Please note that the details of this Challenge are no longer open. This challenge is awarded and is no longer accepting new submissions. You can:
Challenge <p> More Water Less Concentrate – Stage 1</p>

More Water Less Concentrate – Stage 1

STATUS: Awarded
Active Solvers: 282
Posted: Dec 13 2016
Challenge ID: 9933762
Team Project Rooms are available on this Challenge. Team Share Challenge Share

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking innovative solutions to expand usable water supplies by maximizing fresh water production from inland desalination systems in a cost effective and environmentally sound manner. Currently, significant and desirable water supplies are trapped in concentrate streams that are a byproduct of desalination technologies. The cost to manage or dispose of concentrate is rather large and very limiting to utilization of desalination in inland applications. Solutions can be novel technologies or approaches that build upon existing technologies.  Solutions should address one of the following objectives, 1) ways to improve overall system recovery of existing desalination technologies, 2) ways to treat concentrate streams to extract additional useable water and thus to increase overall system recovery, or 3) new high recovery desalination technologies or processes that increase overall system recovery beyond current desalination technologies.

This Challenge launches Stage 1 of a planned three-stage Grand Challenge that culminates in a technology demonstration within a field-test setting.


This web site is hosted by a private entity and is not a service of the Bureau of Reclamation or the Department of the Interior (DOI). The solicitation and collection of your personal or individually identifiable information is subject to the host’s privacy and security policies and will not be shared with Reclamation or DOI unless you win the Challenge. Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to Reclamation in order to collect an award. Please consult the Challenge Specific Agreement.


In many areas, particularly in the Western United States, existing sources of fresh water are fully or over-allocated. When inland communities are evaluating potential sources for a new water supply, desalination is often overlooked or not considered due to its perceived high cost. A major contributing factor to the cost is the additional handling and/or treatment required to manage concentrate streams where significant and desirable additional water resources are also lost.

Desalination processes, typically membrane or thermal based processes, produce a concentrate stream composed primarily of the salts in the feed and some of the initial feed water.  The cost to manage or dispose of concentrate streams is often prohibitive for inland brackish desalination and is currently a limiting factor to more widespread utilization of desalination in inland applications.  This challenge is seeking solutions to minimizing the concentrate stream volume and associated handling costs while maximizing the useable water produced by the process.

Desalination process recovery is often limited by capital and operational treatment costs.  Saturation levels of sparingly soluble species (e.g. CaSO4, CaCO3, SiO2) are reached in desalination processes as the saltwater feed is processed to fresh water leaving behind a highly saturated stream referred to as concentrate.  Thus, classes of solutions to the concentrate problem might increase the quantity of treated water recovered from desalination processes without incurring issues with sparingly soluble species, therefore decreasing the volume of concentrate generated and increasing the overall system recovery. Other solutions may include novel desalination technologies or improvements to existing technologies that will increase the overall system recovery of desalination processes while also overcoming other operational and cost hurdles.

Another class of solutions to the concentrate problem is to post-treat the concentrate stream that is produced to reduce its concentrate volume or to produce a solid waste product; thereby reducing the volume requiring disposal.

In this prize competition, the Bureau of Reclamation is seeking innovative solutions to increase the amount of usable water supplies in an affordable, environmentally sustainable, and efficient manner to make desalination more accessible to communities looking to expand water supplies. Solutions can be novel technologies or approaches that build upon existing technologies and approaches for the production of fresh water from saline sources that increase the overall system recovery beyond the level of what is currently achieved. Solutions can include ideas to reduce the large concentrate volumes by treatment of the concentrate or by selectively removing less soluble species from either the feed water, concentrate streams or at any other part of the desalination system.  Other ideas to control or inhibit scale formation due to sparingly soluble species are also being sought along with any new technologies or improvements to existing technologies that increase the overall system recovery of a desalination system. 

