IBM has announced a series of projects aimed at making safer drinking water – which is currently not available to some 1.2 billion people.

The projects will use IBM’s World Community Grid to provide the computing power for the project. The World Community Grid is the network of 1.5 million computers from 600,000 volunteers around the world which perform computations for scientists when the machines would otherwise be underutilized. Anyone with a PC can join the grid to help with the projects. As well as cleaner water, World Community Grid projects are tackling clean energy, curing diseases and healthy food.

The first of the new projects aims to find  ways to filter and clean polluted water and turn saltwater into drinking water for less money. The project will be based in China with assistance from Australian scientists at Sydney University and Monash University,

Another project, based at the University of Virginia, will simulate how people, wildlife, and the environment interact with one another in watersheds. The goal is to learn how to better manage watersheds by analyzing competing interests and needs among different groups.

A third project, run out of Brazil, is looking to cure schistosomiasis, a parasite-based disease spread through dirty water. Found in tropical areas, this disease infects around 210 million people and kills from 11,000 to 200,000 every year.

IBM will provide the servers, software, and technical skills necessary to run the projects.

Anyone who wants to donate idle time on their PCs to the World Community Grid can register at www.worldcommunitygrid.org/