NSF invests $9.8M to advance equitable water solutions

NSF Convergence Accelerator program selects 15 teams to develop innovative technologies and solutions to improve U.S. freshwater systems.

The U.S. National Science Foundation is advancing equitable water solutions, investing $9.8 million in 15 multidisciplinary teams selected for Phase 1 of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program's Track K: Equitable Water Solutions. 

Track K builds upon NSF's investment in foundational research and two NSF-funded workshops from the NSF Convergence Accelerator's ideation process, "Managing Water for a Changing Planet," and "Climate Resilience and Water Resources." Workshop findings identified an urgent need to combine existing knowledge with advancements in areas such as the environmental sciences, geosciences, computing, engineering, and social and behavioral sciences to create new technologies and solutions to challenges such as freshwater supply and management; hydrologic systems and infrastructure; and resiliency against rising temperatures, drought and pollution. 

In 2022, 2.2 billion people lacked safely managed drinking water; 3.5 billion people lacked safely-managed sanitation; and 2 billion people lacked a basic handwashing facility, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is estimated that billions of people will lack access to these basic services by 2030, unless viable and proactive solutions are developed. 

"Ensuring safe and equitable water resources while incorporating environmentally sustainable practices is imperative to our future," said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). "Through programs like the Convergence Accelerator, NSF is harnessing the nation's diverse talent to stimulate innovation, technologies and solutions to address fit-for-purpose needs across the nation."

Over the next nine months, each team will develop their initial idea into a proof of concept, identify new team members and partners, and participate in the NSF Convergence Accelerator's Phase 1 innovation curriculum, providing fundamentals in human-centered design; team science; use-inspired research; early-stage prototyping; and communications, storytelling and pitching. At the end of Phase 1, the teams will participate in a formal proposal and pitch to demonstrate the feasibility of their solutions and apply for Phase 2. 

"Because water needs are complex, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution," said Douglas Maughan, head of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program." This topic is perfect for convergence — bringing multiple disciplines, expertises and sectors together — to solve large-scale challenges. We're excited to launch this track and to see how the 15 teams will engage and partner with communities, end-users and stakeholders to develop real-world sustainable solutions.”

The awardees include: 

About the NSF Convergence Accelerator

Launched in 2019, the NSF Convergence Accelerator—a TIP program—builds upon NSF's investment in basic research and discovery to accelerate solutions toward societal and economic impact. The program's multidisciplinary teams use convergence research fundamentals and innovation processes to stimulate innovative idea sharing and development of sustainable solutions. For more information about the program, visit new.nsf.gov/funding/initiatives/convergence-accelerator.

About TIP

TIP harnesses the nation's vast and diverse talent pool to accelerate critical and emerging technologies and address pressing societal and economic challenges. The directorate comprises three primary focus areas: fostering innovation and technology ecosystems; establishing translation pathways; and partnering across sectors to improve U.S. competitiveness, grow the U.S. economy and engage and train a diverse workforce for future, high-wage jobs. For more information about TIP, visit new.nsf.gov/tip/latest.