Imagine H2O’s Urban Water Challenge is a global competition to identify decentralized drinking water solutions for water-scarce cities. In partnership with 11th Hour Racing and Bluewater, the Challenge equips promising entrepreneurs with the resources to scale solutions for urban water resilience. Since the inaugural competition in 2018, 11th Hour Racing and Bluewater have committed $1.5 million in pilot funding awards and investment opportunities for the program’s winning water technology startups globally.
2019 Challenge Themes
The Challenge will focus on smart, decentralized solutions that create opportunities to augment supply, provide on-site pollution control and improve off-grid access to urban communities through affordable, capital efficient alternatives. Solutions will be sourced across three themes:
Drinking Water (e.g. alternative supply; distributed access; testing and monitoring)
Water Reuse & Recycling (e.g. modular treatment and nutrient recovery; green infrastructure; stormwater and flood management)
Ecosystem Health (e.g. emerging contaminants; testing and monitoring; coastal and river revitalization)
The Selection Process
The Challenge is supported by a diverse group of industry experts to help evaluate and select the top six candidates to be showcased at Stockholm World Water Week. From a vast field of over 220 startups across 38 countries, the Evaluation Committee selected six promising startups based on commercial viability, impact, and market readiness. Deployment location and SDG diversity were also taken into consideration when selecting the final six.
Finalists were split up into two separate tracks: Scale-Up and Discovery Track. Judges selected the appropriate tracks in which each startup could benefit the most. The winner of the Scale-Up track will receive up to $50,000 in deployment funding; the winner of the Discovery track will receive up to $25,000 in validation funding. All startups will receive travel stipends to attend Stockholm World Water Week, extensive visibility at World Water Week, media outreach opportunities, and access to Imagine H2O’s professional network.
Meet the Six Finalists of the 2019 Urban Water Challenge:
- SmarterHomes (India):
- StormSensor (Oregon, USA):
Discovery Track Finalists
- Indra (location):
- Upepo (Nairobi):
- Zilper Trenchless (Colombia):
Technology remains underutilized in the global effort to secure universal access to safe drinking water by 2030. However, when combined with smart policy, adequate financing and good governance, entrepreneurship and innovation inspire optimism that U.N Sustainable Development Goal 6 is achievable. The 160 technology startups who shared their solutions with Imagine H2O’s Urban Drinking Water Challenge showed us what’s possible. From solar-powered desalination kiosks to urban groundwater monitoring tools, the competition received applications from 37 countries offering a range of innovative drinking water solutions for fast-growing, water-scarce cities.
Since 2009, Imagine H2O’s flagship accelerator program has supported over 100 water entrepreneurs with mentorship, insight and industry visibility. The Challenge advances the organization’s mission as a path-to-market by unlocking pilot funding to jumpstart ambitious innovation projects in settings where policy or financial barriers often hinder market adoption. In 2019, 11th Hour Racing and Bluewater will provide up to $250,000 in deployment funding to global startups. Winners will be showcased at World Water Week 2019 in Stockholm.