Burning Man for Water Geeks

desal prize

I think Bloomberg Business perhaps believe too much of their own coverage, which portrays Burning Man as a contest between rival techno-billionaires trying to outdo each other with the latest innovations in art cars, blinky lights, and slavery sherpas and Mistresses of Merriment. This caused them to liken the USAID Global Development Lab’s Desal Prize competition to Black Rock City. I see desert, nerds, and solar panels, so I get the association…perhaps needs a little more nudity, drugs, and electronic music.

Still, this event sounds like a great one – and I wish there was more stuff like this at Burning Man.

Here’s the official press release from USAID:


For Immediate Release

Friday, March 21, 2014
USAID Press Office
202-712-4320 | Email:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Agency, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands announced the launch of the Desal Prize for innovations in brackish water desalination.  The Desal Prize is part of the $32 million Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development. The U.S. Bureau for Reclamation is providing support in the design and implementation of the prize.

USAID Global Water Coordinator Christian Holmes announced the prize at a U.S. Department of State event marking World Water Day, an annual global celebration highlighting the importance of freshwater resources. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren also spoke at the event.

“Water scarcity is one of today’s most pressing development challenges, and the impact of water on all aspects of development is undeniable,” said Holmes. “We must augment traditional water supplies to satisfy future demand. We urgently need solutions to fulfill the growing need for potable water.”

While water desalination technologies currently exist, few are suitable for rural or remote areas where brackish water is abundant and there is a great need for technologies that can provide fresh water for home and farm use.  Projections indicate that by 2025, two-thirds of world’s populations could be living in severe water stress conditions.

The Desal Prize will award up to $500,000 in grand prize money to individuals or organizations that develop cost effective, energy-efficient, brackish water desalination technologies that provide safe water for drinking and agricultural use. Up to ten semifinalists will also receive seed money to test or further develop their device.

In addition to the prize launch, 83 semi-finalists were named from Securing Water for Food’s first $15 million call for innovations. Launched at the 2013 World Water Week in Stockholm, Securing Water for Food aims to source, incubate, and accelerate innovative solutions to reduce water scarcity around the world. The semifinalists are working on groundbreaking water technologies and new financing products to improve water access. The finalists, who will be announced in September 2014, will receive between $100,000 and $3 million in funding and business development assistance.

To learn more about the Desal Prize, visit  For more about Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development, please visit  To stay updated on twitter, follow @SecuringWater.

CNBC has further details about the contest, as well as a story about the winning team.

We desperately need innovation in water harvesting and conservation; there are billions of dollars at stake.


3 comments on “Burning Man for Water Geeks

  1. In 2007 the NV burn theme was “Green Man” (overshadowed by the premature ignition of the man).

    Does anyone know of any recurring Green Man events that have survived?

    This one in the UK sounded good until it was apparent that it was a music performance festival:

    Anything more like a burn and less like a concert?

  2. BTW, the Bloomberg title, “Burning Man for Water Geeks,” entirely unsupported in the story, speaks to the perception of just the words Burning Man, something that the NV burn no longer fits. Unless the BOrg unleashes their lawyers on Bloomberg, this could be part of the goundwork for making “Burning Man” a generic term, instead of IP hijacked by the BOrg for profit.

  3. But this is a REAL problem, like having enough food, and not destroying the environment with gratuitous CO2 emissions. The BOrg would never take this seriously.

    If they did, they would at least have a “Green” sector of BRC where no generators, refueling and waste removal were allowed; maybe even no flames! That would be real global leadership, something they simply cannot be expected to do. No NPD supplies, unless someone offers them attention and money to do it. After all, the BOrg are not leaders, but followers of their NPD needs. Pretty much responding to stimulus like Pavlov’s dogs …though all dogs I know are more fair, loyal, and altruistic than the BOrg. OK, let’s call the BOrg Skinner’s pigeons. Yeah, that works!

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