File photo courtesy of the Philippine Water Challenge website.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently joined representatives from the Philippine government, the Embassy of Israel in the Philippines, and the private sector to announce the five winners of the inaugural Philippine Water Challenge (PhlWC), a platform to generate solutions, support improvements, and expand innovations in the country’s water and sanitation sector.

Camarines Sur’s Libmanan Water District won the grand prize for its Low-Cost Digitization and Automation Solution in the Management of Water Distribution System that uses an electronic device to record both water volume and water pressure. Coded and assembled locally, this solution will enable water utilities to understand their operations in real-time with automated collection and transmission of data to their central system.

Libmanan Water District competed against 34 other entries and was selected by a judging committee composed of representatives from the water and sanitation sector. It received the grand prize of Php250,000.

The four other winning solutions are:

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  1. Upgrading access to affordable clean water and a holistic approach to improving the lives of disadvantaged urban communities (Tubig at Pag-Asa/EV Water and Life)
  2. A customizable and reusable zeolite water filter for low-resource settings (ADAM Tech)
  3. A portable combined water purification and sterilization machine (Ozone Dynamic Ventures)
  4. A technology that converts wastewater to fertilizer (De La Salle University-Araneta)

Each winner received a cash grant of at least Php100,000, mentoring sessions, and networking support.

“Our collective effort to realize the Philippine Water Challenge demonstrates how powerful partnership is in mobilizing citizen support for solving today’s water security challenges,” said USAID Philippines Environment Chief John Edgar at the event on December 14. “Our partnership started a culture and consciousness for innovation and, more importantly, established a network of innovators and solution-seekers.”

National Economic and Development Authority Assistant Secretary Roderick Planta said that he hopes these innovations can be expanded to reach more communities in a sustainable manner. “Let us pitch innovative ideas and solutions to angel investors and match them with startups. I call on the continued support of our private sector partners and other groups for incubation and commercial development,” he said.

The PhlWC is organized by USAID, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, Manila Water Co. Inc., and Maynilad Water Services Inc. It is also sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Embassy of Israel in the Philippines, Smart Communications, IdeaSpace, and QBO Innovation Hub—five key players in the water and innovation sectors.

PhlWC will run annually and launch its second competition in July 2022.

In 2021, USAID celebrated 60 years of partnership for development with the Philippines. USAID harnesses the power of stakeholder-led innovations to provide safe water and sanitation services to the underserved and most vulnerable, while sustainably managing water resources.

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