Poll: Prize Competition Directions

There is great innovation in the decentralized water reuse space, yet water reuse remains uncommon. The main barriers highlighted by you and other experts we have consulted are: restrictive and often outdated regulations, and lack of political will.

Some countries simply don’t allow the reuse of wastewater, and regulations change based on geography. Some places will not allow direct potable reuse and instead require the water to be streamed back into a natural source. Others will not allow the use of natural resources to store water. Others yet will not allow potable water reuse despite evidence of high and safe quality. Some localities require unnecessary treatment methods, like disinfection, which is often added to already pure water, creating toxic byproducts and increasing costs. And policy definitions of reused water affect natural resources/land use, budgets, and regulations.

In designing our prizes, XPRIZE aspires for the audacious yet achievable, and solutions that will drive exponential change. In light of this, we are looking at two directions for our competition. We are calling for your feedback to identify the best path forward.

Please review the two options below, vote in the poll, and explain your choice in a comment.

1. The Circular Water Economy XPRIZE

Focus: Maximum Tech Convergence

    Water reuse (black to potable quality) Cost-effective Net-zero and/or net-positive energy Resource recovery from wastewater

Audacity Type: Technology

Prototype Development:

    Maximize innovation without concern for specific regulations Focuses innovators on the moonshot elements of the sector

2. Deployment of Current Innovation

Focus: Overcoming Barriers to Deployment

    Takes cost into account Mostly regulatory considerations Incorporation of existing solutions and governance strategies Context-specific metrics

Audacity Type: Operations / Governance

Design for Context Specific Deployment:

    Three test sites (cities/municipalities/villages) to be carefully selected Context-specific differences between locations will affect evaluation criteria (i.e., source water quality, number of users, energy sources and efficiency, cost)
Poll: Prize Competition Directions
  • The Circular Water Economy XPRIZE
  • Deployment of Current Innovation

0 voters

Both are interesting and needed.

These are both essential elements in addressing the overall challenge, but given the tremendous diversity of governance/regulatory issues around the world, it is unlikely that there will be one or even a small number of solutions. Technologies that can enable water reuse, on the other hand, can be widely deployed. This seems a more appropriate challenge for a prize format.

Cirkular is the future however.

The future of water is; digital, decentralized and democratized. Digital is also an enabling (and exponential) technology that facilitates; off-grid, decentralized and distributed supply and treatment solutions.

More suitable for an Xprize

I do agree that there is a lot of available technology out there to reclaim water. However, from my experience the major challenge two-fold; 1. Cost: It is very expensive to convert black water into drinking water. 2. Byproduct: every reclamation technology generates solid (or concentrate) as a byproduct that we don’t have a good solution for it, yet. Therefore, the main barriers are the costs. In my opinion, the challenge must combine 1+2. In many situations, the cost is being overcome via government subsidiaries (like in biogas which is not cost-effective) or regulations (like in many agricultural fields). On one hand, we need to push the technology into reduced prices and maximize resource recovery from wastewater. On the other hand, incentivize the use of water reclamation technology. My vote would go for a combination of the two in order to bridge the cost gap.

Both of these are important and needed. They have different time horizons: #2 Deployment is now or near future - it is constrained by political will, institutional capacity, public awareness, and money. This problem has been studied a lot with many good examples. #1 is the future -keep in mind that water is the ULTIMATE renewable commmodity

@ashton, @ATRatner, @bhaskarmv, @emakmel, @eve_pytel, @fabchang, @Gad, @Ndegwa11, @Vero, @R_Beshiri, @rdrogers, I hope you have a chance to vote as well before we make a decision in the next few days about which prize direction to pursue!

1. The Circular Water Economy XPRIZE

Demonstration of new technology is required to get regulatory agencies to modify regulations. XPrize can help by supporting the demonstration.

Governments do review current solutions, since information is available with them, so an XPrize is perhaps not required for this.

Thank you all for your feedback! We will take the time to review all your comments, but in the meantime we would appreciate your input on a few of the following questions. With regards to your chosen option, could you please:

  • Elaborate on the potential impact of your chosen direction - why does your choice have greater impact potential? And how will that impact be made or quantified?
  • What are the greatest barriers to making an impact with your chosen direction?
Thank you all and we look forward to your replies!

The world is covered with water. Unfortunately, most of it is salt water in the oceans. Desalination has been used to provide potable water, but costs are often a problem. I think we should consider two possible solutions. We know that we can boil salt water to vaporize pure water which can be condensed. The cost is in the source of heat and the associated equipment. There are two relatively low cost sources of heat: solar energy and nuclear power. In the first instance, we can consider using solar energy to make water instead of electricity. In my opinion, we can use nuclear energy in under water plants to provide the energy for distillation in the ocean and pipe the water to shore. This approach avoids many of the problems associated with nuclear power. We don’t need to locate these in population centers. We don’t really need large containment buildings (a large aircraft cannot crash into an underwater building with any significant force). We don’t need all of the equipment associated with a power plant (steam turbines, condensers, feed water trains, generators, power lines, etc.). Heat from the reactor can be used to boil water at a relatively modest pressure and then condense it in the piping to the pump to bring the water on shore. Something to be evaluated.

