IBM launches RFP to help accelerate global water management solutions

15th March 2023 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

IBM has opened the applications for the next cohort of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, which will focus on water management solutions.

The programme applies IBM technologies, including hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, and an ecosystem of experts to enhance and scale projects focused on populations vulnerable to environmental threats.

Non-profit and government initiatives focused on water management have until the end of May to respond to the request for proposals (RFP), with the selected participants set to be announced in November.

“In alignment with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, IBM will look to support projects that help improve equitable access to safe drinking water for all, improve water quality by reducing pollution, increase water-use efficiency across all sectors, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, increase sanitation management and reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity, among other purposes,” explains IBM in South Africa GM and technology leader Ria Pinto.

The selection criteria will consider the applicant’s capacity and readiness to support communities that are especially vulnerable to water-related threats, technical feasibility and sustainability for the envisioned solution, and transparency on measurement and reporting.

In South Africa, an estimated 70-million litres a day of treated, clean, drinkable water are lost owing to leaks across South Africa’s water piping system, with between 25% and 30% lost owing to water leaks caused by failing infrastructure.

Further, with its growing population and increasing demand for water, the government estimates that water demand will outstrip supply nationally within the next two years and, by the end of the decade, could face a deficit of nearly 20%.

In response to these developments, IBM points out, the government passed official mandates requiring significant restrictions on water use, which, in turn, has led to overcrowded communal water taps, dangerous boreholing and the use of contaminated groundwater sources.

“While South Africa has made significant strides in ensuring water stewardship, it remains a water-scarce country owing to the adverse effects of climate change, pipe leaks and a rapid increase in population growth that has further strained its water resources,” says Pinto.

“The country is also reeling from a new cholera outbreak that has severely impacted people’s access to decent drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.”

IBM aims to drive and secure South Africa’s water stewardship by extending its water-management solutions to organisations with initiatives that seek to remedy and drive positive impact in this regard.

“We are excited to collaborate with these organisations so we can increase their capacity and maximise the impact of their initiatives through our solutions.”

The RFP process will include input from IBM across disciplines and from representatives from organisations such as and the United Nations Development Programme.

This year’s RFP process will include input from utility services expert Ben Mandell and UN Development Progamme Ocean Innovation Challenge head and Water and Ocean Governance Programme interim head Mary Matthews, together with other partner experts, says Pinto, noting that they will share their input and expertise throughout the selection cycle.

University of the Western Cape Institute for Water Studies research fellow Dr Kevin Pietersen will evaluate the proposals and share input that will inform IBM’s selections and he has also been tasked with the responsibility of enforcing the selection criteria as a judge.

“Innovation in the water management space is key for meeting UN SDG 6. Organisation initiatives that are selected to participate in the IBM Sustainability Accelerator will have a significant opportunity to make an impact with the help of IBM’s technology, expertise, and network across its large ecosystem of partners,” concludes Mandell.