2022 MIT Water Innovation Prize Winners, The MIT Water Club, NY State Invests in Wastewater Climate Change Resilience Projects

by | May 13, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Announcing the 2022 MIT Water Innovation Prize winners, plus meet the MIT Water Club. Also, NY State invests in wastewater climate change resilience projects.



The winners of the 2022 MIT Water Innovation Prize were just announced. The MIT Water Innovation Prize is a startup competition focused on water innovation that awards up to $50K in innovation grants annually to student-led teams from across the country and internationally. The Prize started in 2015 and has since awarded $225K across 21 winning teams.

The top prize-getter this year is Mesophase! Its winning innovation is a surface coating that, when applied to a condenser, makes it more energy efficient. In systems involving heat transfer, a condenser is a heat exchanger used to condense a gaseous substance into a liquid state through cooling. For most of us, it’s the outdoor portion of an air conditioner or heat pump that either releases or collects heat, depending on the time of year. 

In larger, more commercial applications, like in a power plant, a condenser converts steam into water. That process aids in creating energy, too.

Why does Mesophase’s innovation matter to us? According to one estimate, power plants around the world consume more than three trillion gallons of water annually. Mesophase estimates that their coating could reduce freshwater consumption by about 4.1 billion gallons per year. That’s the equivalent of what’s used by 50 million Americans in a 12-month cycle.

The company will use the prize money, in part, to begin testing in a real power plant environment, specifically in the U.S. geothermal space first. Mesophase’s Michael Gangemi says, “Much of the geothermal capacity in the U.S. was built in the ’50s and ’60s. That means most of these plants are operating way below capacity.”




Kudos to LivingWaters Systems LLC, Second Prize winners of the 2022 MIT Water Innovation Prize. The team of Joshua Kao, Gabriela Saade, Joseph Bajor, Shelby Cain, Caleb Kao, and Melis Ozkan make up LivingWater Systems.

LivingWaters Systems provides portable, low-cost rainwater harvesting systems to ensure displaced and other off-grid families have access to freshwater. These systems allow refugee families to capture and filter rainwater from the roofs of tents and other existing shelters, allowing access to potable water at their doorstep. The LivingWaters team took home $15,000, and runner-up bragging rights.

Third place this year went to Algeon Materials, founded in 2021 by Kim Pendergrass and Rose Fein. They’ll split the $10,000 prize money. The California-based company makes materials and packaging from macroalgae, more commonly known as seaweeds. Their system, used to manufacture alternative packaging materials, doesn’t require water, fertilizer, or land.

The benefits of working with seaweed are immense. Macroalgae farming doesn’t require water, land or fertilizer and seaweed absorbs up to 5x the carbon of land based plants. Congratulations to all three 2022 MIT Water Innovation Prizewinners!!

DEEPER DIVE: Algeon Materials, MIT News, Forbes, UC San Diego



So who sponsors the annual MIT Water Innovation Prize anyway. Well, the MIT Water Club, that’s who. It’s billed as a network for water research and innovation at MIT. Its mission is to bring together creative, passionate, and motivated individuals to explore ways by which research, innovation, and policy can help solve the most pressing challenges in the water sector.

MIT Water does more than sponsor the Water Innovation Prize. It also organizes conferences, lectures, research showcases, outreach events, and entrepreneurship competitions throughout the year. And, according to its website,  it’s got hosts flagship events:

The MIT Water Summit brings together leaders from industry, government, and the scientific community to discuss the greatest challenges and opportunities in the water sector. The MIT Water Night  is a family-friendly event where water researchers at MIT and other local universities connect with the general public and broader science community. And The MIT Water Innovation Prize.

There is also something called the Working Water series,  a set of research-to-policy interactive workshops, designed to help students and researchers increase their understanding of the political and social frameworks surrounding scientific research by hearing from a variety of experts with first-hand experience.

Why do the big brains at the MIT Water Club matter to us? First, water. Second, they’re an inclusive bunch. They welcome all interested members from MIT AND the outside community to participate in their events and to share knowledge with the larger community.

This year, the club is hosting monthly discussions between MIT Water and students of the Oxford Water Program. If you’re interested in water tech, management, and governance, email waterclub-officers@mit.edu to join ‘em! For more intel, click on the links in the Deeper Dive section of this story at theclimate.org/episodes.

DEEPER DIVE: MIT Water Club, YouTube



New York State’s Environmental Facilities Corporation under Governor Kathy Hochul announced last month that $638 million in grants will be awarded to municipalities and public authorities for 199 water infrastructure projects across NY state.

Said the governor, “Modernizing our state’s water infrastructure is critical to ensuring every New Yorker has access to clean drinking water.”

Some of the funds for the projects comes from the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, a bill passed during the 2017-2018 Congress that amended the Federal Water Pollution Act—commonly known as the Clean Water Act. The amendment allowed for municipalities to develop a plan that integrated wastewater and stormwater management.

Why does improvement to wastewater systems matter to us? Climate change can have disastrous effects on water infrastructure, from salinization of freshwater to contamination of groundwater from combined sewage overflow (CSO) caused by  excessive flooding from extreme weather. Efforts to create resilience in the system will help humans adapt to the era of climate change.

DEEPER DIVE: Ithaca Regional News, Science Direct