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The crisis in many parts of the world concerning the lack of available drinking water is only getting worse year after year. As it stands, around 768 million people worldwide cannot access this fundamental resource and, as the effects of climate change worsen and pollution continues, this figure is only going to increase.
Following success with two other open innovation Challenges that it ran on the InnoCentive platform, U.S.-based humanitarian organization Habitat for Humanity wanted to do something about the drinking water shortage. This Challenge, which aimed to find solutions that provide cost-effective water harvesting equipment to low-income areas, ran in mid-2021. It attracted 278 solvers. These members of the crowd spanned 54 countries worldwide, showing the global scope of the issue at hand.
From this crowd, 55 solutions were submitted. The best of these were tested and prototyped, as Reduction-to-Practice Challenges require on InnoCentive’s platform. On 20th January 2022, Habitat for Humanity announced the winner as Jesús Chico Fernández of Spain.
A civil engineer from Madrid, Jesús’ proposal allowed family households – in Mexico alone, a third of homes suffer from water shortages – to harvest rainwater for domestic usage. The device he submitted collects, cleans, and stores water that is suitable for human consumption by using a mixture of solar air bubbles, ultraviolet light, and a carbon filter.
Habitat for Humanity felt that this proposal was the most impressive and best met the four criteria it set out for awarded solutions:
- Uses low-cost technology
- Installation is simple
- Grants easy access to clean water
- Provides adequate storage capacity for an urban Mexican family
For his work, Fernández received the prize of $25,000 USD. Habitat for Humanity is expected to use his solution to bring benefits to the urban, low-income households of Mexico as a result. If it proves successful here, the solution can then be rolled out globally to start turning the tide on a lack of clean water.