Take on one of the most overlooked environmental issues. $20,000 prize pool

Take on one of the most overlooked environmental issues.


Waste not want not. Everyone talks about climate change with most of the discussion centering on global warming. What is often overlooked is just as serious: the short supply of fresh water. The world’s fresh water - the water needed for drinking, industry and sanitation — is about  2.5 percent of the world’s total - and most of that is frozen! This leaves us with a very small amount of water, and it’s up to the 6 billion people of Planet Earth to get wise to water sustainability.

Water is often wasted because it is under-priced. But think for a moment about what happens to something when it becomes scarce.  Basic human needs will continue to drive demand for water and ultimately drive up the cost for access. 


Because water is such a vital resource, all buildings - schools, hospitals, warehouses, apartment complexes - should include water efficiency as a goal.  Buildings use 13% of the total water consumed in the United States each day. This challenge will bring together the most innovative ideas to reduce/reuse water among new and existing facilities worldwide. When it comes to reducing water waste at a local level, the scale is so large that if you move the needle in a positive direction, the impact is huge.


Task Definition

Don’t let water go to waste!  H2Overhaul wants ideas which explore how new and existing buildings/facilities can use less water, reuse the water they currently use, and capture water to use on-site.

Look at this problem from three angles: 

  • Water-efficient Landscaping around the building site, e.g. How can the site be irrigated in new ways? How can we maximize the amount of captured rainwater on-site? 
  • Innovative Wastewater Technologies, e.g. What on-site solutions can be used to reduce wastewater and demand on potable water (i.e. drinkable water) to carry it away.
  • Water Use Reduction, e.g. How can sites reduce water from inside and lower their reliance on municipal water supplies?

Successful ideas will demonstrate at least one of the above concepts which tackles holistic water recycling: from wastewater (i.e. greywater, black water, drainwater) to reclaimed water (i.e. rainwater) to potable drinking water. 


Water is often wasted because it is under priced, but in considering the inverse of this concept - saving water should not be prohibitively expensive!  While the cost of water will invariably go up in the future, do not restrict proposals based on today’s costs: a good idea is a good idea, it is not just about cost savings!


All submissions should include a visually clear and detailed proposal describing an innovative, original process to reduce/reuse water in buildings. Video is optional.


Proposals should express which problem it is solving, how the idea solves the problem, and what the idea’s value is to the potential customers.


Target Group

H2Overload is focused on finding solutions which are able to scale to buildings such as schools (K-12), universities, hospitals, health care facilities, industrial factories, warehouses, shopping malls and apartment complexes in either rural or urban settings. Single-family homes are not included in this challenge.  

There are 4 groups who are involved in the decision to carry out water management:

  • Owners of the buildings

  • People responsible for the design

  • Companies that do installation and construction

  • The people responsible for keeping building operations efficient

Of the above, the building owners and the building operations people are the ones who endorse any proposed project.


The criteria for decisions has two parts. First is the balance between the cost of water versus the cost of the solution. Second is the intangible benefits for the greater community inherent in a solution. For instance, if a building is in a water-stressed area any effort at localized water sustainability will have immediate benefits.


  • Technological
  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Eco
  • Green
  • Scientific


Mandatory requirements

Sponsors of this challenge intend to include selected ideas that represent good business opportunities in next-generation green building projects around the world. Successful ideas will be combined into one system with global application. That said, concepts need to rely on reality-based fundamentals instead of dreamy what-if scenarios. The sponsors are looking to create a product road map for water management in buildings globally for the next 5-10 years. Successful ideas will balance creative thinking with ideas that also represent good business opportunities. 


Ideas will be evaluated on their:

  • Potential global real-world application

  • Creative/innovative solutions

  • Clarity and detail of proposal

  • Intellectual merit

  • Reliance on scientific and engineering principles

  • Contribution to societal or environmental benefit

  • Commercial feasibility (i.e. cost/value)   

Download material

Click on the following links to download working material and additional information related to the project.


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