Habitat for Humanity Challenge: Affordable Water Harvesting for Low-Income Households in Urban Areas

$25,000 USD

Challenge overview


Everyone has the right to access sanitized water for personal and domestic consumption in a sufficient, healthy, acceptable and affordable way. On the planet, more than 768 million people do not have access to drinking water, since only 0.007% of the existing water on Earth is drinkable, and that amount is reduced year after year due to pollution. Therefore, Habitat for Humanity is looking for affordable water harvesting solutions for use in urban areas, with a particular focus on approaches applicable to low-income households in Mexico where more than a third of homes suffer from water shortages.

This is a Reduction-to-Practice Challenge that requires written documentation and proof-of-concept demonstration data if available.



In Mexico, 67% of the territory is classified as an arid or semi-arid area. The lowest annual availability of water is found in the Valley of Mexico (Mexico City and its metropolitan area) with barely 186 m3 per inhabitant. Even though 98.7% of homes in Mexico City have piped water, 36% of its homes suffer from water shortages and each year more homes are experiencing supply cuts. However, the crisis in the Valley of Mexico is not due to a real lack of water. In Mexico City there is a natural abundance of water, but it is poorly managed. For several months out of the year, torrential rains fall on the city, saturating the drainage and flooding entire neighborhoods. What if this water could be collected, stored, and used? Habitat for Humanity is seeking low-cost solutions to harvest rain and remove impurities, so that the water (once boiled) is suitable for human consumption.

The submission to the Challenge should include the following:

  1. A detailed description of the proposed Solution and how it addresses each Technical Requirement presented in the Detailed Description of the Challenge. This description should be accompanied by a well-substantiated rationale for the design, annotated drawings, and cost estimates.
  2. Proof-of-concept demonstration data, if available, showing implementation of the proposed solution.

The Challenge award is contingent upon theoretical evaluation and field demonstration or validation of the submitted Solutions by the Seeker.

To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive Intellectual Property (IP) rights to the Seeker. Instead, Solvers will grant to Habitat for Humanity a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions and the right to share awarded solutions with other nonprofit and for profit organizations worldwide. Habitat for Humanity will make awarded solutions freely available to other nonprofit and for profit organizations to help improve the state of low-income housing worldwide.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on July 5, 2021. 

Late submissions will not be considered.



Employees and interns of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), as well as their immediate family members (spouse, parent, child, sibling, and their respective spouses) or persons living in the same household, whether related or not, are eligible to enter the Challenge; provided that they will not be eligible to receive an award if their Solution is chosen.  In addition, the Solutions of employees and interns of HFHI will fall under HFHI’s employment policies and be considered work product of HFHI. Please note, employees and interns of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates and independent National Organizations are eligible to enter and receive an award if their Solution is chosen.



Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in more than 70 countries around the world. Habitat’s vision is of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.  Habitat works toward our vision by building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing.

Through the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS), Habitat for Humanity facilitates more efficient and inclusive housing market systems, making affordable housing possible for millions more families.

Habitat for Humanity formally launched the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter at the historic Habitat III, which took place in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. The Terwilliger Center is one of Habitat’s key commitments toward the implementation of the United Nation’s member states’ New Urban Agenda.

The Terwilliger Center consolidates more than a decade of experience in developing market-based solutions for housing and the body of work resulting from these early efforts, formerly referred to as the Center for Innovation in Shelter and Finance. Through the Terwilliger Center, Habitat will accelerate and facilitate better functioning inclusive housing markets to enable more than 8 million people access to improved shelter solutions by 2020 (www.habitat.org/tcis).

Habitat is supported in this project by SeaFreight Labs (www.seafreightlabs.com), an open-innovation consultancy using global challenges to cost-effectively deliver breakthrough innovation. Participation in this project is a direct result of the recent SeaFreight Labs decision to join the Pledge 1% movement.


What is InnoCentive?

InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.

What is an RTP Challenge?

An InnoCentive RTP (Reduction to Practice) Challenge is a prototype that proves an idea, and is similar to an InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge in its high level of detail. However, an RTP requires the Solver to submit a validated solution, either in the form of original data or a physical sample. Also, the Seeker is allowed to test the proposed solution. For details about treatment of Intellectual Property (IP) rights, please see the Challenge Specific Agreement.

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