Smarter for Water: Innovations and Solutions to Water Scarcity

Philippine Water Challenge ends in :


Philippine Water Challenge Organizers : 


The Philippine Water Challenge (PhlWC) is designed as a platform to generate promising innovations, support improvements and promote scale-up of application of such innovations in the water supply and sanitation sector (WSS).1 The PhlWC is organized by USAID Safe Water in collaboration with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. These partners are committed to providing improved access to WSS services to communities and building resilience to ensure a water secure future. It is an annual competition that aims to:

Identify innovative solutions that may include technologies, processes, and systems that will benefit both water service providers and users;

Identify community demonstration projects that can contribute to improved access to water and sanitation among water-stressed communities; and

Promote cross-sectoral collaboration to address water and sanitation-related challenges in these communities.

The first PhlWC took place from June to December 2021 with the themes: 1.) Solutions for Effective and Efficient Water Supply Management, and; 2) Solutions for Community Access to Safe Sanitation Facilities. Five winners were recognized and awarded for their solutions, and they have made improvements in their innovations using the prize money. The PhlWC has also enabled them to market their innovations to a wider audience.

Grand Prize

  • Low-Cost Digitization and Automation Solution in Management of Water Distribution System (Libmanan Water District) –

1st Prize

  • Slum upgrading through affordable supply of clean water and holistic approach to empower and improve lives of urban disadvantaged (E&V Water and Life Philippines / Tubig Pag-Asa) –
  • TUFFAd Tough on Toxins! Utilization of a module, customizable, and reusable zeolite water filter for low resource settings (ADAM Tech) –

2nd Prize

Project NexCities (Water Energy Nutrient Nexus in cities of the future): Wastewater to Fertilizer (De La Salle Araneta University) –;

1 The PhlWC is inspired by the World Water Challenge (WWC), an international contest for water solutions that started as follow-up activity to the 7th World Water Forum in 2015.


How to Manage Water Demand in the Face of Water Scarcity

Rapid population growth, economic development and increased demand from industrial activities exert pressure on water supply faster than the water sector can develop new sources, and certainly faster than feasible recharge of the environment. Climate change poses a huge risk on reliability of water given inconsistent rainfall and longer dry spells. Hotter temperatures increase water demand from households, commercial users and agriculture. Water scarcity will be exacerbated as rapid urbanization place heavy pressure on neighboring water resources. The chart below illustrates the  regional water availability outlook by 2025.(2)

Water scarcity already affects many parts of the country. The hydrologic studies conducted by Safe Water in the different watersheds bear this out. Many parts of the country have been experiencing water deficits, particularly during El Nino episodes. Areas that are over- dependent on groundwater have seen drying up of aquifer levels resulting in frequent water stress situations. Continuing degradation of watersheds will further constrain water availability unless conservation and adaptation interventions are put in place.

The 2022 World Water Development Report clearly states the vital role of innovation and technology in addressing the issue of water scarcity, safety and efficiency such as: remote sensing of water which can help with water accounting; non-revenue water remediation which reduces water system losses; the internet of things which enables smart irrigation, water quality control, and when coupled with new computing capacity, allows us to develop complex models for water management. Working with companies that offer the latest technological innovations in the sector can help advance such efforts.(3)


2 Cited by R. Gamboa, Water Convergence Forum, General Santos City April 22,2022. Source: Tabios, G. and R. Villaluna. (2011). Status, Challenges and Proposed National Water Management Superbody for the Philippine Water Resources Sector Development Plan.

3 World Water Development Report ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible, Visible’ (WWDR 2022



For the second round,4 the Philippine Water Challenge adopts the theme of managing water use through water efficiency technologies that are applicable for reducing, reusing, and recycling water.

The water sector refers to the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle approaches collectively as part of technological measures for Water Demand Management (WDM). WDM is an effective strategy necessary to increase available water supply, which involves water conservation and increased water use efficiency.

The Philippine Water Supply and Sanitation Roadmap (PWSSMP) defines WDM as any measure, whether administrative, economic, financial, technical or social, designed to achieve reduction in the usage of available water. WDM is one of the key result areas in the PWSSMP on balancing water supply and demand, i.e., policies, guidelines and measures that will manage finite water resources with end users.

Safe Water is adopting the abovementioned WDM definition in its WDM Framework (Figure 1). The framework includes a basket of interventions on policy, institutional reforms to improve the enabling environment for WDM; utility governance improvement and capacity building, strengthening of enforcement of laws and policies supporting WDM, technical solutions and communication and advocacy for conservation or efficient water use. Given the broad scope of WDM, the PhlWC is focusing on the technical solutions.


Through the use of technologies that reduce, recycle and reuse water, consumers and providers can ensure the availability during times of short supply.


Practicing WDM, by households, industries and the public sector, will help ease the pressure on water resources specifically minimizing or halting unsustainable use of renewable and non-renewable resources. It reduces maintenance and energy costs as reduction of water consumption will result to lesser energy needed to filter, heat and pump water for industrial processes and households. With more available water, coping mechanisms are enhanced especially during times of water scarcity.

