The five-year XPRIZE Water Scarcity competition has launched to help provide greater access to clean water by creating reliable, sustainable and affordable seawater desalination systems. With a $119 million prize purse supplied by the Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative, this is deemed the first competition of its kind focused on disrupting desalination systems at a global scale.

Marine ecosystems contain 96% of Earth’s water, but current desalination technologies lack capacity and efficiency to generate clean water at the scale that will be required to address rapidly rising worldwide water scarcity. Available plants also predominantly rely on fossil fuels and water treatment materials that raise sustainability concerns, while water intake and brine output processes can exert a negative impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems. The XPRIZE incentivizes competing teams to create new solutions for sustainably advancing desalination technology in support of fast-growing population centers and other communities.

This competition includes a New Desalination track for which the winning team will reliably and most sustainably generate 1,000 m3/day from seawater at the lowest cost, below a target benchmark to ensure global accessibility, over the course of one year and sufficient to support 10,000 people. Registration for this phase will close April 30, 2025.

A second Novel Membrane Materials track will focus on the search for the perfect membrane to cut the cost of water production and increase reliability and sustainability, paving a future path to extend the lifetime of existing seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants. Registration for this component of the competition will close February 28, 2025.

XPRIZE Water Scarcity registration officially opened March 1, 2024.

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