American-Made Challenges

Waves to Water Prize

The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a new prize, aligned with the recently announced Water Security Grand Challenge. The Waves to Water prize is a 4-Stage competition that offers up to $2.5 million in cash prizes, with a goal to demonstrate small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems that use the power of ocean waves to provide clean drinking water for disaster recovery and for remote and coastal communities.


graphic image of a wave pouring into a clear drinking glass, with the Waves to Water Prize title over a background image of an ocean wave.

The Waves to Water Prize is a 4-Stage, $2.5M contest to accelerate technology innovation in wave energy powered desalination systems. These technologies hold the potential to deliver clean water to communities for disaster relief purposes, and to remote communities throughout the globe. Over almost two years, the prize will provide innovators a pathway from initial concept, to technical design, to prototype, to field testing systems that provide clean, abundant drinking water using only waves as a power source.

stage 1 marker - a cup of water with a single wave icon

Stage I: CONCEPT

90 DAYS: June 13, 2019 to September 11, 2019

Competitors should describe how their proposed solution meets the goals of the program. Submissions should detail the functionality of the wave energy generation technology, desalination technology, and the proposed integration methods. This includes describing the risks and difficulties of the system, and proposed solutions to these issues. And competitors should detail how their solution has any other benefits, including potential to scale or other value streams. Competitors will be evaluated based on the level of innovation of their proposed idea, the feasibility of their system, scale-up and other benefits, and their team. Up to 20 winners will receive a $10,000 prize.


stage 2 marker - a cup of water with a dual wave icon

Stage II: DESIGN

90 DAYS: October 2019 to January 2020 (anticipated)

Competitors in the DESIGN Stage will develop a technical plan and supporting analysis of their wave-powered desalination system. Submissions should focus on two major components: (1) A detailed design of their wave-powered desalination system, including modeling to support their claims of performance if a prototype of the system is built; and (2) a plan to build a prototype of their system, including how major risks will be addressed if the submission wins and the team advances to the CREATE Stage. Teams that demonstrate they have the technical capability and sufficient plans to build a functional or proof-of-concept prototype will be awarded a cash prize. There will be up to 20 winners, who will share equally a total funding amount of $800,000, but not to exceed $100,000 per team even if less than 8 winners are selected. Any eligible entity may compete in the DESIGN Stage regardless of whether they were a competitor in the CONCEPT Stage.


stage 3 marker - a cup of water with a triple wave icon

Stage III: CREATE

180 DAYS: February 2020 to August 2020 (anticipated)

Competitors in this stage will have 180 days to build a functional prototype or proof-of-concept of their system, and develop a plan to build and deliver their technology for the DRINK Stage. Up to 5 - 10 winners will be awarded equally from a total prize pool of up to $500,000, but not to exceed $150,000 each, even if less than 4 winners are selected. Any eligible entity may compete in the CREATE Stage regardless of whether they were a competitor in the DESIGN or CONCEPT Stage.


stage 4 marker - a cup of water with a quadruple wave icon

Stage IV: DRINK

180 DAYS: October 2020 to April 2021 (anticipated)

Winners of the CREATE Stage will have to up to 180 days to build and ship their systems to a designated test site to conduct a test for up to 5 days. The site will be a testing environment in the ocean. Competitors will compete on efficiency, logistics, and system integration metrics, and will be scored on ability to meet minimal thresholds, and how they performed against the defined metrics. Only winners of the CREATE Stage can participate in the DRINK Stage.

Multiple winners will be selected, including:
Grand Prize: A grand prize in the amount of $500,000 will be awarded to the competitor with the best overall score.
Individual Metrics Prizes: There will be other prizes awarded to the competitors for a total prize pool of $500,000.

Final determination by the Prize Administrator for winners of each stage will take advisory judges' scores and interview findings (if applicable) into account. The Director of the Water Power Technologies Office is the judge of the competition and will make the final determination.

The American-Made Challenges Prize platform, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, provides the structure and resources needed to move ideas from initial concept, to technical design, to prototyping, to field-tested systems that provide clean, abundant drinking water using only waves as a power source. This platform brings together America’s world-class research base with its unparalleled entrepreneurial support system – consisting of pioneering university teams, dozens of energy incubators, and 16 national laboratories – to create a sweeping portfolio of innovations primed for private investment and commercial scale-up.


Who can participate?


Entrepreneurs, technologists, hardware developers, and investors are all welcome and encouraged to join the American Made Challenge Network and be part of the ground-breaking change that will accelerate innovation in desalination and marine renewable energy technologies.



Important Dates


  • Release of Prize: June 13, 2019
  • CONCEPT Stage Closes: September 11, 2019
  • CONCEPT Stage Winners Announcement: October 2019
  • DESIGN Stage: October 2019 – January 2020
  • CREATE Stage: February 2020 – August 2020
  • DRINK Stage: November 2020 – April 2021
  • Grand Prize Winner Announcement: Spring 2021

All dates are subject to change including contest openings, deadlines, and announcements. Final dates for the opening of the DESIGN, CREATE, and DRINK Stages will be posted here and on the HeroX site.

Sign up for updates on our HeroX challenge page.

Solutions that help shape the future

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

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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