Smarter for Water: Innovations and Solutions to Water Scarcity

Philippine Water Challenge ends in :


Philippine Water Challenge Organizers : 


Innovations have shown to help address real-world problems. The pressing challenge to safe water and safely managed sanitation facilities is one such problem that can benefit from innovative ideas and tools.

The Philippine Water Challenge (PhlWC) is designed as a platform to generate promising innovations, support improvements and promote scale-up of innovations.[1]

The PhlWC is organized by the USAID Safe Water Project in collaboration with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, Manila Water Company, and Maynilad Water Services – all committed to providing access to improved water supply and sanitation services and ensuring a water-secure future.

The first PhlWC took place from May 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 and they have since made improvements in their innovations. The PhlWC has also provided  the winners an opportunity to market their innovations to a wider audience.


The PhlWC 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.

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


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

The threat to water scarcity is increasing each year. Rapid population growth, urbanization and increased demand from industrial activities exert pressure on water supply faster than the water sector can develop new sources, and certainly faster than the feasible recharge of groundwater. Climate change poses a huge risk on reliability of water supply 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 places heavy pressure on neighboring water resources. The uneven availability of water supply across regions of the country shows worrying deficits 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 Niño episodes. Areas that are over-dependent on groundwater have seen aquifer levels drying up 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]



Reduce, Reuse and Recycle approaches are 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 Master Plan (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.

WDM 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.

For the 2nd second round,[4] the Philippine Water Challenge focuses on technical solutions for that are applicable for reducing, reusing, and recycling water.

Through the use of technologies that reduce, recycle and reuse water, consumers and providers can ensure the water availability during times of short supply. Practices that reduce, reuse and recycle water result in volumes of water saved, maintenance costs reduced, and coping mechanisms enhanced during times of water scarcity.  Water-challenged countries such as Israel, Jordan, Singapore and South Africa have undertaken a combination of WDM measures: from policy, economic instruments, behavioral change campaigns and technological measures to cope with the uncertainty of water availability.

Water recycling is reusing treated wastewater 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.

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

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?

  1. Solutions that offer potential economic benefits to large water users or water service providers through savings on water consumption or efficient operations
  1. 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; or treatment of wastewater or systems for capture and reuse of rainwater.

  1. Solutions that are commercially available but with limited market exposure
  2. Original solutions and/or improvements over existing foreign or local technology

[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)

[4] First PhlWC Round was from June 2021 to Dec 2022




Who can 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 present in the Philippines
  • Large enterprises, including large water utilities, are ineligible to participate
Read Terms and Conditions.


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

Before you start an application

Please read PhlWC objectives, challenge theme, eligibility requirements (what solutions are we looking for and who can participate), and evaluation criteria thoroughly before applying. Review if your water solution is relevant to the PhlWC objectives and fit the eligibility requirements. For more information, please read the PhlWC Primer.

The application and selection process

Application Requirements

If you and your water solution are eligible to apply, download the Application Form. Applications can only be submitted via email to Submit a completely accomplished application form including financials section and attach the following:

  • Video Submission Guidelines
  • Photos of your water solution
  • Supporting documents such as written testimonials of beneficiaries and partners (if no video submitted), published articles, other relevant proof of concept
Download Application Form Read Terms and Conditions.

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

Screening & Evaluation

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).