I have shared a lot of proposals to you.
Some of you might have lost the interest of reading all my proposals; that is understandable.
We are flooded with information nowadays and it is very hard to digest all.
Here is a short repetition of my point of view:

  • Decision makers need good skilled advisers who do not fall for sweet talk from lobbyists.
  • Water and sewage management needs to be rebuilt so we do not deplete groundwater and water from freshwater lakes; and not let the sewage pollute Lakes Rivers and oceans.
  • Sewage systems rebuilt so we separate gray water feces urine to lessen the total amount of polluted sewage water. Gray water to ground and groundwater or watering. Feces to biogas and soil and urine to fertilizers.
  • A new recirculating shower sink dishwasher system lessens the total amount of water needed.
  • New toilets’ consuming less water and separates urine and feces.
  • Rainwater harvesting to the groundwater to ponds and in containers cisterns.
  • Farming must move from industrial to regenerative; livestock with regenerative grazing combined with regenerative farming can bind much co2 transform land and make more water go to groundwater. And of course provide healthy food and a good environment for animals and man.
  • It is possible to make of grid communities whit circular systems to a low cost for the community and the city/government.
  • There are proposals how poor rural areas can have access to fresh water to a super low cost and to use biogas.
  • Many cities around the world needs overhauling and now are a good opportunity to make it right.
  • These proposals give in the end water and sewage for a lower cost. Win Win.
    I hope I have planted some thoughts and ideas and I can only hope that some of you in the position to influence decision makers find the ideas worth to be shared.
    And even if my writing and sharing in the end just provides water for one plant animal or human it will be worth it.

And of course stormwater capture.

Georgia Institute of Technology has shown that methane can be used in fuel cells.

Here is another (IASS) in Potsdam and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

More than 7 billion people can produce a lot of methane for use instead of letting it disappear into the atmosphere and increase greenhouse gases.

I maintain that good technology is already available to provide potable water at a sensible price. In 2016 The Scientific American reported on an israeli innovation in water desalination that holds great promise for providing drinking water by desalination at affordable prices. the Israels according to the article are promoting this technology to interested buyers
I find persuasive the material that strong attitudes about water are a real obstacle to having enough water for industry, agriculture, and drinking (or other consumer use). But all the great civilizations of ancient times solved the problem of having sufficient water. the ancient Egyptians dug an early Suez canal. Geometry was invented to address problems of land ownership after flooding. Romans built aqueducts. In short, civilizations that lasted a long time and prospered addressed water needs pragmatically.

We know that proper advertising and public education campaigns can address health related problems. We can solve resistance to vaccination, or to providing birth control information etc. with properly designed campaigns.This has been accomplished in numerous traditional societies. The same basic approach should be possible in addressing resistance to recycled water or desalinated water etc. It will take time. It will require training a cadre of people to provide this education to the target population that is a prerequisite to changed attitudes. Model villages may have to be built in which the desalinated water or recycled water is the only available water for the inhabitants. But all the steps have been successfully used in previous campaigns that resulted in more food being grown or people being protected from various scourges by vaccination or other changes in behavior etc. As a medical sociologist by training I am in a position to work with a multi-disciplinary team to design such public education programs tailored to the needs of different societies. I recognize that the solution will have unique elements. What is needed in Afghanistan may be different from what is needed in Pakistan or Iran. But that is not an insuperable problem if we are determined and proceed carefully from the outset, respectful of customs of people and other sensitivities.

Sorry more information to tired minds…
I am hopeful but also realistic and I know that a change like I have suggested will meet a lot of resistance.
Some countries have large private water and sewage companies and a company who delivers more than 350 liters of water and takes care of 350 liters of sewage per person.
Multiply more than 700 liters per day to a year; it makes around 250 000 liters per person per year and multiply that with more than 300 million people just in the USA…
The companies have no real interest in declining the demand; the opposite is of course better and the consumers are unaware of alternatives and therefor are not asking for it.
And same with those constructing and working with water sewage and desalination facilities; they want to construct more.
Low ranking people with ideas are not popular in hierarchic organizations.
They are often seen as a threat and it is not the smartest career move to be too out of the box.
And of course they might be a threat to the shareholders in a short term and those who do not like necessary changes. And sometimes to bosses who do not want their position to be threathened.
A change like this needs progressive decision makers with able advisers.
I think some states in the USA and other countries have those.
I also assume India Africa and China will make the changes before USA and Europe.
I am almost certain.
And much of the changes have already started with grass root movements (in double sense).

However, most of the water in the United States comes from public providers