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Urban Water
Challenge

The Urban Water Challenge is a global competition for water entrepreneurs who are ready to pilot and scale their solutions in cities.

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About

The Urban Water Challenge provides pilot funding and comprehensive support to entrepreneurs who are ready to transform the future of water in cities.

Finalists receive a combination of financial awards, pilot focused curriculum and mentorship, showcase opportunities, and introductions to potential partners and investors. With this support and industry-wide validation, startups gain new opportunities for tech adoption, scaling, and follow-on funding.

The Challenge gives new urban water tech a powerful opportunity to shine on a global stage—and provides communities with a steady flow of tested solutions that can make their cities’ water systems more efficient, equitable, healthy, and resilient.


Benefits

Long-term, all-in partnership that follows our entrepreneurs throughout their careers

Since our launch in 2018, our program has helped 22 water startups complete 31 pilots in 16 countries. We also provide travel and pitch opportunities at global events, dedicated marketing campaigns, and mentor and investor relationships.

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Catalytic Funding

  • Up to $100k in pilot awards.
  • Travel stipends.
  • Follow-on funding opportunities.

Visibility & Marketing

  • Showcase opportunities at a series of global and regional industry events.
  • Media outreach and dedicated marketing campaign.
  • C0-creation of marketing assets like showcase videos, case studies, and photoshoots.

Pilot Introductions

  • Introductions to pilot partners, global mentors and advisors, tech adopters, and investors.
  • Pilot-focused curriculum and mentorship.
Eligibility

Is the Urban Water Challenge right for you?

Register your interest
Pilot-Ready
  • Applicants should have the ability to make significant progress towards a successful pilot project within 12 months.
Global Entrepreneurs
  • The program is open to global applicants.
City Focused Pilot
  • The pilot should be focused on making cities healthy, efficient, equitable, and resilient.
Aclarity CEO Julie Bliss Mullen
Aclarity

Aclarity

Aclarity CEO Julie Bliss Mullen

Technology category:   Water Quality

 

Solution

Aclarity commercializes novel electrochemical water treatment systems for the complete, on-site destruction of contaminants like PFAS in wastewater.

Why this matters

PFAS, a group of manufacturing chemicals that is known to be harmful to the environment and human health, commonly enters the environment from wastewater discharge and landfill leachate. Alacrity’s system treats the water that drains from landfills and destroys the PFAS before it can enter the environment and cause harm.

Aclarity CEO Julie Bliss Mullen

Cohort

IV

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

BlueConduit

BlueConduit

Technology category:   Water Quality

 

Solution

BlueConduit platform provides clarity, recommended order for lead service line replacements, and easy-to-understand dashboards for internal and public consumption, empowering utilities and individuals with information to reduce their exposure to lead.

Why this matters

Lead pipes were the building blocks of the modern day water distribution system. However, now lead exposure has been linked to detrimental health effects on humans including children’s development. BlueConduit’s software optimizes the lead service line replacement process through accurately predicting lead conveyance pipes locations that cities can use in decision making.

Cohort

IV

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

change:WATER Labs

change:WATER Labs

Technology category:   Sanitation

 

Solution

Instead of flushing waste, CHANGE: WATER Labs is solving the problem of off-line sanitation with a toilet that evaporates it. Instead of using and polluting water to get rid of waste, their iThrone solution turns waste back into pure water.

Why this matters

Millions of people across the developing world live beyond the pipe – without access to basic drinking water and sanitation services. This is because new centralized drinking water and sewage systems are unsustainable, infeasible and costly to build. change:WATER Labs provides a decentralized sanitation solution that hygienically contains waste to reduce disease and prevent sewage runoff into nearby water bodies.

Previous programs

Imagine H2O Accelerator 2018

Cohort

IV

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

DigitalPaani

DigitalPaani

Technology category:   Wastewater Treatment & Reuse

 

Solution

DigitalPaani is a lifecycle management system that leverages proprietary software, live data, and automation to optimize every aspect of plant operations, be it diagnosing problems early, managing the workflows of every individual involved in operations as per actual plant design, guiding real-time process troubleshooting, and recommending retrofits when needed.

Why this matters

While cities in India are focused on installing more water distribution and treatment plants, they lack operational efficiency tools, leading to the inability to handle complex operations and prevent the discharge of untreated effluent into surrounding water. DigitalPaani’s IoT system improves plant management through not only identifying problems, but also by recommending changes in operating parameters, training and guiding every task executed by the operations team.

