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How a prize for water innovators could save billions of gallons

The competition, called Dreampipe, looks for innovative ways to reduce the huge amount of water lost through leaks, theft, or inaccurate meters in developing countries.

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    A girl bathes to cool off herself with water leaking from a broken pipe valve on a hot summer day on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India. In cities like Kenya's capital Nairobi or Zambia's Lusaka, some 40 percent of water is lost through leaks and theft.
    Amit Dave/Reuters/File
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Prizes worth 1.25 million pounds ($1.8 million) funded by Britain's development ministry (DFID) are up for grabs for innovative minds with ideas on how to reduce billions of gallons of water trickling from pipes in developing countries.

The competition, called Dreampipe, and announced Feb. 1 by the British-based consultancy IMC Worldwide, looks for innovative ways to boost funding to reduce water lost through leaks, theft, or inaccurate meters.

In cities like Kenya's capital Nairobi or Zambia's Lusaka, some 40 percent of water is lost through leaks and theft.

Reducing water losses increases revenue and helps to conserve the limited resource. But to date the focus on reducing water losses has been on technical aspects, IMC Worldwide said.

"What has lagged behind are widely applicable solutions for financing related investments," Chris Shugart, the prize's manager, said in a statement. "This prize will stimulate thinking on how to increase the provision of needed financing."

Entries will be evaluated by experts looking for innovative financing solutions that can be replicated and scaled in many countries, IMC Worldwide said.

Halving water losses in developing countries could generate $2.9 billion in cash annually, which in turn could be used to supply water to an additional 90 million people without the need to use new water resources, IMC Worldwide said.

In 2015, 660 million people around the world did not have access to clean water, according to the United Nations.

• Reporting by Magdalena Mis; editing by Ros Russell. This story originally appeared on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption, and climate change.

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