Water reduction is minimizing or decreasing water footprint through water efficiency measures. Examples include use of water-saving devices (low-flow water fixtures), re-designing industrial processes to reduce water consumption (elimination of single-pass cooling, optimization of cooling tower efficiency), among others.

Water reuse is capturing wastewater, rainwater, saltwater or graywater for reuse of households or commercial establishments. Treatment of captured water depends on the purpose of reuse.

Examples of technologies in capturing water and/or transforming it for reuse include rainwater harvesting, seawater desalination, and graywater reuse systems for watering gardens, washing cars and flushing toilets.

Water recycling is reclaiming wastewater and treating it for beneficial purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing a ground water basin (referred to as ground water recharge). Countries like Singapore and Cyprus recycle wastewater into drinking water and call this “new water.” Although the cost of the treatment is high, the economic returns are higher, making it worthwhile for them to invest in water treatment.

Presently, the Philippines has no systemic water reuse program, but there are some good examples of commercial and industrial establishments doing it. These are usually the big water users who realize financial savings from re-using wastewater mostly for non-potable use.

By supporting solutions that reduce, recycle and reuse water, the Philippine Water Challenge hopes to promote technologies that households, water service providers, and commercial users may adopt to make the most of the water we have.

What solutions are we looking for?

Solutions that offer potential economic benefits to large water users or water service providers through savings on water consumption or efficient operations

Low-cost and easy-to-maintain solutions that can be adopted by households and communities

These solutions may be apps that support implementation of water reduce, recycle and reuse measures or devices, gadgets or fixtures that allows reduction in water use, and water loss; treatment of wastewater or systems for capture and reuse of rainwater.

Solutions that are commercially available but with limited market exposure

Original solutions and/or improvements over existing foreign or local technology

Rainwater harvesting (RWH) offers an opportunity to offset freshwater use. Use of collected rainwater for outdoor water uses such as watering landscape and washing reduces

the use of potable water. With additional filtration and disinfection, harvested rainwater can also be treated to potable standards to supplement municipal potable water supplies.

The Philippines receives approximately 2,400 millimeters of rainfall each year, one of the highest in the world. However, the country harvests only around 6 percent of its rainwater, compared to India, which harvests around 60 percent of the 700-millimeter average rainfall it receives each year.5 Large- scale RWH is currently being done in very few places in the country. In Baguio City at its Sto. Tomas reservoir site, water is stored during the rainy season and used only during the summer months, when demand is higher.

[4] First PhlWC Round was from June to December 2021




Who are ELIGIBLE to participate

The competition is open to early-stage innovations with prototypes or limited commercial availability. The innovation is at a stage doing activities such as research development, product business development, and marketing research to finalize its product or services. With a strong product market-fit and may be earning revenues although not in commercial operation and may not be profitable yet.

Individuals or groups may participate in the Challenge:

  • Groups or organizations such as local government units (LGUs), small water utilities, academic institutions, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations, cooperatives, social enterprises, or foundations
  • Individuals above 18 years of age regardless of profession
  • Other nationalities are welcome to submit entries for as long as their solutions are applied/ tested in the Philippines
  • Large enterprises, including large water utilities, are ineligible to participate
Read Terms and Conditions.


PhlWC will select five (5) winners and recognize them during the Awarding Event and World Water Day celebration on March 22, 2023.


To Apply, please follow these steps:

Go to 2nd Philippine Water Challenge (PhlWC) website – water-challenge-year-2/ to learn more about the challenge.

You may apply for yourself or nominate another person or entity.


Download and accomplish the application form. Get the application form here.



Summary of the solution (maximum of 500 words

    • Context of development of the solution: how the idea came about
    • Objectives: what problem or needs are being addressed
    • The solution or implementation strategy
    • Summary of the solution (maximum of 500 words
    • Results achieved to date
    • Cost/budget

4. Submit the application together with the following supporting documents:

    • High resolution picture of the solution (in JPEG or PNG format).
    • If solution is a process, a short video clip may also be submitted. Refer to the Video Guidelines here.
    • Testimonial of at least two (2) individuals who have experienced or knowledge of the solution for
    • Published articles
    • Other proof of concept

5. Submit application and supporting documents via email to

Download Application Form Read Terms and Conditions.


All entries will be evaluated rigorously based on the following criteria:

Screening and selection

1. PhlWC Secretariat will check applications for completeness and advise applicants to submit missing information. Secretariat will forward complete applications to the Screening Committee

2. Screening Committee will assess the entries against the criteria. Screening Committee shall recommend the finalists to the Board of Jurors

3. Board of Jurors will evaluate the finalists. Finalists may be requested to present their solutions to the Board of Jurors. The PhlWC Secretariat will provided the presentation guidelines to the finalists.

4. Secretariat will notify the winners and other details of the Awarding Event scheduled on the World Water Day, March 22, 2023

Philippine Water Challenge (PhlWC) FAQ

What is the Philippine Water Challenge or PhlWC?

