New partnership to highlight innovation in desalination science

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WASHINGTON, DC, April 1, 2014 -- A new partnership between the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is underway to launch the Desal Prize -- a worldwide effort to identify and promote innovation in brackish groundwater desalination.

Reclamation, a promoter of desalination technology in the Western United States, is providing technical guidance to the project and will host Desal Prize semi-finalists at its Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, N.M., in the spring of 2015, where entrants will compete in the first demonstration competitions for the prize. Finalists from this stage will advance to compete in a rigorous field demonstration at one of the USAID mission locations.

"For more than 100 years, Reclamation and its partners have confronted a widening imbalance between supply and demand in basins throughout the West," said acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley. "This partnership continues that commitment and will help identify potential solutions to treat brackish water in rural, tribal or remote settings."

Bureau of Reclamation's Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, N.M. (Photo credit: Reclamation)


The USAID Desal Prize will be awarded to cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally-sustainable working prototypes that can be used for multi-use desalination in developing countries. Ten to 12 semifinalists will receive $5,000 as seed money to test or further develop their device. From this group, select finalists will receive an additional $5,000 to continue their project in the field before a judging panel selects the awardee(s) of the $500,000 grand prize.

"Water scarcity is one of today's most pressing development challenges, and the impact of water scarcity on all aspects of development is undeniable," said USAID Global Water Coordinator Christian Holmes at an event at the U.S. Department of State marking World Water Day. "We must augment traditional water supplies to satisfy future demand -- we urgently need solutions to fulfill the growing need for potable water."

The Desal Prize is part of the $32-million Securing Water for Food: Grand Challenge for Development launched at the 2013 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The initiative is a partnership between USAID, the Swedish International Development Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and aims to source, incubate and accelerate innovative solutions to reduce water scarcity around the world. Projections are that by 2025, two-thirds of the world's population could be living in severe water stress conditions.

See also: "Desalination opportunities expanded in Texas from brackish groundwater"

About Desal Prize

On March 21, 2014, the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development and the United States Bureau of Reclamation announced the launch of the Desal Prize. The second call for proposals under Securing Water for Food, the Desal Prize aims to incentivize the creation of a small-scale brackish water desalination unit that can provide potable water for humans, as well as water appropriate for livestock and crops in developing countries.

The winning innovation will be selected based on its fulfillment of several criteria, including:

  • Provides water that is both potable and appropriate for small-scale agriculture
  • Relies on renewable energy
  • Offers improvement on brine minimization
  • Utilizes a chemical-free process
  • And is cost efficient, portable, durable, and easy to maintain

To learn more about the Desal Prize or to submit suggestions, visit http://www.thedesalprize.org

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