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January, 30th 2013
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Liz Hampton in

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Water is the most abundant resource on Earth, yet the world faces many challenging, water-related problems. More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean, safe water, and 2.6 billion have little or no sanitation. Millions of people die annually from the results of diseases transmitted through unsafe water.

World Community Grid is a secure, worldwide public network of computers supporting scientific research. Right now, World Community Grid has three research projects related
to water.

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One initiative by the University of Virginia, Computing For Sustainable Water, simulates
how human behaviours and ecosystems relate to one another in watersheds such as Chesapeake Bay. The project will simulate and analyse the results of choices made
by the competing interests of fishermen, farmers, urban developers, forestry experts
and conservationists.

The findings from this project may have implications for 400 other major waterways worldwide – half of which are under stress.

A second project, Computing For Clean Water under the jurisdiction of Tsinghua University China, is looking to produce more efficient and effective water filtering. Researchers are also participating from Australia’s University of Sydney and Monash University, and the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, Switzerland. The idea is to develop ways to filter polluted water with less expense, complexity and energy than current techniques.

The third project, Say No To Schistosoma advances research on treatments for a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic worms transmitted by freshwater snails.

To speed up the time of the research, reduce expenses and increase the precision of these projects, scientists are using the IBM-supported World Community Grid to perform online simulations, crunch numbers, and pose hypothetical scenarios.

Research time can be reduced by more than 50 percent through access to the vast communal supercomputing power of World Community Grid.

The computer processing power of World Community Grid is provided by a grid of 2.1 million registered computer devices from more than 600,000 volunteers around the world. These computers perform the computations for World Community Grid projects when the machines would otherwise be underutilised.

IBM donated the server hardware, software, technical services and expertise to build the infrastructure for the World Community Grid, and provides free hosting, maintenance and support. World Community Grid members are donating over 350 years of run time a day.

How World Community Grid Works
Grid technology is simple and safe for everyone to use. You register on the World Community Grid website, and download and install a small, secure program onto your own computer. You then select the research projects you’d like to support. Next, your computer will request a small piece of work from your selected research project on the Grid server. When you are not using your computer, it will start performing computations on the requested data, send the results back to the server and ask for a new piece of work.

The work is done using unused computer power. As soon as you start using your computer, the computations pause.

Join World Community Grid and Support Research
As world concerns grow over managing our freshwater resources, and providing sustainable water to nurture the global population, you can support research being conducted on these issues by joining World Community Grid. Simply register here.

If you’d like more information before you register, check out the Frequently Asked Questions on the World Community Grid website.

Liz Hampton is a Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager with IBM New Zealand. A version of this article originally appeared in the Water New Zealand Journal, a publication of Water New Zealand.

Related Resources:

Anatomy of a Project for Sustainable Water

IBM’s World Community Grid to Power Cleaner Water

Schistosoma: Seeking New Treatments for an Ancient Disease

Simpler Is Better for Saving Our Waterways

INFOGRAPHIC: World Community Grid: Eight Years of Advancing Humanitarian Research

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