DOINews: Three Teams Take Top Honors in Desal Prize at Bureau of Reclamation's Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility

Last edited 09/05/2019

Photo of first-place winners: MIT/Jain teamThe MIT/Jain Irrigation Systems team takes first place in Desal Prize Competition. Learn more about the competition and other winners in the Bureau of Reclamation news release below and at Photo by Alexander Stephens, Reclamation.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Agency for International Development have announced the April 9 to 11 Desal Prize winners — Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Jain Irrigation Systems, University of Texas at El Paso Center for Inland Desalination System, and Green Desal.

Five finalist innovator teams had competed for $200,000 in prize funds in head-to-head demonstrations at Reclamation's Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, N.M. However, only the top three teams will receive grant funds totaling $400,000 to implement pilot projects in late summer or early fall with small-holder rural farmers in a USAID mission region.

“The Bureau of Reclamation was proud to host this international competition at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility, which included 68 applications from 29 countries,” Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said. “Providing a sustainable water supply is important for the West, the country and the world. The knowledge gained from this competition will not only assist in the goals of the prize competition, it will inform brackish groundwater treatment technologies here in the United States.”

The Desal Prize is a three-phase, incentivized competition that challenged worldwide innovators to create cost-effective, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable desalination technologies that can provide potable water for humans and water for crops in developing countries. After rigorous testing and evaluation by a panel of expert judges, the following are the Desal Prize top winners:

First Place: MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems designed a photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis-reversal system that desalinates water-using electricity to pull charged particles out of the water and further disinfects using ultraviolet rays. The system was designed for low energy consumption, limiting costs especially in off-grid areas.

Second Place: University of Texas at El Paso Center for Inland Desalination System designed a Zero Discharge Desalination technology that reduces water waste in the desalination of groundwater by conventional processes. Electrodialysis uses voltage to remove undesirable ions from water.

Honorable Mention: Green Desal, a team comprising the Asian Institute of Technology & Management, National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension, State University of Ponta Grossa, Technion-Israel University of Technology, and University of North Texas, developed a high-percent recovery system that integrates proven technologies in reverse osmosis, ion exchange, nano-filtration, re-mineralization and disinfection.

The Desal Prize, launched in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, is the second “call” under the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development. The “first” call focused on innovation in later stages of the innovation lifecycle (market-driven product/business development and scaling/commercial growth).

To learn more about Securing Water for Food or the Desal Prize, visit and follow @SecuringWater on Twitter.

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