MEDRC Water Research launches international desal challenge

Nov. 27, 2018
The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge will award $700,000 USD to the individual or team that delivers a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device suitable for short-term use and rapid deployment.

OMAN, NOV 27, 2018 -- MEDRC Water Research is an International Organization mandated to find solutions to fresh water scarcity. Established in 1996 and based in Muscat, Oman, we conduct research, training, development cooperation and trans-boundary water projects.

In March of this year, working with its project partners - The Research Council, Oman, MEDRC launched a major new prize in water research, the 'Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge'. The Challenge is a global water prize worth $700,000 USD for the individual or team that delivers a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device suitable for short-term use and rapid deployment in the event of a humanitarian crisis.

Registration is now open, and interested parties my apply at

The closing date for registration is December 31, 2018. Once initial registration forms have been received and reviewed for completeness by MEDRC, the organizers will announce the official list of competing teams/individuals in January 2019.

Competitors will then be given seven months to build their device and to submit a written narrative and accompanying video of the device in operation, in August, 2019.

A winning device will need to match the following criteria:
Low Cost: The estimated production cost of the device will be $20
Hand Held: The device will be hand held and easily transportable
Easy to Use: Easy to operate following simple instructions
Robust: Resilient, Corrosion resistant, long shelf life, limited use of small parts that could be lost
Short term use: Operate for a minimum of 30 days
Easily transportable: Light weight without water inside
Rate of production: Device will produce a minimum of 3 liters of purified water per day
Stand alone: No additions of chemicals, fuel, or other external materials
Quality: Device will purify 100 NTU, 35,000 mg/L seawater to 1000 mg/L TDS and meet WHO maximum contaminant levels.

If no winner is declared in 2019 the challenge will continue until 2022 or until the prize has been won. This timeline will allow anyone in the world to develop a device to compete once or after refinement, several times, for the Challenge Prize.

This is an extraordinary challenge. It will push even the brightest minds from the most advanced research centers in the world beyond their limits. We ask that you encourage top contenders from your institution to put their ingenuity to the test and take on this challenge.

In parallel and in support of this initiative, USAID are partnering with MEDRC on a second track of funding.

This will support a new Desalination Challenge Research Call supporting pathway research, aimed at the delivery of a family sized desalination unit. It is envisaged that in addition to reducing pressure on existing water supplies in the developing world, this unit will act as a precursor to the successful delivery of the individual device that the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge looks for. Further details on this research call are soon to be announced via MEDRC's website