XPRIZE has initiated a $150M competition to address water scarcity by innovating desalination solutions.

XPRIZE Water Scarcity, a global initiative funded by a $150M investment from the Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative, is a 5-year competition with a $119M prize pool aimed at promoting access to clean water through sustainable seawater desalination solutions.

Teams will strive to develop technologies to increase access to water from Earth’s seas and oceans, benefiting billions worldwide and ensuring equitable and sustainable water resources.

Water, crucial for life on our planet, faces scarcity challenges despite covering 70% of Earth’s surface. Only 0.5% of the world’s water is available to support the 8 billion people on Earth, leading to water stress globally.

Factors like climate change, agriculture, and industry are depleting freshwater supplies, pushing many cities towards “Day Zero” when water sources may run dry, posing risks of water rationing, sanitation problems, environmental damage, and resource conflicts.

Seas and oceans, holding 96% of Earth’s water, offer a promising solution through seawater desalination. However, current desalination technologies lack efficiency, affordability, and sustainability needed to address the increasing global water scarcity.

Existing desalination plants rely heavily on fossil fuels and materials that raise sustainability concerns, impacting marine ecosystems negatively through water intake and brine output processes.

“While some nations utilize advanced desalination technologies to furnish their populations with clean water, progress in seawater desalination has been largely stagnant. Existing solutions are prohibitively expensive and lack scalability to significantly benefit the global population,” stated Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE. “There is a pressing need for a groundbreaking innovation to render desalination more cost-effective and sustainable on a global scale, fostering prosperity for both people and the environment.”

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative, emphasized, “The escalating threat of water scarcity poses a significant challenge to global security and prosperity, necessitating a united and resolute response from the international community. The launch of XPRIZE Water Scarcity aligns with the vision of the Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative to elevate the urgency of water scarcity on the global agenda and expedite the advancement and implementation of transformative solutions to address this critical issue.”

Seas and oceans holding more than 96% of Earth’s water have made seawater desalination an increasingly viable option for ensuring reliable water access across nations and communities worldwide.

XPRIZE Water Scarcity stands as a pioneering competition aimed at revolutionizing desalination systems on a large scale. The competition incentivizes teams to develop innovative solutions that are not only more cost-effective, reliable, and environmentally sustainable but also resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Teams will reimagine desalination systems, techniques, and materials to enhance the provision of safe, reliable, affordable, and sustainable water for burgeoning population centers and other communities globally.

“With the global water demand forecasted to exceed supply by 40% by 2030, the urgency of this competition cannot be overstated. We are confident that this award will kickstart a crucial transformation in desalination efforts to combat global water scarcity,” stated Lauren Greenlee, Executive Vice President of Food + Water + Waste at XPRIZE. “We recognize that breakthroughs can emerge from any source, and our aim is to diversify inputs from various fields by focusing on system-level innovation, flexible criteria, and the exploration of innovative materials to evaluate all potential solutions.”

Dr. Peter S. Fiske, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Water Innovation, highlighted the significant growth potential of desalination in the 21st century as communities, industries, and nations enhance their water supplies and fortify water systems against climate change. “By drawing innovators worldwide to enhance the energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and environmental benefits of desalination, I am optimistic that XPRIZE Water Scarcity will spur innovation and cost reduction in this critical technology.”

Shannon McCarthy, Secretary General of the International Desalination and Reuse Association, emphasized the importance of sustainable and affordable desalination systems in securing freshwater sources globally to combat water scarcity. “I am confident that the dynamic XPRIZE addressing Water Scarcity will incentivize groundbreaking innovation in the desalination sector, leading to the necessary breakthroughs to tackle escalating water challenges worldwide and ensure water access for all.”

The XPRIZE Water Scarcity competition encompasses multiple tracks, with a core focus on reimagining desalination systems. The winning team will efficiently and sustainably produce one million liters of potable water per day (1,000 m3/d) from seawater at the lowest cost, surpassing a target benchmark for global accessibility over a year, enough to support 10,000 people (based on WHO Standards).

The Novel Membrane Materials track will seek to discover optimal membranes to reduce water production costs, enhance reliability and sustainability, paving the way for extending the lifespan of existing seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants.

The Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative serves as the title sponsor of XPRIZE Water Scarcity, dedicated to raising awareness of water scarcity and elevating its priority on the international agenda while accelerating the development, testing, and large-scale deployment of transformative and sustainable technological solutions for this global challenge.

source: XPRIZE

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