2018, 2019, 2020, 2021


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Imagine H2O

Urban Water Challenge

Imagine H2O’s Urban Water Challenge is a global competition to encourage the development of innovative ways to advance how we source, distribute, use, and reuse water to build resilient communities. The Urban Water Challenge embodies one of 11th Hour Racing’s key objectives: to restore ocean health by demonstrating sustainable practices and technologies that improve water quality, prevent pollution, and manage our water resources more responsibly.

11th Hour Racing is a Founding Challenge Partner, inspired by the Cape Town, South Africa Stopover during the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, where staff saw first-hand how water scarcity can impact the quality of life and the environment in large cities. Around the world, this problem disproportionately affects the poorest parts of communities.

The Challenge spotlights urban water resilience and will align with UN Sustainable Development Goals, Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11), and Life Below Water (SDG 14). Winners will be provided with awards to deploy technologies in cities around the world focused on three main areas: stormwater runoff and coastal resilience, water reuse and recycling, and safe, clean drinking water.

  • Unlock up to $275k in Deployment Awards to fund solutions to pressing problems. 2020 awards to be classified as discovery and scale-up deployments, ranging from $15k to $75k for finalists, and $100k for the grand prize winner.
  • The 2020 Urban Water Challenge received entries from 235 startups across 44 countries. Of these applicants, 40% have female founders and 50% have female advisors.
  • The Challenge provides entrepreneurs with early financial support and a network of strategic partners as they look to develop technologies. 
  • Winners and deployment projects will be selected based on input from cities and stakeholders around the world about their most pressing issues, ensuring that winning solutions address the challenges faced by many communities across the globe.
  • Amplify the impact of deployment awards to reach new audiences and advocate for broader adoption.
  • The 2019 Urban Water Challenge unlocked $500,000 in deployment awards to co-fund high impact pilot & scale-up projects, supported by Founding Challenge Partners 11th Hour Racing and Bluewater.
  • The 2019 Urban Water Challenge received entries from 226 startups across 38 countries, 37% more applicants than the inaugural Challenge in 2018.
  • Winners were announced during the Challenge’s Award Ceremony at World Water Week in Stockholm, where each finalist showcased their solutions.
  • Winning solutions received deployment awards for validation and scale-up in urban markets, while a new Discovery Award category recognized earlier stage, breakthrough technologies.
  • Zilper Trenchless is changing the economics of laying water pipes underground using trenchless technology in Bogota, Colombia. Initial tests locally had an installation rate of 20 feet per hour, compared to conventional technologies that achieve three feet per day. 
  • Indra Water is testing its ‘wastewater treatment system in a box’ with five universities in Mumbai, India, allowing these institutions to treat and reuse their wastewater onsite.
  • StormSensor is a ‘google traffic map’ for sewers, currently piloting in flood-prone New Jersey, U.S., empowering the state to improve stormwater management by creating a ‘smart’ urban watershed.
  • SmarterHomes is expanding its intelligent water metering solution to apartment buildings in Namibia’s water-stressed communities, preventing leaks and improving overall water efficiency.
  • Upepo is integrating low-cost measuring devices to provide real-time revenue and water loss management data to utilities in Kenya, facilitating the mobile revolution for water management in East Africa.
  • The 2018 Urban Drinking Water Scarcity Challenge deployed nearly $1 million in pilot award funding and investments and provided mentorship from industry and policy experts, along with marketing and visibility support, supported by Founding Challenge Partners 11th Hour Racing and Bluewater.
  • The competition focused on entrepreneurs and innovators developing promising solutions related to alternative water supply for cities facing shortages, access and delivery for emergency relief, and developing technologies for improving ecosystem health.
  • The 2018 Inaugural Challenge received 160 applications across 54 countries. The three winners were honored at Stockholm Water Week in August 2018.
  • Drinkwell is expanding its low electricity, pay-as-you-go water purification stations that remove arsenic from water — a persistent problem throughout Bangladesh.
  • Spout is deploying real-time water testing devices to empower households and provide cost-effective monitoring for utility companies.
  • SmartTerra is equipping second-tier Indian cities, over 5,000 of which provide water intermittently, with the tools for data-driven decision making to improve delivery and access of water to the underserved

About Imagine H2O

Imagine H2O (IH2O) is a nonprofit organization that empowers people to develop and deploy innovation to solve water challenges globally. IH2O champions a diverse range of solutions from smart flood control to trenchless technology. Since 2009, the organization has helped over 136 startups with practical insights, a global network and pilot funding to build sustainable businesses and accelerate growth. In that timeframe, more than 1,100 startups from 500 countries have applied to IH2O’s innovation programs – Imagine H2O Flagship Accelerator, Imagine H2O Asia Accelerator and the Urban Water Challenge. Learn more at

Daniel Zillante, CEO & Co-founder of Zilper Trenchless, discusses the economic advantages of Trenchless Technology when laying water pipes underground.

Amrit Om Nayak, CEO & Co-founder of Indra Water, discusses testing its ‘wastewater treatment system in a box,’ with five universities in Mumbai.

StormSensor: Building the Google Traffic Maps for Sewers

StormSensor Inc. protects communities from Urban Flooding and Climate Change using Data, not Demographics. Discover how its cloud connected network of sensors and software provides benefits to homes and small businessesStormSensor is part of our Urban Water Challenge 2019 cohort. Thank you to our Founding Partners 11th Hour Racing & Bluewater

Posted by Imagine H2O on Thursday, April 2, 2020

Erin Rothman, CEO & Co-founder of StormSensor explains the ‘google traffic map’ for sewers and stormwater, currently piloting in flood-prone New Jersey. 

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