It’s no secret that water supply and sanitation is big business around the globe. Everyone needs it, but a lot of people don’t have it; tens of millions of people, in fact, live with little to no access to a sustainable clean water source.

When the Imagine H2O non-profit organization was founded in 2007, it was with the idea that there were great ideas for supplying sustainable water resources to those who needed it, but that the ideas themselves were not getting the support they needed to attain functionality.

With that in mind, Imagine H2O founders developed a model that allowed them to generate funds that could provide capital to startups, as well as provide those new businesses with the networking connections needed to propel it into a sustainable, operational phase. In their words, they are helping to build a “Silicon Valley for water” where stakeholders are linked to innovators who have the vision and technological expertise to bring water to those who need it.

Imagine H2O accomplishes its mission in many ways, but the genesis of the non-profit and source of its success is in the promotion of programs like its annual Water-Energy Nexus Competition, wherein it awards a cash prize to the entrant who submits an early-stage water business plan that provides a solution to a water challenge while also saving energy.

This year’s $100,000 cash prize went to Hydrovolts, a company that designs in-stream hydrokinetic turbines that can be dropped into an open water channel like a canal or stream and generate power from the water current. These will be used worldwide to harness energy from otherwise unused water that is already flowing downstream.

Hydrovolts will also benefit from Imagine H2O’s “incubator” system of promotion and networking. The non-profit’s ability to introduce Hydrovolts innovators to other water resource professionals in its network will allow it to expand its business while also helping safely use water to create clean energy.

Imagine H2O’s approach to developing sustainable water resources may be one more of inspiration than direct delivery, but there is no question that it provides a vital link between technological innovators and investors, and public and private sector operators through its unique programs.