USAID and Swedish, Dutch Agencies Partner for Desalination Prize

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands March 21 announced the launch of the Desal Prize for innovations in brackish water desalination. The Desal Prize is part of the $32 million Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development. The U.S. Bureau for Reclamation is providing support in the design and implementation of the prize.

USAID Global Water Coordinator Christian Holmes announced the prize at a U.S. Department of State event marking World Water Day, an annual global celebration highlighting the importance of freshwater resources. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren also spoke at the event on March 21.

“Water scarcity is one of today’s most pressing development challenges, and the impact of water on all aspects of development is undeniable,” said Holmes. “We must augment traditional water supplies to satisfy future demand. We urgently need solutions to fulfill the growing need for potable water.

”While water desalination technologies currently exist, few are suitable for rural or remote areas where brackish water is abundant, and there is a great need for technologies that can provide fresh water for home and farm use, USAID said. The development agency said projections indicate that by 2025 two-thirds of world’s populations could be living in severe water stress conditions.

The Desal Prize will award up to $500,000 in grand prize money to individuals or organizations that develop cost-effective, energy-efficient, brackish water desalination technologies that provide safe water for drinking and agricultural use. Up to 10 semifinalists will also receive seed money to test or further develop their device.In addition to the prize launch, 83 semifinalists were named from Securing Water for Food’s first $15 million call for innovations. Launched at the 2013 World Water Week in Stockholm, Securing Water for Food “aims to source, incubate, and accelerate innovative solutions to reduce water scarcity around the world,” USAID said.

The semifinalists are working on groundbreaking water technologies and new financing products to improve water access, the agency added. The finalists, who will be announced in September 2015, will receive between $100,000 and $3 million in funding and business development assistance.

More information about the Desal Prize is available on a website for the prize.