UAE President launches $150 million XPrize to tackle global water scarcity

Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative has partnered with American XPrize Foundation to develop affordable seawater desalination systems

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President Sheikh Mohamed has launched an initiative that will invest $150 million for innovative solutions to tackle global water shortages, with $119 million in prizes up for grabs.

The XPrize Water Scarcity competition is a collaboration between the UAE and the American XPrize Foundation, the five-year global competition designed to provide widespread access to clean water by creating sustainable and affordable seawater desalination systems.

The Mohammed bin Zayed Water Initiative was launched on Thursday and will be chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, state news agency Wam reported.

The XPrize Water Scarcity Competition aims to increase awareness of global water shortages, as well as highlight the importance of developing innovative technological solutions to address it.

Sheikh Mohamed attended the launch of the initiative on Thursday, alongside Sheikh Abdullah. The event was held at the Niqa bin Ateej Water Tank and Park in Khalidiya, Abu Dhabi.

President Sheikh Mohamed initiates a $150 million effort to address global water scarcity

President Sheikh Mohamed initiates a $150 million effort to address global water scarcity

They were joined by Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed, Chairman of the Office of Development and Martyrs Families Affairs at the Presidential Court; Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, Special Adviser for Special Affairs at the Presidential Court; Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology; and several key ministers and senior officials.

“The solutions that currently exist to address the water scarcity crisis are not sufficient to prevent a range of unacceptable scenarios from occurring,” Sheikh Abdullah said at the launch.

“New solutions are therefore urgently required, and the Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative is committed to collaborating with stakeholders from around the world to uncover these new ideas, to prove their viability, and to bring them to fruition as efficiently as possible.”

Prof Nidal Hilal, director of New York University Abu Dhabi's Water Research Centre, who is also on the advisory board of XPrize Water Scarcity, told The National that the prize was “the largest in human history”.

“This is a quest for peace, a pledge to humanity, ensuring every drop counts towards a future where water is a source of life, not conflict,” he said.

The prize is open for all innovators from around the world to apply, he added.

The UAE last December called for a decisive and co-ordinated international response to the urgent threat of global water scarcity in a comprehensive discussion paper.

The paper was published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

It aimed to serve as a global call to action to work together in new ways to address the emerging challenge of global water scarcity.

The paper examined global water scarcity and its main causes, highlighted various implications of water scarcity already evident in parts of the world, and pinpointed a range of potential solutions to the rapidly worsening issue.

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing concerns facing the world.

The paper outlined how four billion people experience water scarcity at least one month a year, with this figure expected to grow in the years ahead.

It also warned that, based on current trends, global water scarcity could lead to loss of life, food insecurity, economic underdevelopment, humanitarian crises, involuntary migration, geopolitical instability and the potential for armed conflict.

Updated: March 02, 2024, 12:59 PM