Winners of the Urban Drinking Water Challenge 2018

The 2018 winners of the Urban Drinking Water Challenge, a global innovation competition to deploy and scale decentralised drinking water solutions for fast-growing, water-scarce cities, were announced by Imagine H₂O and Founding Partners Bluewater Group and 11th Hour Racing. Over 160 startups from 37 countries registered for the Challenge.

The three winning companies, Drinkwell, from Dhaka, Bangladesh, India, Microlyze, Denver, Colorado, United States (U.S.), and SmartTerra Bengaluru, India, represent a diverse range of technologies and entrepreneurial approaches to solve urban water scarcity and advance the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6.

The Challenge’s Founding Partners have committed up to US$1,000,000 in cash prizes, pilot funding awards and investment, and each winner was showcased in Stockholm, Sweden during World Water Week.

“Over the next three decades, projected demand for water in cities will increase by 70 per cent resulting in more scenarios similar to Cape Town, which is suffering acute drinking water scarcity,” said Anders Jacobson, Bluewater President and CSO. This competition unlocks the resources to validate and scale three promising solutions that prove the benefits of smarter water management in the face of rapid urbanisation and looming drinking water shortages.”

Evaluated on the basis of commercial viability, impact and market readiness, the winning startups merge technology with innovative business models to improve the reach and sustainability of drinking water services:

  • Drinkwell is expanding its turnkey decentralised water purification systems across arsenic-contaminated communities in Bangladesh
  • Microlyze is deploying real-time water testing devices to empower households and provide cost-effective monitoring for US utilities
  • SmartTerra is equipping second-tier Indian cities with the tools for data-driven decision making and operations to improve delivery and access for the underserved

Imagine H₂O’s evaluation committee included a diverse group of experts from institutions including the World Bank, Grundfos, The Schmidt Family Foundation, Anaergia, Rotoplas, Xylem, Aquaya Institute and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor.

“11th Hour Racing is committed to addressing the global water crisis through innovation,” Todd McGuire, Programme Director of 11th Hour Racing, added. “By shining a spotlight on entrepreneurs confronting problems shared by communities around the world, we can position them for scale and bolster our collective efforts for a water-secure future.”

Additionally, the Challenge’s Evaluation Committee awarded an Honourable Mention to Majik Water, a Nairobi-based team developing an atmospheric water generation device in partnership with local communities.