The Philippine Water Challenge (PhlWC) is the first-ever platform to generate promising innovations, support improvements and promote scale-up of application of such innovations. Watch to learn more:

What is the purpose of the PhlWC?

The PhlWC is an annual competition that aims to identify innovative solutions that will benefit both water services providers and users; identify community demonstration projects; and, promote cross-sectoral collaboration to address water and sanitation challenges.

Who are the organizers of the PhlWC?

The PhlWC is organized by the USAID Safe Water Project in collaboration with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, Manila Water Company, Inc., and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. 

Why participate in the PhlWC?

The 2nd PhlWC calls for solutions that will help households and institutions manage water demand in the face of water scarcity.

What solutions are we looking for?

For the 2nd second round, the Philippine Water Challenge focuses on technical solutions for that are applicable for reducing, reusing, and recycling water.

Who can participate?

The PhlWC invites the following to participate:

  • Groups/organizations such as LGUs, water utilities, NGOs, academic institutions, barangays, peoples organizations, cooperatives, social enterprises or foundations
  • Individuals above 18 years old of age regardless of profession

Large water utilities are ineligible to participate

How to participate in the PhlWC?

Registration for applicants to take part in the challenge will start on August 31, 2022 via Submit the completed Application Form including financials section via email to Don’t forget to attach videos, photos, or other supporting documents. Watch to learn more:

How will teams be judged?

This year’s judging process will be based on several factors including

  • Relevance and Effectiveness
  • Benefits/Impact
  • Market Potential and Replicability
  • Innovativeness
  • Environmental Soundness and Compliance with applicable standards

Who will be judging?

The top entries shall be sent to the Board of Jurors represented by these organizations:

  • NEDA
  • Maynilad
  • Manila Water
  • Coca-cola Foundation

Will there be prizes?

The PhlWC will be awarding five winning solutions:

  • One Champion solution will receive Php 300,000 in cash as partnership fund; mentoring support from PhlWC partner organizations.
  • One First place solution will receive Php 200,000 in cash as partnership fund; mentoring support from PhlWC partner organizations.
  • One Second Place solution will receive Php 100,000 in cash as partnership fund; mentoring support from PhlWC partner organizations.
  • Two Runners-up will each receive Php 75,000 in cash as partnership fund; mentoring support from PhlWC partner organizations


 USAID Safe Water Project 

The Safe Water Project is a five-year (December 2019 to December 2024) technical assistance project funded by the USAID and implemented by DAI as the Prime Contractor. The primary purpose of the Safe Water Project is to improve water security of water-stressed communities in the Philippines. At the conclusion of the Safe Water Project, local government units (“LGUs”), WSPs  and watershed committees in the targeted provinces and cities will have the information, incentives, and partnerships to identify and address barriers to a water-secure future— yielding life-saving gains in access to water supply and sanitation services for unserved and underserved households. Poor access to reliable water supply  and the pervasive problem of sanitation pose critical challenges to the well-being and resilience of communities.


Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation 

PDRF was established in 2009 as concrete expression of the private sector commitment to address the needs of disaster-stricken communities and support reconstruction programs. In 2013, PDRF was reorganized and intensified as the umbrella organization of the private sector for disaster preparedness, relief, and recovery. Corresponding programs were created for post-disaster recovery in five key sectors: (a) shelter, (b) livelihood, (c) education, (d) environment, and (e) water, infrastructure, sanitation, and health. Through strategic partnerships with the private sector, PDRF addresses gaps in the supply and quality of water resources, strengthens the resilience of public infrastructure, and broadens community access to health facilities.

Manila Water Company, Inc.

Manila Water Company,  Inc. (“MWCI”) is a publicly-listed water and wastewater services company that has presence in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Founded in 1997 as the water utility concessionaire for the east zone of the Philippine capital, Manila Water has since expanded its operations to other areas in the Philippines through Manila Water Philippine Ventures (MWPV), and has established a presence in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia through Manila Water Asia Pacific (MWAP).  Manila Water Total Solutions, another subsidiary, serves as an incubator of water and environment-related solutions .  Manila Water Foundation is the corporate social investments affiliate. 

Maynilad Water Services Inc.

Maynilad is the water and wastewater services provider for the 17 cities and municipalities that comprise the West Zone of the Metropolitan Manila area. Maynilad focuses on delivering sustainable water solutions—meeting the needs of customers, caring for shared water resources, and ensuring that the business is properly managed, from human resources to operations. Guided by the 3 Pillars of Sustainability—People, Progress, and Planet—Maynilad’s main focus is on sustainable development contributions of its core products and services, management of the key impacts of its business activities, and management of its community impact and social advocacy. Its social responsibility programs include Plant for Life, Daloy Dunong, Ginhawa Gardening, GinhaW.A.S.H. Kapwa, Green Badge, and Pag-asa sa Patubig Partnerships (water-for-the-poor program).