By Peter Chawaga
Some of history’s greatest innovations have been the result of dire need. It seems that when the pressure is on and we’re put in a tight spot, the greatest minds rise to the occasion.
Benjamin Franklin, prompted by his combined vision problems, devised the bifocal. Plagued by a need to attach a ticket to fabric without puncturing, Samuel B. Fay developed the paper clip. The League of Nations was born as a direct result of the First World War and the subsequent desire for prolonged world peace.
With the close-knit relationship between invention and necessity in mind, The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), a branch of the Department of the Interior tasked with supervising water resource management, has put out a call for research proposals that will increase the nation’s usable water supply.
The request comes on behalf of the USBR’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program (DWPR). DWPR is accepting pitches for research and laboratory studies or full-scale pilot projects. It anticipates granting funds to between five and 15 studies at up to $150,000 each and between one and five pilot-scale projects at $200,000 per year for each. There are more stipulations attached, including a fixed cost-share provision and set funding durations.
The announcement came, not coincidentally, as the White House convened its “Roundtable on Water Innovation,” led in part by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. The focus of that meeting was on developing clean water supplies in the face of the nation’s drought with a particular emphasis on how private groups can and should contribute.
“The goal of DWPR is to reduce the costs and environmental impacts of treating impaired and unusable water by funding research where the benefits are widespread and private sector entities are not able to make the full investments,” said Yuliana Porras-Mendoza, DWPR’s program manager.
DWPR has supported over 150 such projects across the country, which have received nearly $12 million from the government and required over $16 million in additional cost-share funding.
“The DWPR has been seeking proposals and funding research since 1998,” Porras-Mendoza said. “Some examples of innovation technologies that have been funded via DWPR include zero liquid discharge for concentrate management, membrane bioreactors for wastewater treatment, carbon nanotube membranes, and solar distillation desalination for rural areas.”
The deadline for proposals is February 8. As of mid-January, the DWPR has received multiple calls with questions about the program. Porras-Mendoza is hopeful that the number of proposals received will be greater than it was in the fiscal year of 2015, which saw 58 submissions. It’s anyone’s guess how much money will ultimately be handed out.
“A successful proposal would be one that clearly states the viability of their research, technology, and/or process,” said Porras-Mendoza. “It should include clearly attainable research goals, have substantial information about how the technology or process works, estimate potential benefits of developing this technology, and characterize how the matured technology or process could be implemented in the future.”
Perhaps the world’s next great solution will be the result.