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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 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 implementation of a new water agenda. Heeding this call, the Government of Australia and other partners (including the World Bank) are launching the Water Data Challenge.

Current estimates show that the world may face a 40% shortfall in water availability by 2030.  Water flows are becoming increasingly variable, and water quality increasingly threatened. And it is often the poorest who suffer when supplies are scarce or quality poor. Managing water resources is, therefore, critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This focuses attention on farming, which accounts for most of overall water consumption.  But management is hampered by lack of timely, actionable, affordable, widely accessible data.  Consequently, farmers cannot make well-informed decisions on daily operations or investments, resulting in sub-optimal harvests and overuse of valuable water.  Managers at the level of the irrigation system or water basin level have difficulty in assuring efficient and equitable distribution and use of water. For these reasons, we are seeking innovations – technical, institutional, or behavioural – in the generation, distribution, and use of data for better water management.  


We seek breakthroughs in the use of data to catalyze better water management in a way that improves the lives of smallholder farmers and other watershed dwellers living on less than $5/day. 


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.
The Challenge is implemented by the Global Innovation Fund (GIF), an evidence-based, venture-capital-inspired funder of scalable innovations.
We are seeking breakthroughs that cost-effectively improve smallholder farmers’ productivity, income, or resilience; or that help to optimize water use at the system, watershed, or basin level so as to enhance resilience or promote inclusive growth.  The breakthroughs could involve new ways to generate, assemble, and use data; new institutional mechanisms or business models for using and disseminating data; and new ways to build capacity – for individuals, firms, social enterprises or governments.  


The process for the Water Data Challenge is as follows:

  • Applications accepted from innovators, entrepreneurs, start-ups, researchers, non-profits, and government agencies. We encourage applications from women-led organizations and organizations located in low or low-middle income countries. We are interested in proposals that have a partner from a low or low-middle income country.
  • Criteria include potential to scale to benefit millions of people; depth of impact; benefits for people living under $5/day or for vulnerable groups; ability to measure success and willingness to share lessons learned; and qualifications of team. We are interested in applications that promote gender equity.  (For further details, please visit
  • Awards: GIF can fund pilot-stage proposals (proof of concept) up to $230,000, and test and transition (demonstration) proposals up to $1 million.  GIF has great flexibility in financial instruments and can provide grants, debt, or equity.  Typically, private sector investees would receive debt or equity finance unless they are creating a public good.
  • Timeline:  Applications are currently being accepted, and are reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • How to apply: Visit for instructions on how to submit an initial, 2 page, application.  When filling in the form, please note “Water Data Challenge” at the top of the Application Summary field.

If you need additional assistance applying, please email with "Water Data Challenge" in the subject line.

To apply for other funding opportunities on the Global Innovation Exchange, please click here to join, and click here to add your innovation.