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Start-ups meet the urban water challenge

Winners of the 2019 Imagine H20 challenge were announced at World Water Week in Stockholm and will deploy their solutions in cities in three continents.

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The challenge aims to confront threats such as growing water scarcity and ocean pollution
The challenge aims to confront threats such as growing water scarcity and ocean pollution

Start-ups from Colombia, India and the US have been named the winners in the 2019 Imagine H2O Urban Water Challenge.


The winning entries, WatchTower Robotics (USA), Indra Water (India) and Zilper Trenchless (Colombia), were announced at World Water Week in Stockholm, which runs until 30 August.


Challenge founders


The challenge was founded by water tech innovator Bluewater and 11th Hour Racing, which establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing and maritime communities to promote collaborative, systemic change benefiting the health of our ocean.

 

This year’s contest attracted 226 start-ups from 38 countries. The winners will use Imagine H2O’s funding to deploy solutions in cities in three continents:

  • WaterTower Robotics: will map water pipe networks in 3D and detect leaks with its small-scale robots in Da Nang, Vietnam;
  • Indra Water: will deploy its modular, decentralised wastewater treatment systems in colleges and schools in Mumbai, India;
  • Zilper Trenchless: will install and replace water pipes using its trenchless technology in the greater Bogota, Colombia region.

“The planet faces a great many environmental threats, not least growing water scarcity and ocean pollution, which requires human ingenuity be harnessed globally to avoid potentially cataclysmic consequences,” said Anders Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Blue, the investment company that owns Bluewater.


“Each of the three winners of the 2019 Imagine H2O Urban Water Challenge provides an innovative solution to solving urban water challenges.”


The challenge’s inaugural winners in 2018 used the awards to unlock pilot projects in Bangladesh, India and Denver, Colorado. In Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second largest city, DrinkWell is installing its first four water ATM systems that will then be scaled to 200 in collaboration with local government.

“The planet faces a great many environmental threats, not least growing water scarcity and ocean pollution, which requires human ingenuity be harnessed globally”

In Denver, Spout is preparing for the deployment of rapid lead testing kits to improve the city’s response and planning. In Warangal, a city in the Indian state of Telangana, SmartTerra is progressing in its first pilot to digitise the utility’s operations as a model for other fast-growing second-tier cities.


“This is our second year supporting the Urban Water Challenge in part because, like Bluewater, 11th Hour Racing believes strongly that there is an urgent need for solutions to help communities globally tackle water quality and scarcity issues, whether related to the impacts of climate change, plastic pollution, or polluted runoff,” said Michelle Carnevale, grant programme director of 11th Hour Racing.

 

“We look forward to seeing the finalists deploy and test their technologies to create meaningful impact and inspire the next generation of water-focused entrepreneurs.”


Imagine H2O (IH2O) is a non-profit organisation that empowers people to develop and deploy innovation to solve water challenges globally. Since 2009, the organisation’s water innovation accelerator has helped over 100 start-ups with the resources, insight and visibility to launch and scale their businesses.


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