Previous programs

Imagine H2O Asia 3

Cohort

IV

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

Gross-Wen Technologies

Gross-Wen Technologies

Technology category:   Wastewater Treatment & Reuse

 

Solution

Gross-Wen Technologie’s (GWT) patented revolving algae biofilm (RAB) system cost effectively and sustainably uses algae-based treatment to remove nutrients, capture carbon dioxide and produce a sellable algae byproduct.

Why this matters

Anaerobic digesters break down solid waste during the wastewater treatment process. When treating the solid waste digestate, these systems release biogas which is high in GHG’s like carbon dioxide and methane. However, GWT’s cost-effective system reduces the amount of carbon in biogas released, making their technology much more sustainable than alternative solutions.

Previous programs

Imagine H2O Accelerator 2021

Cohort

IV

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Accelerator, Urban Water Challenge

SewerAI

SewerAI

Technology category:   Sanitation

 

Solution

SewerAI leverages its cloud inspection management platform (Pioneer™) and AI Computer Vision tools (AutoCode™) to help wastewater professionals to accelerate productivity, increase condition assessment accuracy, and reduce the overall cost to maintain and renew aging collection systems.

Why this matters

Limited insight into the conditions of sewer pipes combined with aging and overworked infrastructure increasingly leads to unexpected sewer collapses and overflow events that affect residential neighborhoods and marine life alike. SewerAI’s software enables municipalities to assess the condition of buried wastewater assets, predict likely failures, and optimally prioritize the rehabilitation or replacement of their assets.

Previous programs

Imagine H2O Accelerator 2020

Cohort

IV

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

Bessie Cloud to Street
Cloud to Street

Cloud to Street

Bessie Cloud to Street

Problem:
Cities don’t have the tools to measure flood risk and build resilience resulting in extensive damage to communities, economies and local environments.

Solution:
High resolution satellite imagery and machine learning technology. Cloud to Street is leveraging their technology to develop the first of its kind parametric insurance for coastal flood resilience and protection.

Pilot:
Cloud to Street is launching the first commercially scalable parametric flood insurance pilot to help the city of New Orleans better understand their flood risk and build urban coastal resilience

Bessie Cloud to Street

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Accelerator, Urban Water Challenge

Minhaj Chowdhury
Drinkwell

Drinkwell

Minhaj Chowdhury

Solution:
Turnkey water ATMs for arsenic and fluoride-affected communities with patented filtration technology, IOT enabled operations and pay-as-you-go cards

Pilot:
Drinkwell deployed four systems in Chittagong. In parallel, we introduced Drinkwell to the World Bank who recently announced a $100m loan facility for Bangladesh municipalities. After its successful pilot, Drink is working with the Chittagong utility and the World Bank to finance and implement a network of 200 ATM systems, reaching more than 300k people in urban areas

Minhaj Chowdhury

Cohort

I

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Asia, Urban Water Challenge

Emrgy Emily Morris
Emrgy

Emrgy

Emrgy Emily Morris

Problem:
Cities’ costs for treating and conveying water are increasing, in no small part due to rising electricity costs.

Solution:
Modular hydropower turbines installed directly within existing infrastructure that generates continuous, reliable hydroelectric power

Pilot:
Emrgy is installing its hydropower turbines in Phoenix, AZ to reduce operating costs, grid electricity consumption, and carbon footprint

Emrgy Emily Morris

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

Epic Cleantec Aaron Tartakovsky
Epic Cleantec

Epic Cleantec

Epic Cleantec Aaron Tartakovsky

Problem:
Cities are struggling to respond to rapid urbanization and the demand it puts on local water and aging wastewater treatment facilities.

Solution:
Onsite decentralized wastewater treatment that converts wastewater into high quality soil amendments and purified water that can be reused onsite for non-potable applications

Pilot:
Epic CleanTech is installing it’s system in a high-rise building in the bay area to decrease building water demand by 90% and ease the load on municipal utilities.

Epic Cleantec Aaron Tartakovsky

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Accelerator, Urban Water Challenge

karina pena
Field Factors

Field Factors

karina pena

Problem:
Cities need to build resilience to flooding and persistent water shortages. Due to climate change, aging infrastructure and strict regulation, public and private developers are being forced to implement climate adaptation measures in urban development and retrofitting projects.

