The 2018 Urban Drinking Water Challenge

Three winners announced

The 2018 winners of the Urban Drinking Water Challenge, a global innovation competition to deploy and scale decentralized 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 (Dhaka, Bangladesh), Microlyze (Denver, CO) and SmartTerra (Bengaluru, India), represent a diverse range of technologies and entrepreneurial approaches to solve urban water scarcity and advance U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 6.

The Challenge’s Founding Partners have committed up to $1,000,000 in cash prizes, pilot funding awards and investment. Each winner will be showcased in Stockholm during World Water Week on August 26 – 31, 2018.

70% increase in demand

“Over the next three decades, projected demand for water in cities will increase by 70% resulting in more scenarios similar to Cape Town, which is suffering acute drinking water scarcity,” says Anders Jacobson, Bluewater President and Chief Strategy Officer.

“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 urbanization and looming drinking water shortages.”

Technology and innovative business models

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:

Honorable Mention to Majik Water, a Nairobi-based team developing an atmospheric water generation device in partnership with local communities.

  • Drinkwell is expanding its turnkey decentralized 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.

Information about the winners

Drinkwell, Dhaka, Bangladesh   

Drinkwell enables utilities to provide safe drinking water to underserved urban communities via turnkey Water ATM solutions that combine a patented filtration technology, IOT-enabled operations and pay-as-you-go cards. The Challenge will support Drinkwell as they expand into Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second largest city.

Microlyze, Denver, Colorado, USA   

The Waterlyzer from Microlyze is an on-demand, in-home testing device that provides high-accuracy water quality results in real-time to detect contamination outbreaks early and empower utilities to take action before an outbreak occurs. The Challenge will enable Microlyze to accelerate pilots in 500-home communities across major cities in the United States.

SmartTerra, Bengaluru, India 

SmartTerra’s AI-powered water intelligence platform equips second-tier Indian cities with the tools for data-driven decision making to identify service failures, disruptions and opportunities for infrastructure upgrades. The Challenge will fund pilots with two cities in the Indian state of Telangana.

Honorable mention

In addition to the main awards, an Honorable Mention was awarded to Majik Water, a Nairobi-based team developing an atmospheric water generation device in partnership with local communities.