American-Made Challenges

Water Resource Recovery Prize

Water is a critical resource for human health, economic growth, and agricultural productivity, but challenges to the United States freshwater supplies could threaten U.S. economic competitiveness and water security. Wastewater treatment plants are part of the challenge, purchasing about $2 billion of electricity each year and facing more than $200 billion in prospective capital investment needs to meet future water quality objectives.


To address this issue, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office launched the Water Resource Recovery Prize to accelerate the transition from conventional wastewater treatment to a model of resource recovery from municipal wastewater. Multidisciplinary teams competed in this two-phased competition, that offered up to $1 million in cash prizes for cutting-edge water treatment technology system configurations and business plans for small to midsize plants that could help lower the ultimate cost of treatment by extracting additional value from wastewater.



The Water Resource Recovery Prize: Advancing Transformational Water Treatment Technologies

Through this prize competition, DOE sought novel, systems-based solutions from multidisciplinary teams to implement resource recovery at small- to medium-sized water resource recovery facilities.

By presenting cost-effective and innovative facility engineering solutions, competing teams helped the Department of Energy identify transformational technology and innovation that coulddouble resource recovery and accelerate the transition from conventional wastewater treatment to a model of resource recovery from municipal wastewater across the United States.

Applications for participation were evaluated on demonstrated achievement of target recovery levels, with additional credit given for innovation and replicability. Beyond the cash prize, winners, and finalists had their plans published on a public-facing website to provide potential wastewater treatment recovery strategies that other wastewater treatment facilities might adopt.


Congratulations to our Grand Prize Winners!


Phase 2 is now closed and offered two Grand Prize Winners $250,000 in cash awards.


Entry Title Team (listed alphabetically) Location video
The Green Flush--Wastewater Sludge to Energy Genifuel Not Waste Salt Lake City, UT
SoMax HTC Transforms Waste Into Clean Energy SoMax BioEnergy Spring City, PA


Honorable Mention to our Phase 2 Finalists!


After a highly competitive selection, these four finalists earned honorable mention for their innovative, cutting-edge water treatment technology and plans that will help lower the cost of wastewater treatment.


Entry Title Team (listed alphabetically) Location video
Supercritical Water Resource Recovery 374Water Durham, NC
Phosphorous Recovery for a Sustainable Future Carbonxt Gainesville, FL
CCR's LTDis technology Crystal Clearwater Resources Frisco, TX
Integrated Biodigester Resource Recovery Project Impact Development Team Shoreline, WA

Congratulations to our Phase 1 Winners!


Phase 1 is now closed and offered $50,000 in cash awards to winning submissions.


Entry Title (listed alphabetically) Team Location
CCR's LTDis Technology, Creating a Solution Marina Foster Dallas, TX
Electrochemical Recovery: Fertilizer, Fuel, H2O Lauren Greenlee's Team Fayetteville, AK
Genifuel Not Waste Genifuel Salt Lake City, UT
Get it Fast, Get it Early: Energy from WW Solids Sebastien Tilmans's Team Stanford, CA
InSanirator; Shaping the Future of Sanitation InSanirator Cambridge, MA
Integrated Biodigester Resource Recovery Project Michael Smith Seattle, WA
Resource Recovery via HTC of Organic Waste Dan Spracklin Spring City, PA
Resource Recovery with SCWO Kobe Nagar Durham, NC
The Road to Energy Neutrality Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District Team DeKalb, IL
Sustainable Phosphorus Recovery Technology Regina Rodriguez's Team Gainesville, FL


Important Dates


  • Phase 1 submissions open: January 29, 2020
  • Phase 1 submissions close: May 28, 2020 (at 5pm ET)
  • Phase 1 notification: June 28, 2020
  • Phase 2 submissions open: September 9, 2020
  • Phase 2 submissions close: September 9, 2021
  • Phase 2 notification: November 9, 2021

Sign up for updates on our HeroX challenge page.


All dates are subject to change including contest openings, deadlines, and announcements.

Who can participate?


Small- to medium-sized WRRFs (defined by DOE as those facilities treating no more than 50 million gallons per day, based on a calendar year average), technology developers, resource customers (e.g., farmers, electric and gas utilities), academic researchers, regulators, business/financial interests, local governments and non-profit organizations were welcome and encouraged to compete. However, DOE expected that at least one WRRF was part of any successful submission.


Please review the Submission Requirements for more information.

Solutions that help shape the future

Aerial imagery of a water treatment facility.

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, facility or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can help promote transformation by participating in the American-Made Challenges.


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