Solving Water Issues: A $500 Billion Opportunity

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Imagine H2O, a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurs to turn water challenges into business opportunities,  today announced the winners  of its third annual prize competition.  

The winners were chosen from a competitive selection of finalists by Imagine H2O’s judging panel, a group of leading experts and investors in the water sector.  Highlighting that business plan innovation is critical to the long-term success of water startups, the winners were selected based on their commercial viability and promise.  This year’s prize attracted 50 startups led by serial entrepreneurs, experienced executives and campus engineering programs.

This year’s prize topic was wastewater, of which an estimated 90 percent goes untreated worldwide. The wastewater market is valued at $200 billion per year across the industrial, commercial and residential sectors worldwide.

About Imagine H2O

Imagine H2O is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire & empower people to solve water problems. Their vision is to turn water challenges into opportunities.

Imagine H2O was founded in 2007 by a team of leaders in the water, energy, and non-profit sectors at Harvard Business School. The group saw great opportunity in the world’s water crisis – $500 billion opportunity, for new ideas, new businesses, and new ways to help people and the planet. The H2O platform was born out of a need to answer some basic questions –

What does the water market look like in dollars?  What problems need solving?  Which of those are the best commercial opportunities?  Who should we connect with for help, advice, and partnership?

Imagine H2O wants to build “a Silicon Valley” for water innovation, the main focus behind their accelerator and prize programs.

About the Winners
Bilexys (Brisbane, Australia) is developing an alternative manufacturing platform for the production of chemicals and plastics. The Company’s process technologies involve bioelectrochemistry and the use of wastewater as the source of its raw materials. Traditionally, wastewater treatment has been viewed as an operating expense of an industrial complex. Bilexys approaches wastewater treatment as an opportunity to biologically convert the organics within wastewater into high-value chemical products (including sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide). The chemicals produced by the Bilexys method reduce the need for our clients to purchase and bring in chemicals, providing significant environmental and economic benefit to its customers, with potential payback within two years.

Tusaar, Inc (Lafayette, Colorado) is commercializing a unique media based technology to remove contaminating heavy-metals from multi-chemical process and waste water.  Using base technology licensed from the University of Colorado-Boulder, the team at Tusaar has developed a media that sequesters over 40 different metals from industrial waters and provides a solution to coal combustion fly ash pond management and related groundwater contamination, a serious problem for coal-fired power plants.  Tusaar media also enables customers to separate toxic waste metals from other hazardous chemicals thereby simplifying disposal and management.  Waste volume and related cost reduction of over 95% has been achieved at customer sites leading to payback in less than one year.

Nexus eWater (Canberra, Australia) harnesses the power of a home’s wastewater stream by converting gray water into near-potable water, while recycling the water’s energy for hot water heating. This decentralized solution allows homeowners to reduce water use and reduce their carbon footprint by internalizing water heating costs.  The executive team includes the former CEO co-founder of ADS Water and the former VP of Perpetual Water.

New Sky Energy (Boulder, Colorado) employs a chemical process that combines CO2 and industrial wastewater to make usable CO2-negative solids.  This process allows customers to profitably reduce CO2 emissions while manufacturing onsite the chemicals they use every day.  New Sky’s CEO, Deane Little, is a PhD molecular biophysicist.

Woman’s hand with water splash image via Shutterstock


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