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Clean Water Challenge

Clean Water Challenge


Get Involved!

  1. Learn about the Clean Water Challenge
  2. Register for access to the platform
  3. Create or join a team
  4. Start designing and building
  5. Bring your prototype to Demo Day - compete, learn, share
  6. $12,000 in prizes will be awarded, and top designs will be deployed for testing

Lowe's Innovation Labs and Singularity University Labs, together with our Development Partners Socialab and the International Water and Health Alliances (IWHA), invite you to participate in a unique challenge to address the need for safe drinking water around the world.

Access to safe drinking water remains a worldwide challenge, with 1.8 billion people relying on contaminated water sources. Boiling water is one widely recommended treatment; however, water actually only needs to be heated to 65 degrees Celsius (about 150 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill water-borne pathogens. Solar thermal energy can be used to reach this temperature, using devices made with simple materials you can find at a hardware store.

We're challenging you to design and build a solar water pasteurizer using materials from Lowe's. We encourage you to be creative with your ideas, to look at the problem from different angles, and to learn from one another using our community discussion forum. On December 6th, all participants will gather at the Sunnyvale, CA Lowe's store for an exciting Demo Day! We'll showcase all of your prototypes, offer workshops on low-cost water testing techniques, and announce special awards.

Learn about the details of the Clean Water Challenge below, and check out the resources, FAQ, and discussion forum pages. We encourage anyone who is interested in this challenge to register and actively participate on this platform (there's no registration fee). Then, use it to find teammates who complement your skills, ask questions, and start designing your submission.

We learned about the potential of solar pasteurization from Professor Bob Metcalf, a pioneer of the concept and founder of the International Water Health Alliances. He first published on the efficacy of solar water pasteurization using concentrated sunlight in 1984. Over the past thirty years he has repeatedly demonstrated the effectiveness of heating water to 65 degrees Celsius (about 150 degrees Fahrenheit) for as little as 1 minute to destroy biological pathogens.

You are designing for individuals in low-income and limited-resource communities around the world, who have access to water but lack the technology or infrastructure to ensure it is safe to drink.

Different solutions will be needed for different circumstances - what will work in a refugee camp may be different from what is required at a rural school. We encourage you to look at both batch and continuous flow designs while keeping in mind the cost and material constraints of the developing world.

  1. Heat water to a minimum of 65 degrees Celsius
  2. Use only solar energy
  3. Use materials found at Lowe's*
  4. Produce a minimum of 2 gallons of water per person per day
  5. Include a way to measure the output water temperature of your device
  6. Transport your device to the South San Francisco Lowe's for Demo Day

*If you wish to use a specialized material or product not available at Lowe's, ask the CWC Team. We will make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

  1. <$50 -­ Designs built for less than $50
    Often, the best solutions are simple and elegant. If you're excited about optimizing your design for these characteristics, as well as minimizing cost, you might want to design for this category.
  2. >$50 -­ Designs built for more than $50
    Higher-cost devices allow for more sophisticated materials, larger devices that can provide water for more people, and the potential for increased efficiency. If these things excite you, consider submitting in this category.

$6,000 to the winner of the > $50 Category

$6,000 to the winner of the < $50 Category

In addition, the top designs will be tested in the field, with the help of our Development Partners and larger community.

  • Feasibility & Viability (25%)
    How well does the design address the guidelines? How well designed is it technically and how efficiently are materials used cost-wise?
  • Desirability (25%)
    How easy and enjoyable is it to use the device?
  • Creativity (25%)
    How bold and creative is the proposed solution?
  • Community Engagement (15%)
    How active and meaningful was the participants' engagement with the challenge community via the online platform?
  • Presentation (10%)
    How compelling is the presentation of the design via documentation of process and product?

You will be able to submit your designs beginning November 22nd and ending December 6th.


  • Team name and members
  • Description of your design concept
  • Photo of your prototype
  • Bill of Materials with itemized and total cost
  • Data from testing your prototype (can be taken before or at Demo Day)
    • weather during testing
    • water input and output temperature
    • time (if any) to preheat before operational
    • rate of clean water production (gallons/hour)


  • Video clip(s) of your prototype in operation
  • Additional description and documentation of your design process
  • Ideas for next steps, revisions, and improvements