The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge (OHDC) consists of two parts: a Prize Competition and the Pathway Research Grants. The Prize Competition is led by MEDRC supported by the Oman Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MoHERI). The Pathway Research Grants are led by MEDRC and supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Prize

The OHDC Prize Competition seeks to create a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device for short-term use and rapid deployment following a humanitarian crises.

Access to clean fresh drinking water following a disaster is critical to health and survival. Current relief response measures often rely on transporting massive quantities of bottled water into the affected population or distributing water purification devices or tablets that don’t have the ability to rid water of salt.

There is an urgent need for an inexpensive hand-held desalination device that can be deployed quickly and affordably to people in need of drinking water in times of crises. No such product exists on the marketplace today.

The OHDC Prize Competition carries a $700,000 prize. Launched March 7, 2018, the OHDC Prize Competition is starting its third competition with no winner from the previous two.

The OHDC Prize Competition is open to any individual, team, or organization from across the world who believes they have a solution capable of meeting this need.

Register for the third OHDC Prize Competition before May 31, 2023.

Queries should be forwarded to

Timeline for Prize Competition

October 5: Written narrative and video submission deadline

October 26: Notify devices accepted for testing 

October 29 - November 9: Screening test of devices

December: Official presentation to winner

The Pathway Research Grants

In partnership with the USAID, MEDRC launched a third international call for research proposals at the end of 2021 in a bid to spur innovation in small-scale desalination technologies.

The OHDC Pathway Research Grants look for the development of a small-scale desalination unit (120 liters per day) capable of supporting a family with access to brackish water sources. MEDRC specifically awarded proposals that would allow a grantee to better compete for the OHDC Prize Competition through down-scaling of their device.

The Application for the Pathway Research Grants is currently closed. 

Learn more about our research grants here

Queries should be forwarded to

Exploring The Challenge

Ciarán Ó Cuinn, MEDRC Center Director and Kevin Price, MEDRC Senior Science & Technology Advisor set out the aims and objectives of the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge in this short 2 minute video clip.

'If we can find a way to get drinking water to people in the first hours and days after a humanitarian crises, we will be doing humanity a huge service'

MEDRC Center Director, Ciarán Ó Cuinn


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Background layer_$700 000
The Oman Humanitarian Desalination
Challenge carries a prize of $700,000

What we're looking for


Low Cost

The estimated production cost
of the device will be $20.



The device should be resilient, corrosion
resistant, operate through pictorial instructions,
have a long shelf-life, and should
minimize the use of parts that could be lost.


Short-term use

The device will operate
for a minimum of 30 days.



The device will be hand-held
and easily transportable.


Rate of production

Device will produce a minimum
of 3 liters of purified water per day, including cloudy days.



There will be no addition of chemicals,
fuel, or other external materials, other
than the seawater to be purified.



Device will purify 100 NTU, 35,000 mg/L
seawater to 1000 mg/L TDS and
meet WHO maximum contaminant levels.

Challenge Timeline

Prize Launched
SEP 23
Challenge closed Prize not won
DEC 29
Challenge closed Prize not won
Registration window opens
MAY 31
Registration closed
JUN 15
Qualified competitors announced
Submit video of device with written narrative
OCT 5-26
Screening of video and narrative
OCT 26
Notify devices accepted for testing
Results & official presentation