Oakland, CA — In-ground soil moisture sensors, a system to recover clean water from oil and natural gas production, and an online dashboard that analyzes investor risk that from changes in global watersheds were among the finalists named for this year’s Imagine H2O Prize. This year’s prize — the inaugural global competition — rewards business plans that offer the greatest promise of breakthroughs in the efficient use and supply of water.

If all of the finalists’ proposed businesses were realized, they would save more than one trillion gallons of water annually.

With more than fifty teams from all over the world submitting entries, “the competition has already exceeded our wildest expectations,” says Brian Matthay, the competition’s program manager. Created to help find sustainable solutions to global water problems through entrepreneurship, the competition offers prizes of $70,000 in cash, business and legal support, and access to a network of partners, customers and financiers to help bring their ideas to market.

“Only a small number of water start-ups receive angel and venture investment each year. Our team did an extensive search to find an impressive number of promising water start-ups looking for support,” says Tamin Pechet, Imagine H2O’s Chairman. “More importantly, the Prize actually inspired some water start-ups to put together their teams and business plans that might not have done so otherwise.”

It was more than the quantity of entries that was surprising. “It was very difficult for the judges to limit the finalists to only ten,” says Ralph Petroff, member of the judging panel and a water technology CEO for 20 years, who currently advises technology start-ups as CEO of Magna Vista Group. “I have no doubt that many of these business plans will become the foundations for successful and profitable water companies. The high caliber of the business plans is an excellent validation that water efficiency is the next key clean-tech market.”

“A competition like this is long overdue,” echoes Rob Steiner, co-founder of finalist WaterSmart Software, who has been in the water sector for many years.

Entries were submitted from the United States, India, Europe, Canada and Australia. Teams included CEOs of publicly traded companies, consultants in the water business as well as MBA students. The 10 finalists include:

  • The Eco Products Group has developed proprietary products that will enable a consumer to reduce the use of potable water, create a sanitary sink environment and reclaim gray water.
  • EcoBeta is an online dashboard that gives investors and managers actionable data on the risk that they face from changes in global watersheds.
  • Envirocern delivers ultrapure water to semiconductor foundries using proprietary distillation technology that provides large quantities of water at extremely low cost.
  • Fruition Sciences is a technology-enabled information business that offers a solution for winemakers and vineyard managers who want to produce top quality, sustainably (optimized irrigation and management practices) farmed wines, year after year.
  • Intelligent Irrigation Solutions uses in-ground soil moisture sensors and advanced forecasting models that enable irrigation to be more efficient, ultimately reducing water consumption for irrigation by 20-40%.
  • Puralytics uses the latest advances in semiconductor and nanotechnology to solve the world's emerging water purification problems, with 100% water utilization, low energy, and environmentally sound products.
  • Quantaic employs a patented technology to recover clean water from oil and natural gas production processes, creating new water supplies while efficiently treating the industry's largest waste product -- produced water.
  • Rainwater HOG offers innovative rainwater storage.
  • The Soil Information System delivers the information essential to solving the problem of feeding the world in a truly sustainable manner.
  • WaterSmart partners with water utilities to optimize their water conservation programs, more quickly and cost-effectively meet their water efficiency objectives and help their customers save water, save money and get rewarded for their actions.

The competition’s inaugural prize focuses on water efficiency in agriculture, commercial, industrial or residential applications, such as water demand reduction, improved water use, water recycling and/or reuse. “There are alternate sources of energy, but there are no alternate sources of clean water,” says Petroff. “Increased water efficiency is the only solution. We will run out of clean water long before we run out of oil.”

Imagine H2O has financial backing from RBC, the Full Circle Fund, Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and other private foundations. Its growing list of partners includes the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the National Water Research Institute, Babson College, the Stanford University Conservation Program, and others.