.

Payne said the rising salinity levels in wells will soon have the water unsuitable for consumption.

With the climate crisis exacerbating this issue, rainfall becomes essential in flushing out the saltwater. As a consequence, he noted Barbados faces not only a water quantity issue but also a water quality issue.

“The climate crisis will have a significant impact on rainfall patterns in this region,” Payne cautioned. “As the rainfall decreases and sea levels rise, we must be prepared to innovate and find sustainable solutions to mitigate the implications”

He added:  “I was happy to see the recent legislation around water reuse, for example, in Israel, I think 90 per cent of the wastewater is actually reused. And that solves a couple of problems. That helps us to reuse water, for example, for agriculture, and it puts less burden of nitrogen on our coral reefs.” (AL)



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