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IBM and The Nature Conservancy Work to Conserve Major River Systems


ARMONK, NY and ARLINGTON, VA - IBM (NYSE: IBM) and The Nature Conservancy are collaborating to conserve some of the world’s great rivers by meshing extraordinary computing power and science-driven conservation.

Working through The Nature Conservancy’s Great Rivers Partnership, the two organizations will build a new computer-modeling framework that will allow users to simulate the behavior of river basins around the world, helping inform policy and management decisions that conserve the natural environment and benefit the people who rely on these resources.

Thousands of decisions are made every day that affect the health and quality of rivers and the people, wildlife and economies that depend upon them. This partnership will help answer important questions such as: What impact will development have on water quality for a village downstream? Will clear-cutting a forest in the upper part of a river’s watershed imperil fish stocks local people depend on for food?

The proposed system will provide access to wide-ranging data on climate, rainfall, land cover, vegetation and biodiversity and enable stakeholders to better understand how policy decisions impact water quality and ecosystem services. The partnership will create simulation, three-dimensional visualization, and scenario forecasting tools to facilitate more sustainable management of the world’s great rivers.

The project will initially be implemented in the Paraguay-Paraná river system in Brazil in cooperation with key partners and stakeholders. In the coming months, the Conservancy will conduct extensive outreach to identify issues of critical importance to the long term health of the river. The goal over the next two years is to replicate the decision support system in the Yangtze River in China and the Mississippi River in the US and eventually other river systems throughout the world.

“The lack of suitable water for people and for nature is a growing international crisis, especially within impoverished communities,” said Steve McCormick, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “Our partnership with IBM represents the kind of innovation and creativity necessary to preserve freshwater systems at scales that can really make a difference.”

“Informed, environmentally sound management of the world’s freshwater systems is a growing challenge for society, and if this challenge is left unaddressed, it could have a lasting impact on future generations,” said Nicholas M. Donofrio, IBM executive vice president, innovation and technology. “Our collaboration in the Great Rivers Partnership brings IBM’s unparalleled expertise in science, modeling and understanding of complex systems to improving water quality, conservation and resource management.”

The Nature Conservancy created the Great Rivers Partnership in 2005 to help guide protection of the world’s vanishing freshwater supply and transform the way large river systems are preserved and protected. In addition to the Paraguay-Paraná river basin in Brazil and the Yangtze River in China, the Conservancy’s Great Rivers Partnership is currently working to advance conservation of the Zambezi River in Africa and the Mississippi River in the United States. For more information on the Great Rivers Partnership visit

“Freshwater is a vital, but dwindling resource,” added Michael Reuter, director of the Conservancy’s Great Rivers Partnership. “We’re thrilled to have a respected, global organization like IBM as a partner to empower stakeholders with diverse interests to create a common vision and practical solutions for sustainable management of the world’s great rivers.”

The system will help decision makers determine the costs and benefits of policies and actions affecting land use and water management. Specific outputs might include “dashboard” readings on the overall health of the river, information on key indicators such as flow levels and sediment loads. By modeling different scenarios, the system would enable users, including farmers and water district managers, to visualize the effect of changes in conditions on freshwater ecosystems and gain first-hand knowledge of how their actions impact rivers and tributaries on a regional and global scale.


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