The Water Data Challenge: Enabling farmers to benefit from low-cost water data solutions


In a Call to Action on September 21st 2016, the eleven Heads of Government and State and Special Adviser who make up the UN/World Bank High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) called for more innovation as part of a fundamental shift in the way the world looks at water. Leaders specifically made an appeal for the launch of challenge events, to stimulate thinking that will shift the needle in implementing a new water agenda.

Heeding this call, the Government of Australia and other partners (including the World Bank) are launching the Water Data Challenge. This challenge aims to improve the access to information that is so crucial to ensuring that farmers thrive - especially in lower-income settings - and water resources are managed well.

We seek breakthroughs in enabling resource-poor farmers to access and make use of affordable, timely water data, resulting in better management of scarce water resources to support resilient, productive farms. With the greater part of the world’s water consumption used for farming, publicly available and accessible data on water are of paramount importance in agriculture. This is true not only for growing crops, but also for the efficient use of scarce water in the short and long-run.

Current estimates show that the world may face a 40% shortfall in water availability by 2030. Managing water resources is, therefore, critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In developing countries, relevant data on water quantity and quality often are non-existent, not well organized, and not affordable. Consequently, farmers cannot make well-informed decisions on daily operations or investments, resulting in sub-optimal harvests and overuse of valuable water. For these reasons, we are seeking new data, approaches and technologies to organize, disclose and distribute water data to farmers.


Societal change and innovation often occur when we bring together ideas from different sectors and disciplines. Thus, we encourage diverse, non-traditional partnerships. We also encourage partnerships that have a local presence, and involve the private sector to foster sustainability. We are seeking breakthroughs in three areas:

  1. Water Data Solutions: To identify, develop and test data-led, highly cost-effective solutions, which satisfy the information needs of farmers—male and female, or the extension agents who support farmers, to reduce farmer’s water-related risks and costs.
  2. Water Data Investments: To apply new approaches to facilitate and foster investments in the implementation of innovative data solutions, such as institution building, stakeholder platforms, public-private knowledge sharing methods, or mobilizing innovative financial mechanisms (e.g. insurance schemes).
  3. Capacity Development for Impact: To promote the capacity development of farmers/small farming communities, extension agents, or data-provider operations/services ensuring user-centered solutions that result in higher production/yields or more efficient use of water. When submitting your innovation application, be sure to note how your innovation addresses one or more of the breakthroughs outlined.

We’re looking for innovations that are sustainable (financial, institutional, environmental, technological, and social); use participatory and context-specific processes; are scalable in resource-poor settings; and that can be monitored and evaluated for impact and learning.


The process for the Water Data Challenge is as follows:

  • Applications accepted from innovators, entrepreneurs, start-ups, researchers, and government agencies. We encourage applications from women-led organizations and organizations located in low or low-middle income countries. We require that proposals have a partner from a low or low-middle income country. (Note: Please provide supporting information on partnerships, as well as team leadership and make-up.) Awardees will be chosen by a panel of judges, selected for the Water Innovation Engine.
  • Awards: The Call for Innovations will begin on World Water Day, March 22, 2017, with a rolling application process. Following the Call for Innovations, a group of experts will select key innovations to receive planning grants of US $10,000 to be announced by July of 2017. Applicants selected for planning grants in the first round will be asked to submit full proposals, and will be eligible for early-stage awards up to US $250,000, and ready-to-scale awards up to US $1million.
  • Support is expected to include collaboration with other innovators, technical experts, funders, leaders and stakeholders to expand networks, enhance solutions, and multiply the impact of challenge funding.

Timeline: The Water Data Challenge will launch on World Water Day, March 22, 2017, with a review of applications on May 31, 2017. First round of awards announced by July, 2017. TO APPLY AND FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT:


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