The Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge awards prize money to three projects that best demonstrate how they can provide sustainable access to safe water or sanitation where it is presently at risk. Projects must have clear practical applicability, address identified needs and advance related issues such as health, education or human rights.
How to enter
The 2014 Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge is open to individuals or organizations operating in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Projects must advance sustainable access to safe water or improved sanitation where it is presently at risk and include the following criteria:
- Be replicable, scalable and sustainable and set a benchmark for innovation
- Have practical applicability
- Address non-discrimination/equity of access
- Involve and impact a range of stakeholders
- Have local/community-level engagement
This is the fourth year that Reed Elsevier (Elsevier's parent company) has held this challenge.
There is a $50,000 prize for the first place entry and a $25,000 prize for the second place entry. Applicants are offered access to Elsevier's scientific online publications and databases, and for the first time, all applicants will be offered access to LexisNexis Risk Solution's open source high performance computing (HPCC) resource, to allow them to process large amounts of research data, supported by online training. Winning projects will be highlighted in Elsevier journal Water Research.
For the second year, a $15,000 WASH Alliance prize will be given for the third prize project. The Dutch WASH Alliance is a consortium of six Dutch NGOs promoting access to and hygienic use of sustainable water and sanitation. The WASH Alliance will provide reviewers, judges and funding for the competition, and up to $2,500 towards relevant training and professional development for each winner.
The Environmental Challenge also contributes to the Water for Life Decade (2005-15) established by the UN General Assembly in support of the Millennium Development Goal to reduce by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
In addition, it ties into Elsevier's aim to facilitate the exchange and dissemination of scientific information – in this case, information on improving access to a sustainable water supply and sanitation.
2013 winners and their projects
The winner of the $50,000 first prize was "Introduction of Improved Toilet Shelters for Increased Sanitation Coverage," developed by WaterSHED.
An estimated 1.8 million households in rural Cambodia do not have access to safe sanitation. WaterSHED's goal is to use local market channels to improve the supply of Cambodia's safe, sustainable, and affordable sanitation products and services. WaterSHED's research demonstrates that Cambodians desire a shelter for sanitation facilities, and will not purchase a latrine without an appropriate accompanying structure.
The Environmental Challenge award will enable WaterSHED to iteratively design and test-market a solution to improve access to toilet facilities for a significant portion of rural Cambodians, providing an affordable, attractive and accessible shelter using durable, environmentally safe materials.
WaterSHED predicts their efforts will encourage more than 50,000 households to build latrines within the next two years, with far-reaching impacts across the region. [divider]
The $25,000 second prize was awarded to "Sustainable and scalable arsenic remediation of groundwater in South Asia," developed by Gadgil Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.
Deaths and disease are linked to high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in untreated groundwater throughout South Asia. Gadgil Lab, UC Berkeley, aims to bring safe water to local communities in West Bengal through their invention, Electro-Chemical Arsenic Remediation (ECAR). ECAR removes arsenic using ordinary steel plates and low DC voltage; its performance exceeds international standards for arsenic-safety across diverse groundwater conditions, and produces less waste sludge than conventional methods.
ECAR is rapidly scalable, directly addressing causes of previous failure through a focus on maintenance, ongoing education, affordability, and quality control.
The award will be used to distribute arsenic-safe water from the ECAR prototype to school children in West Bengal, in collaboration with school administration and its management committees. Schools will serve as educational hubs for awareness and community involvement, and social marketing. Excess water will be sold at locally affordable prices to the village community. [divider]
WASH Alliance prize
The $15,000 WASH Alliance prize was awarded to "WaterMonitor: Managing water supply and engaging communities at scale," developed by Text to Change.
The UN Joint Monitoring Program has estimated that water points in Africa fail between 30-60 percent of the time, while mobile phone penetration in Africa is approaching 60% and growing. Text to Change will develop a mobile communication tool called WaterMonitor to improve access to water in Uganda, helping map and extend the lifetime of the country's water points.
WaterMonitor will allow stakeholders in the water value chain to map, monitor, and manage water infrastructure. Users will send a free SMS using simple codes to water companies containing all the relevant information needed for a repair, allowing water companies to respond more quickly.
The Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge award will be used to map Uganda's water points and for engagement with communities on WaterMonitor through traditional media such as radio, television, and posters, and mobile phone alerts. [divider]
Emmy Stevens, Corporate Responsibility Associate for Reed Elsevier, is managing the 2014 Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge. She is based in London.