Site Logo

Bringing Innovation to the Heart of the SDG6 Transition

Urban Water Challenge finalists address fundamental issues in water & sanitation globally

Urban water systems are under pressure worldwide. In India, 20 cities are projected to run out of groundwater in 2020, after Chennai hit Day Zero this year. Sydney is currently under mandatory water restrictions. In Namibia, the capital city Windhoek has declared a water crisis. In an era of accelerating global urbanization and changing climate patterns, water infrastructure struggles to keep pace with rapid increases in demand.

Water crises pose a fundamental challenge to achieving sustainable development, as set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals call for intensive action and cooperation between countries to solve massive global challenges. In water, activity is focused around SDG6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. SDG6 contains eight global targets and eleven indicators, tracked by the UN. This is, of course, a big task.

“Big” is an understatement. Billions of people still lack access to safe water and sanitation. 785 million people still lack basic drinking water services. 700 million people still practiced open defecation in 2017. One third of all countries are experiencing medium or high levels of water stress. Despite progress, there clearly remains much to be done.

55% of the global population currently lives in urban areas. This figure is expected to climb to 68% by 2050, when the total global population will be approaching 9 billion people. Water and sanitation issues will become increasingly pressing. The ability of urban governments and populations to adapt to a changing operating environment will be vital to achieving the targets under SDG6.

Adaptation will require a variety of new approaches to succeed. Technology will play a central role in ensuring people in urban environments have access to adequate water supply and sanitation facilities. In the same way that the telecommunications industry bypassed the era of landline infrastructure in emerging markets, water technology and management techniques must adapt to the requirements of a new urban era.

That is why, in partnership with Bluewater and 11th Hour Racing, Imagine H2O is running the Urban Water Challenge, the second annual global innovation competition that deploys and invests in scalable water solutions for tomorrow’s megacities. This year, 226 companies from 38 countries applied for $500,000 in support and deployment awards to remove barriers, accelerate validation and inspire wider adoption.

The Challenge has identified six key emerging technologies as 2019 finalists: Indra (India), SmarterHomes (India), StormSensor (USA) Upepo (Kenya), WatchTower Robotics (USA), and Zilper Trenchless (USA/Colombia). The winners will be announced at Stockholm World Water Week, and will be an illustration of what is possible as we work to meet the requirements of SDG6.

None of these solutions can be brought to scale without the support of those who understand that the paradigm for water management can and must change, particularly in urban environments. These entrepreneurs and technologies need funders, initial customers, and talented team members who can thrive in this difficult and rewarding sector, tackling truly significant global problems. Join us as we work to make all of the SDG6 targets a reality in the coming decade.