IBM California Groundwater Blockchain

IBM is attempting to take the initiative in monitoring California’s groundwater usage by establishing a monitoring blockchain. The data collected on the blockchain will be available to regulators, businesses, and farmers so that they can see the current usage levels of other competing users of California’s severely depreciated groundwater. IBM started this initiative in 2019 with the cooperation of The Freshwater Trust, a Portland-based nonprofit focused on freshwater ecosystem restoration, and the University of Colorado Boulder. Satellite sensors provided by the company SweetSense Inc. measure groundwater levels in California’s Joaquin River Delta, which then transmit information to IBM’s blockchain via Internet of Things technology. There are plans in the future to integrate smart water contracts into this blockchain, so as to ensure that parties extract the agreed-upon amount of water. The goal of the blockchain isn’t just more responsible management, but also to avoid the far-reaching economic damage that accompanies large droughts, which are incredibly common in California. But, a common method for companies wanting to offset or distract from their own environmental impact is to start environmental initiatives that link to a popular environmental issue. While environmental stewardship is to be commended, it should not cover for or compensate for environmental damage caused by IBM, such as their impact in areas such as e-waste.

Chohan, Usman W. “Blockchain and Environmental Sustainability: Case of IBM’s Blockchain Water Management.” Notes on the 21st Century (CBRI) (2019).


Blockchain, Data, Regulation