Angeli Mehta reports on how the Californian data analytics company is helping Dow Chemical tackle water risks in Texas

A California-based data analytics company, Earth Genome, is concentrating on helping companies use big data to make decisions about risks to water supply and interventions to protect it.

Market development VP Michelle Lapinski, says environmental profit and loss accounts identify challenges, but not solutions. “When you make decisions you need information about place; you need to know what you should do.”


Earth Genome’s analytics allowed Dow to determine the best location for a wetland, to benefit everyone in the watershed

Working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and Arizona state university, Earth Genome has developed a Green Infrastructure Support Tool (GIST) that draws on 40 datasets.

Dow Chemicals was among the first companies to pilot the tool. Dow’s concern centred on its plant at Freeport, in Texas, where multi-year droughts are punctuated by devastating floods. The company had been considering investing in grey-water solutions to help maintain supply to the plant. Earth Genome’s analytics allowed Dow to visually explore the water-basin outside the facility and consider the potential financial and hydrological benefits of investing in wetlands, nature’s reservoirs. It was able to determine the best location for a wetland, to benefit everyone in the watershed, not just Dow.

Earth Genome has now expanded GIST to cover central and north America, but it doesn’t have funding to take it geographically further.

It is, however, working in Lahore, in Pakistan, with a major clothing company to help assess risks to the city’s water supply. The company wants to know just how serious the supply situation is, and how quickly the taps might have to be turned off.

We’ve set up a scenario that people can argue over ... to get a discussion going

The GIST tool will help companies make decisions about water scarcity. (Credit: Piyaset/Shutterstock)

Earth Genome has built a basin risk-assessment tool, considering all the factors influencing water input into the city, including industrial and agricultural demands. “We’ve set up a scenario that people can argue over,” says Lapinski, “to get a discussion going.”

The tool will enable the city and other major water users to see the risks in a visual format. It could then apply the GIST to see what kind of difference wetland restoration might make. That alone won’t be sufficient, says Lapinski. “No one company can fix this on their own – they need the World Bank, the municipality and other big water users on board.”

Main picture credit: Dow Chemicals

This article is part of the in-depth briefing Natural Capital: See also:

Accounting for change: the drive to put a dollar figure on natural capital

Birmingham's approach to creating a liveable city

Yorkshire Water’s plan to plant 1m trees for flood protection

Kering gets to the bottom of its supply chain with EP&L

AkzoNobel puts a price on its impact across four capitals

How Nestlé is collaborating in building a business case

The restoration economy: why trees are the next growth opportunity


Earth Genome  GIST  drought  Big data  natural capital  EP&L  WBCSD 

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