As the global population grows, so does the demand for water. Currently, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water, and more than 2.5 billion people lack access to safe sanitation. In addition, major sectors of the economy, including industry and agriculture, depend on water to function. People and businesses are competing for access to water at a time when this basic resource is becoming increasingly scarce. The implications are staggering.

In response, this March, people from all walks of life gathered to address the global water crisis. For the second year, two international competitions were held to tap into the power of creativity to make a difference.

Hult Global Case Challenge

On World Water Day, March 11, the Hult International Business School held the first round of its Global Case Challenge. In Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai, some of the world’s top business students presented innovative ideas to address the problems of clean water and sanitation. Deloitte participated as a judge.

One team from each location – plus a team selected from a competition held online and voted on through Facebook – advanced to the final round in April in New York. There, the teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges representing some of the biggest names in business.

The judges selected the team from the University of Cambridge as the winner. Incidentally, the Cambridge team also won the online competition. Keeping in mind the world’s poorest people have more access to a mobile phone than a toilet, the Cambridge students proposed to tie mobile phone usage to telecom loyalty programs that will, in turn, fund water and sanitation projects – a solution that carefully balances the needs of people and the businesses on which they depend. 

The Hult Global Case Challenge, now in its second year, was held in partnership with The Clinton Global Initiative and Hult donated $1 million to, which can be used to help see the winning team's solution implemented.

Imagine H2O Water-Energy Nexus Prize

Also in March, Imagine H2O announced the winners of its Water-Energy Nexus Prize. The term “water-energy nexus” acknowledges that it takes energy to extract, treat and move water. In turn, energy production requires water – in some cases lots of water. The two are inextricably linked.

Imagine H2O challenged entrepreneurs to create businesses that reduce the energy needed to move and treat water and wastewater. This year’s competition drew more than 50 teams from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Singapore and Israel.

Coming in first place was Hydrovolts, which uses floating turbines to convert the flow of a canal into a distributed energy source. The runner ups were Blackgold Biofuels and Fogbusters, organizations that unlock energy resources from the fat, oil and grease found in wastewater.

Based upon the passion, creativity and commitment of the students participating in the Hult Global Case Challenge and the entrepreneurs who competed for Imagine H2O’s Prize, I am hopeful that there will be no shortage of solutions to address water scarcity challenges.

Will Sarni is a Director with Deloitte Consulting LLP in the United States and leads Enterprise Water Strategy in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Sustainability Services group. He is an internationally recognized thought leader on sustainability and is the author of the book, Corporate Water Strategies (Earthscan) and the forthcoming book, Water Tech – A Guide to Innovation and Business Opportunities (Earthscan 2012).


As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. 

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Water and Innovation
As the global population grows, so does the demand for water. Currently, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water, and more than 2.5 billion people lack ac