Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development Announces Winners of the Desal Prize

U.S. and international community awarded for groundbreaking desalination technologies

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, announced today the winners of the Desal Prize, the second call for Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development.

"By 2050, global water demand is expected to increase by 55 percent, and 70 percent of global water use occurs in food production," said Christian Holmes, USAID's Global Water Coordinator. "The Desal Prize was developed to supply catalytic funding to capture and support the innovative ideas and new technologies that could have a significant impact."

The Desal Prize challenged innovators throughout the world to create cost-effective, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable desalination technologies that can provide potable water for humans as well as water that can be used for crops in developing countries.

From April 9 to 11, five finalist innovator teams competed for $200,000 in prize funds in head-to-head demonstrations at the Bureau of Reclamation's Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, N.M.  After rigorous testing and evaluation by a panel of expert judges, two winning teams were chosen. These two teams, and a team that received an honorable mention, will be eligible to receive grant funds totaling $400,000 to implement pilot projects in late summer or early fall with small-holder rural farmers in a USAID mission region.

First Place: MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems designed a photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis reversal (EDR) system that desalinates water using electricity to pull charged particles out of the water and further disinfects using ultraviolet rays. The system was designed for low energy consumption, limiting costs especially in off-grid areas.

Second Place: University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Center for Inland Desalination Systems designed a Zero Discharge Desalination (ZDD) technology that reduces water waste in the desalination of groundwater by conventional processes. Electrodialysis uses voltage to remove undesirable ions from water.

Honorable Mention: Green Desal, a team comprised of the Asian Institute of Technology & Management, National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension, State University of Ponta Grossa, Technion-Israel University of Technology, and University of North Texas, developed a high-percent recovery system that integrates proven technologies in reverse osmosis, ion exchange, nano-filtration, re-mineralization and disinfection.

USAID's Grand Challenge for Development initiative crowd-sources solutions to solve clearly-defined problem sets, engaging the world in a quest to discover, incubate, test, and accelerate innovative solutions that have the potential to solve the world's greatest development challenges. Between 2014 and 2018, the Securing Water for Food program partners will provide $32 million in funding to game-changing innovations that can produce more food using less water. The initiative focuses on cutting-edge, advanced technologies and business models, as well as innovations that prioritize the engagement of women. Securing Water for Food is accepting applications for its third call for innovations now through May 22nd. As part of USAID's new Middle East Water Security Initiative, an additional $2.5 million will be available for innovations implemented in the MENA region.  

To learn more about Securing Water for Food's Desal Prize, visit www.securingwaterforfood.org and follow @SecuringWater on Twitter.

Last updated: August 15, 2016

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