A brief video describing this Challenge can be found here:

This Challenge consists of three stages:

  • Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge requiring a white paper submittal. Participants are asked to submit an idea, such as a process or equipment design, along with anticipated impact (if successful), detailed descriptions, specifications, supporting data or literature, and requirements necessary to bring the idea to practice.  Stage 1 may award up to 6 prizes from a total prize award pool of $150,000. 
  • If Stage 1 proves successful, Stage 2 is planned as a subsequent Reduction-to-Practice (RTP) Challenge to demonstrate proof-of-concept data at the bench scale. Stage 2 envisions a total prize pool of $450,000 or more, and awarding up to 3 prizes.
  • Stage 3 is envisioned as a Grand Challenge, RTP demonstration at pilot-scale in a field-test setting. Stage 3 envisions a total prize pool of $500,000 or more, and awarding up to 2 prizes.

In addition to the direct monetary award for Stages 2 and 3, Reclamation will invite industry, non-profit organizations, and venture capital representatives to be present at the Stage 2 and 3 presentations and testing.  Participating industry and venture capital representatives will also have the ability to seek and secure potential business deals with Solvers.

This posting only launches the Stage 1 competition. However, the envisioned framework and prizes for Stages 2 and 3 are available here:  Subsequent stages will be officially launched and announced with a separate posting and a separate Federal Register Notice.

Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge that requires only a written proposal to be submitted. The Challenge award will be contingent upon critical analysis and evaluation by the Seeker (Reclamation) and the judging panel appointed by the Seeker. The Seeker has a total prize pool budget of $150,000 to pay the top six submission(s) that meet or exceed the criteria below an award of at least $25,000 each.  No awards are guaranteed unless they meet or exceed the criteria, and more than one award is not guaranteed.  Full or partial awards will be considered for solutions that meet all or some of the criteria, respectively. If only a single submission meets or exceeds the criteria, the prize award may be as high as $50,000.

To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their IP rights to the Seeker and will not have to grant the Seekers a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. Please note that any proposal submitted will not be treated as confidential information.  Accordingly, Solvers should take whatever steps they deem necessary to protect their proprietary rights in their solutions prior to submitting their written proposal for consideration in the Challenge (e.g. filing provisional or full patent applications on the solution described in the written proposal submitted prior to submission). See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details.

Submission period ends on March 13, 2017: Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on March 13, 2017. Late submissions will not be considered.


After the Challenge submission deadline, a Judging Panel will evaluate the submissions and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s). The Judging Panel may be composed of Federal and/or Non Federal scientists, engineers, and other technical experts, including subject matter experts from the listed collaborators for this Challenge. All persons or entities that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of their submissions. Decisions by the Seeker cannot be contested.



Solvers do not have to participate in Stage 1 to be eligible to participate in Stage 2 or Stage 3. Stage 1 participants are not required to compete in Stage 2 or Stage 3.

Solvers are not required to give up any of their intellectual property (“IP”) rights to the Seeker or Seeker Collaborators to be eligible to receive an award.  Solvers who have transferred their IP rights in their solution to another, or otherwise entered into any commercial exclusive arrangement with another for the exploitation of their IP rights in their solution prior to the end of the Challenge shall not be eligible for a Challenge award.  See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details.

This Challenge is being conducted under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. Code § 3719). The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 states that awards for this Prize Competition may only be given to an individual that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States, subject to verification by the Seekers before Prizes are awarded. Further restrictions apply – see the Challenge-Specific Agreement and the Federal Register Notice for full eligibility details.

Note: Submissions can be entertained from all Solvers regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens/entities. Meritorious submissions from non-eligible persons and entities, if any, will be recognized in publications issued by the Seeker announcing the results of the competition, such as press releases.  Non-U.S citizens/permanent residents or non-U.S entities can also be included on U.S. teams.  However, prizes — whether monetary or otherwise — will only be awarded to eligible persons and entities under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S.C. § 3719).


About The Seeker:  The Bureau of Reclamation is the sponsoring agency for this prize competition and is an agency of the United States Federal Government with a mission to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public ( 

About The Collaborators:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army, U.S Army Corps of Engineers, the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation, and the Water Research Foundation are collaborating with Reclamation on various aspects of this Challenge such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion. 

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What is a Theoretical Challenge?

An InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge builds upon an idea but is not yet a proof of concept. A solution to a Theoretical Challenge will solidify the Solver's concept with detailed descriptions, specifications and requirements necessary to bringing a good idea closer to becoming an actual product or service. For details about treatment of IP rights, please see the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

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