Solution:
Bluebloqs is a compact, circular system for rainwater treatment, storage and reuse in urban areas that captures 95% rainwater.

Pilot:
Field Factors will deploy its Bluebloq system and monitoring platform to promote climate resilience and green infrastructure in the Hague, Netherlands.

karina pena

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

Fluid Robotics Asim
Fluid Robotics

Fluid Robotics

Fluid Robotics Asim

Problem:
Cities in developing countries have minimal information about the health of wastewater infrastructure.

Solution:
AI-based wastewater surveillance robots for monitoring the health of wastewater infrastructure, helping cities intercept, divert and treat raw sewage, significantly reducing water pollution.

Deployment:
Fluid Robotics will use it’s robots to help the city of Pune, India divert and treat raw sewage from the Mula-mutha river.

Fluid Robotics Asim

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Asia, Urban Water Challenge

Indra

Indra

Solution:
Modular, decentralized wastewater treatment systems

Pilot:
Indra is partnering with two academic institutions in India to install individual wastewater systems

Cohort

II

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Asia, Urban Water Challenge

Kate Bohnert Sanivation
Sanivation

Sanivation

Kate Bohnert Sanivation

Problem:
Cities in emerging markets lack the technical capacity and resources to effectively provide city-wide, inclusive wastewater treatment and scale their services

Solution:
Non-sewered sanitation through a “waste-to-energy” model which is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than sewerage.

Pilot:
Sanivation will carry out a feasibility study to deploy a circular economy treatment plant for the residents of Malindi, Kenya.

Kate Bohnert Sanivation

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

SENTRY

SENTRY

Problem:
Cities do not have real-time insight into water and wastewater quality which leaves them vulnerable to toxic shocks or heavy loads from industrial sources.

Solution:
Sensor platform that delivers continuous data to enable analysis and optimization of water and wastewater quality in real-time.

Pilot:
SENTRY will help São Paulo, Brazil’s wastewater treatment plants optimize processes and ensure only treated water flows back into the ecosystem

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Accelerator, Imagine H2O Asia, Urban Water Challenge

SmarterHomes

SmarterHomes

Solution:
Smart water meters and automated leakage prevention system for high rise apartments

Pilot:
SmarterHomes has partnered with Namibia Water Corporation Ltd. to deploy 3,000 battery powered smart water meters with integrated leakage prevention systems to reduce household consumption by 35%

Cohort

II

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

Smartterra

Smartterra

Solution:
Artificial intelligence water platform that equips India’s second-tier cities with digital tools to reduce service failures and boost infrastructure upgrades

Pilot:
Smartterra partnered with the Warangal Municipal Administration, Telangana state to manage the full cycle of water distribution and drainage.

Cohort

I

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge, Imagine H2O Asia

ari kaufman
Spout

Spout

ari kaufman

Solution:
On-demand, in-home testing device for high-accuracy lead testing in real-time to empower utilities to take action

Pilot:
Spout partnered with Denver Water to empower 500 consumers with tap water quality knowledge and help Denver build the necessary response systems to take action

ari kaufman

Cohort

I

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

StormSensor

StormSensor

Solution:
Cloud connected sensor network for stormwater management – the google traffic maps for sewers

Pilot:
StormSensor is partnering with the Jersey City Municipal Utility to Authority and the Jersey City Office of Innovation to deploy a network of 36 individual IoT connected sensors to monitor stormwater and combined sewer flow

Cohort

II

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Accelerator, Urban Water Challenge

Upepo

Upepo

Solution:
Water management platform integrating low cost measuring devices with Narrow-Band IoT

Pilot:
Upepo is partnering with Safaricom and local utilities to install 5,000 meters.

Cohort

II

Programs participated

Urban Water Challenge

Varuna

Varuna

Problem:
Small and Medium-sized water utilities lack visibility on the state of water quality beyond the plant and experience water quality issues.

Solution:
Affordable sensors and an intuitive dashboard that report unsafe changes in chlorine levels and turbidity, acting as an early warning for operators.

