Dutch water experts have teamed up with IBM to launch a new initiative called Digital Delta, which will investigate how to use Big Data to prevent flooding.

The Netherlands is a very flat country with almost a quarter of its land at or below sea level, and 55 percent of the Dutch population is located in areas prone to flooding. The government already spends over €7 billion in water management every year, and this is expected to increase €1-2 billion by 2020 unless urgent action is taken.

While large amounts of data are already collected, relevant data can be difficult to find, data quality can be uncertain and with data in many different formats, this creates costly integration issues for water managing authorities, according to IBM.

The Digital Delta initiative will see Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch Ministry for Water), local Water Authority Delfland, Deltares Science Institute and the University of Delft using IBM’s Smarter Water Resource Management solution to combine data from new and existing water management projects, in order to prepare for imminent difficulties.

Delft University of Technology will use IBM Intelligent Operations for Water to access weather predictions, real-time sensor data, topography and information about asset service history to make more informed and timely decisions on maintenance schedules. This will save costs while preventing flooding of tunnels, buildings and streets.

Rijkswaterstaat and local water authorities will manage water balance data and share the information centrally through the Digital Delta platform, making it possible for the Dutch water system to optimise the discharge of water and improve the containment of water during dry periods, and prevent damage to agriculture.

HydroLogic Research and IBM together with the Delfland Water Board will develop a scalable early flood warning method, through integration of a large amount of real-time measurement data from the water system, as well as weather information and water system simulation models.

Meanwhile, Digital Delta will enable Deltares' Next Generation Hydro Software (which facilitates the numerical modeling of rivers, seas and deltas) to access large volumes of data in multiple formats, by maintaining a catalogue of frequently used data and converting it into a standardised form.

IBM will use data visualisation and deep analytics to provide a real-time dashboard that can be shared across organisations and agencies. This will enable authorities to coordinate and manage response efforts and, over time, enhance the efficiency of overall water management.

With better integrated information, IBM claims that water authorities will be able to prevent disasters and environmental degradation, while reducing the cost of managing water by up to 15 percent.

“Aggregating, integrating and analysing data on weather conditions, tides, levee integrity, run off and more, will provide the Dutch government with detailed information that better prepares it to protect Dutch citizens and business, as well as homes, livestock and infrastructure,” said Jan Hendrik Dronkers, Director General of Rijkswaterstaat.

“As flooding is an increasing problem in many regions of the world, we hope that the Digital Delta project can serve as a replicable solution to better predict and control flooding anywhere in the world.”

Michael J Dixon, general manager of Global Smarter Cities at IBM added that the implications for this work are global, as cities around the world adopt smarter solutions to better manage the water cycle.

“With this innovative collaboration, IBM is setting a worldwide example using the power of Big Data, analytics and optimisation to better manage water quality, flood risk and drought impact, while also stimulating new innovations in this crucial area of technology,” he said.