Can the #Dreampipe Challenge reduce water losses in the developing world?

Tuesday 02 February 2016

Dreampipe, a major multi-year prize challenge funded by the UK government was launched yesterday at the International Water Association’s Water Loss 2016 event in Bangalore, India. The prize challenge aims to encourage water experts and financial specialists to propose methods for reducing the amount of water lost in developing countries through leakage, meter inaccuracies and unauthorised use.

While in some countries, the average levels of this lost water, known as non-revenue water (NRW), are around 15%, in others, it reaches 40-50%, making it one of the major problems plaguing water companies in developing countries.

The total purse for prize winners is £1.25m ($1.8m) to be distributed in several tranches over two stages (up to five in stage I and three in stage II) over the next 22 months. It is expected that successful solutions will mobilise multiple times the prize purse in funding.

Reducing NRW lowers costs, increases revenue, brings about a more equitable distribution of water and helps to conserve precious — and increasingly scarce — water resources. The emphasis to date in water-loss reduction has been on the technical aspects.

“What has lagged behind are widely applicable solutions for financing related investments. The resources of international financial institutions are limited. This prize will stimulate thinking on how to increase the provision of needed financing,” said the prize’s manager, Chris Shugart. “In principle, these deals will be financeable: by cutting costs and raising revenue, well-planned investments to reduce NRW can pay for themselves over 7–10 years.”

One study estimates water losses at 27bn cubic metres annually in the urban areas of developing countries. Halving NRW losses in developing countries could generate $2.9bn in cash annually and service an additional 90mn people, without using new water resources.

Entries will be judged by a panel of experts seeking improved financing solutions that can be standardised, replicated and scaled up to serve the needs of many water utility companies.

“Financing for water infrastructure investment in developing economies has been hard to mobilise owing to lack of borrower creditworthiness and high risk,” said Tom Williams, Programmes Director at the International Water Association (IWA). “This prize should help incentivise and drive improvements and move utilities towards more efficient service delivery.”

The prize is part of the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) “Ideas to Impact” innovation inducement programme, which aims to resolve challenges in water and sanitation, climate change and energy access. Dreampipe is managed by a consortium led by the British-based consultancy IMC Worldwide. The launch is supported by the IWA.

Further information: The prize’s website, which includes additional information, background data and links, can be visited here

For more on “Ideas to Impact,” visit  

Media Contact:  For further information on Dreampipe, contact Matthew Saltmarsh:, or +44(0)75780051763



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