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Building Water Resilience and Why it Matters Now More Than Ever

The 3rd Annual Urban Water Challenge is calling entrepreneurs Accelerating Water Sustainability Through Innovation to apply to the program and unlock funding of up to $275k

Cities around the world are increasingly struggling to meet the growing demand for water in a time of uncertainty. In 2019, Chennai’s local reservoirs vanished, causing residents to wait in lines for delivery trucks to provide them water for essential needs. Just this week, Detroit confirmed that it has finally restored access to all of its water customers — some of whom experienced shutoff due to household level economic fallout from COVID-19. For the 1 billion people living beyond the pipe in informal settlements and slums, clean water and soap are often limited, putting them at the frontlines of the current pandemic.

Building urban water resilience is key to ensuring access to clean water and sanitation for all, especially during crisis. The urgency to adapt and transform in the face of immediate and future challenges has intensified to a new level in a matter of weeks.

Innovation remains an underutilized tool in addressing water resiliency in cities. Yet a growing number of technologies and solutions are becoming more accessible to city leaders, businesses, and individuals. These range from artificial intelligence powered leak detection models and water ATMs that provide safe and affordable drinking water, to cloud connected sensors that monitor floods and decentralized wastewater systems.

With the onset of COVID-19, the barriers to adopting these solutions just got higher as entrepreneurs and cities are being asked to do more with less. Impactful solutions need support more than ever. Catalyzing innovation is essential to spur action and ensure truly sustainable solutions to cities.

Which is why, Imagine H2O, in partnership with 11th Hour Racing, is proud to announce our continued commitment to provide catalytic funding to entrepreneurs. The 2020 Urban Water Challenge, which opens to applications today, is our third annual global innovation competition that will unlock an expanded $275k in pilot funding awards to advance how we source, distribute, use, and re-use water to build resilient communities.

Program Benefits
In order to catalyze innovation, support must go beyond just funding. The Urban Water Challenge connects entrepreneurs to a global ecosystem of leaders, matching them with advisors and mentors to help scale and introduce them to potential customers and investors. We also amplify entrepreneurial voices through storytelling and showcase deployments tackling real issues addressing urban communities.

We are seeking entrepreneurs with technologies that can rapidly scale to help address global water issues and impact human health, cities and the planet. Specifically, we are sourcing solutions that create measurable progress towards the following U.N. Sustainable Development Goal targets:

6.1 Achieving safe & affordable drinking water
6.3 Improving water quality, wastewater & safe reuse
6.4 Increasing water-use efficiency & ensuring freshwater supplies
6.6 Protecting & restoring water-related ecosystems
11.5 Improving water related disaster management
14.1 Preventing & reducing marine pollution

Additionally, this year’s Challenge will spotlight urban water resilience in coastal communities and source additional deployments addressing issues from source to sea.

Meet Our 2019 Changemakers
In 2019, 226 startups from 38 countries applied to the Urban Water challenge. Since then, the winning entrepreneurs have deployed solutions in four continents — increasing access and efficiency, improving quality and re-use, and preventing pollution and ecosystem damage.

Amrit at Indra Water imagines equipping academic institutions to treat and reuse their wastewater onsite.

Erin at StormSensor imagines protecting communities from urban flooding and climate change using data, not demographics.

Vivek at SmarterHomes imagines preventing leaks in high-rise buildings with smart water meters.

Daniel at Zilper Trenchless imagines fundamentally changing the economics of laying a pipe underground.

Kevin at Upepo imagines creating the mobile revolution for water management in East Africa.

Learn more about the Urban Water Challenge and our Changemakers here.

Register your solution today at www.imagineh2o.org/uwc-apply. Approved registrants will receive access to the Full Application due on June 8, 2020.

About the Challenge’s Founding Partner:
11th Hour Racing works to mobilize sailing, maritime and coastal communities with an innovative approach to inspire solutions for the ocean. Driven by a philosophy of “local solutions to global problems,” the organization connects international sailing teams with global events and utilizes these platforms to spotlight a broad portfolio of community grant projects. 
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