American-Made Challenges

Waves to Water

Waves to Water

Accelerate the development of wave-powered desalination systems to provide drinking water in disaster relief and coastal locations.
Judging Closed
$2.5 million in total prizes

Challenge Overview


The U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office invites you to submit your ideas to develop wave powered desalination systems for the Waves to Water Prize. The Waves to Water Prize is a 4-Stage, $2.5M contest to accelerate the development of small, modular, wave-powered desalination systems capable of providing potable drinking water in disaster relief scenarios and remote coastal locations.

The prize supports the integration of existing and novel wave energy generation technologies with water technologies that can deliver effective, consistent, durable and low-maintenance water delivery systems. The prize seeks to identify the ideal scale of wave energy innovation paired with water technologies that can serve niche markets such as disaster response, and advance the state of both wave energy devices and desalination technologies that could provide value in other markets as the technologies mature.




The prize has four stages, aimed to support concepts through demonstration, with the final stage culminating in an open water testing competition, where the systems will produce clean water using the power of waves. Innovators can currently apply for the DESIGN stage. 




The four stages of this prize will distribute a total of $2.5 million, and will provide access to testing and demonstrating solutions out in the ocean in the final DRINK Stage.



The purpose of this prize is to incentivize the creation of wave powered desalination systems that meet the following goals:

  • Flexibility in Varied Wave Conditions: Competitors must develop systems that can survive harsh wave conditions and operate under different wave conditions and different sites without major tuning to ensure operation at a wide variety of locations. All solutions that make it to the DRINK Stage will be evaluated at an open-water test site with an anticipated average- to low-energetic wave resources.
  • Easily Deployed: Systems must be able to be deployed in less than 48 hours, addressing the ability to deploy quickly and easily in a disaster response scenario where there is large uncertainty around site conditions.
  • Ship in a Standard Container: Technologies must fit into a predefined container – approximately 45 x 48 x 42 inches – to standardize the shipping constraints that face many disaster response and recovery scenarios.
  • Deliver Minimum Water Quality: The maximum total dissolved solids (TDS) for this competition is 1,000 mg/L. At the DRINK Stage, competitors will be scored higher if this threshold is exceeded and the water quality is closer to a target goal range of 300 - 600 TDS mg/L.
  • Operate without Environmental Degradation: Brine discharge, or other salt concentration issues from the process of desalinating water will need to be managed without creating environmental issues.

This prize is the first to be announced as part of the Department of Energy’s Water Security Grand Challenge. The challenge is focused on advancing transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for secure and affordable water.


For more information on the prize and the rules, please review the official rules for the application process and instructions for competing.

Updates 13

Challenge Updates

DESIGN Stage Winner Announcements Coming Soon!

May 7, 2020, 8 a.m. PDT by Tessa Greco

Thank you to the entire Waves to Water Prize Community for your engagement and interest throughout the DESIGN Stage. The Prize Administration Team is determining winners and expects to make a public announcement in the next month.

We appreciate your patience as we work through this process and look forward to announcing our DESIGN Stage winners soon!

COVID-19 Update for the Waves to Water Prize

March 23, 2020, 12:11 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

At EERE, we understand that due to the coronavirus outbreak, many of us have had to make adjustments to our business operations and practices in order to safeguard the health and safety of our communities. Due to the extraordinary circumstances in which we now find ourselves, EERE is reevaluating prize timelines. Further information coming soon.

All questions and answers related to this prize will be posted on the HeroX page at:

Thank you, competitors, for your continued efforts during this uncertain time. 

We hope that you and your loved ones are well and we look forward to hearing from you.

Technical Issues Fixed

March 13, 2020, 7:05 a.m. PDT by Jenny Wiegele

Hi teams, 


The technical issues have been corrected, so you shouldn't have any further issues submitting . The deadline will remain at 11:59pm MT this evening. 


Please reach out to us if you have any questions. Thank you!


-The Waves to Water Team

Submission Issues

March 13, 2020, 6:16 a.m. PDT by Jenny Wiegele

Hi teams, 


We've been alerted to the HeroX issue that's preventing you from submitting your applications today and are working with HeroX now to get this fixed. 


Please hang tight, and if it isn't fixed soon, we will extend the deadline until tomorrow to allow ample time for you to get your submission in. 


Thanks for your patience. 


-The Waves to Water Team

Eleventh Hour Tech Support

March 11, 2020, 5 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hi Innovators,

We know you must be hard at work, burning the midnight oil in anticipation of the DESIGN Stage deadline!

Just a quick update to let you know that while the submission deadline remains 11:59 p.m. ET on March 13, 2020, note that tech support will close at 7 p.m. ET, so please plan accordingly.

We’re looking forward to reviewing your creations,

- The Waves to Water Prize Team

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