Pilot:
Varuna will deploy it’s solution to increase visibility and efficiency for the water utility and provides assurance to communities about the safety of their water in Trenton, NJ and/or Monroe, LA

Cohort

III

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Accelerator, Urban Water Challenge

Zilper Trenchless

Zilper Trenchless

Solution:
Trenchless technology for the installation of pipeline infrastructure

Pilot:
Zilper has partnered with Aqua Ingenieros SAS (Cota, Columbia) to deploy its first commercial prototype trenchless equipment and guidance system for 400 meters of pipeline

Cohort

II

Programs participated

Imagine H2O Accelerator, Urban Water Challenge

Karina from Field Factors

Case Study

Karina began Field Factors to create a green infrastructure solution that turns rain into a reliable, circular source of freshwater.

Cohort

Urban Water Challenge III

Focus Area

Stormwater & Flood Control

After winning the Urban Water Challenge, Field Factors received extensive local press coverage that led to several sales leads. The company has now developed, installed, and tested two of their three systems. They’re already in the final stages of discussion in order to expand their partnership with Dunea Water Utility into The Hague and Hitteplein.

Field Factors is gearing up for its first fundraise; they’ve already met one investor at Imagine H2O’s Water Innovation Week. Imagine H2O and Field Factors are co-creating a showcase video to solicit sales and investment leads.

Our Track Record

Urban Water Challenge helps startups scale

See what we’ve accomplished over the years.

4
years
22
startups
31
pilots across 16 countries
$1.1M+
in pilot funding awarded
Oneka Action 4

Urban Water Challenge pilot projects span the globe

What Our Alumni Say
Simply put, Epic Cleantec would not be where it is today without the invaluable support of Imagine H2O and the incredibly passionate individuals who make up its team.
Aaron Tartakovsky Epic Cleantec, CEO & Co-Founder
What Our Alumni Say
With the support of the Urban Water Challenge we not only deployed 3 pilot projects, and built a reputation, but also pivoted our entire business model. Also, beyond the financial support, the IH2O team’s advice really helped us navigate through the fundraising preparation process. I am looking forward to sharing the results and also built on these achievements.
Karina Pena Field Factors, CEO & Co-Founder

Challenge Supporters

This program would not be possible without our supporters.

Our Experts

Allegra Gordon
Oceankind

Anders Jacobson
Blue Foundry

Betsy Otto
Independent

Caroline Delaire
Aquaya Institute

Chaarvi Amit Badani
American Family Insurance Institute

Chloe Oliver Viola
World Bank

Emily Skeehan
11th Hour Racing

Erika Montague
Schmidt Marine Technologies

Jason Thompson
Oceankind

Jennifer Sara
World Bank

Jiten Manglani
Aqualateral

Katie Velasco
Rare, Center for Behavior and the Environment

Kunal Shah
Anaergia

Margaret Bowman
Independent

Neil Jeffrey
Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor

Paul Gagliardo
Independent

Stephanie Wear
The Nature Conservancy

Timothy Male
Environmental Policy Innovation Center

Tom Ferguson
Burnt Island Ventures

Will Sarni
Water Foundry

Xin Gao
Independent

Case Study

Minhaj is bringing safe, clean and affordable water to people living beyond the pipe in developing countries.

Cohort

Imagine H2O Accelerator 2015, Urban Water Challenge I

Focus Area

Drinking Water

Drinkwell participated in Imagine H2O’s 2015 Accelerator shortly after the company’s launch. Through the program, they met key stakeholders and figured out how to market their technology to their target customers. Once their solution was proven, they were selected for the 2018 Urban Water Challenge to deploy it in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Drinkwell scaled the initial four-system, UWC-funded pilot after Chittagong committed to 200+ more systems (reaching more than 300K customers) with support from the World Bank.

Our Tech Adopters

Pilot with our 80+ tech adopters

We create and sustain a network of industrial, municipal, and agricultural leaders that help our startups succeed.

See all tech adopters
Our Programs

We support startups throughout their entrepreneurial journey

Our programs support entrepreneurs at different stages and geographic regions. See which one is the best for you.

Imagine H2O Accelerator

The Imagine H2O Accelerator equips early-stage water entrepreneurs with the resources they need to develop their solutions, commercialize their technologies, and enter new markets.

Learn more

Imagine H2O Asia

Imagine H2O Asia unlocks access to water innovation across the region, connecting startups to new markets, partners, and pilot support from our Singapore hub.

Learn more

Urban Water Challenge

The Urban Water Challenge provides comprehensive support for entrepreneurs who are ready to launch and scale solutions that will transform the future of water in coastal cities.

Learn more