In honor of the United Nations World Water Day on March 22, two U.S. nonprofit organizations and a Swedish private investment firm announced their second annual “Urban Water Challenge,” which, with up to US$1 million in pilot funding, will empower entrepreneurs to deploy innovative water technologies globally.
The companies involved include 11th Hour Racing, a nonprofit that’s part of the Schmidt Family Foundation, founded by Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google, and his wife, Wendy; San Francisco, Calif.-based nonprofit Imagine H2O; and Bluewater, part of Stockholm-based global investment company Blue.
The 2019 “Imagine H2O Urban Water Challenge” will identify technology startups across three primary themes: Drinking Water; Water Reuse and Recycling; and Ecosystem Health.
Applications will begin in May. The winners will be showcased at an award ceremony and a series of events during World Water Week in Stockholm from Aug. 25-29, according to Anders Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Blue.
“The world faces mounting severe water stress due to global warming as well as increasing threats of contamination to urban water supplies and ecosystems,” Jacobson says. “We are committed to driving investment funds to water, and other sustainability-related areas.”
Launched in 1993, the UN World Water Day designates “safe access to water for all” by 2030 as one of its Sustainable Development Goals. This year’s theme is “Leaving no one behind,” addressing safe water access by marginalized groups.
Last year, the “Urban Water Challenge” received 160 applications across 54 countries. Three winners received pilot funding awards to monitor lead contamination in the U.S., remove arsenic in Bangladesh, and digitize water infrastructure in India.
“We were positively surprised last year with applications coming from so many different countries,” Jacobson says. “That gives us an extremely important overview of where innovative water technology is happening now, and where it’s needed.”