Water Organica - Seawater Desalination to replenish freshwater - high school environmentalists raising awareness on freshwater crisis !!

A youth led initiative to pinpoint depletion of scarce freshwater resources by raising awareness and develop a changemaking solution.

Photo of Trisha Patnaik
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Please confirm you meet the following criteria

  • We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
  • We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
  • We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
  • We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • We have been working on this project for at least three months
  • We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
  • We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

; https://youtu.be/YREACMN_Q1I ; https://www.youngchangemakers.net/water-organica

Date You Started Your Project


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Our ever-dwindling freshwater supplies will run out by 2040. We cannot replenish enough fresh water for meeting society’s needs. We need a particular water source or technology to solve this STEM problem and reduce climate change. Due to ever increasing demand for water to meet various needs of the 21st century, we will deplete our freshwater resources soon. Our solution fixes this and helps augment the ever-depleting freshwater resources.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

In modern America, we have access to clean, fresh water every day. Each time we turn on the tap, plumbing systems instantly bring this important resource into our homes. Despite its importance for life, though, fresh water is an extremely rare resource on Earth. Less than 3 percent of the water found on Earth is freshwater, and the remaining 97 percent is salt water, such as what is found in the ocean. Most of the world’s freshwater is not easily accessible to humans. Approximately 69 percent of Earth’s freshwater is locked away in the form of ice in glaciers and polar ice caps, and another 30 percent of Earth’s freshwater is under the surface in the form of groundwater leaving only about 1% of freshwater. Our solution is harvesting seawater efficiently to produce billions of gallons of drinking water. A water purification system is designed combining technologies; solar energy, membrane chemistry, and nanotechnology. The value proposition is selling desalinated water at a cheaper rate with a better quality and meeting or exceeding standards met by other water-selling companies. We are combining 3-technologies. This will also reduce ocean acidification by treating ocean water.

3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.

Technology, science, and business structure are all addressed because our solution is to create a STEM-technological advancement as well as create a startup, which is the most efficient way to connect society’s need with a solution that our planet can sustain over long term. Additionally, the problem we are addressing is depletion of freshwater and how this engineering solution, if developed correctly, would help decrease our reliance on fresh water sources and instead develop alternative resources. This will keep in mind the impending climate changes in the next 30-years which has the potential to aggravate this issue. The premise is that freshwater supplies are expected to be depleted by 2050 at current consumption. Current desalination devices are expensive to maintain and ineffective at producing large quantities of water or contribute to environmental degradation. With our plan, we have the opportunity to harvest or exploit the seawater and efficiently produce billions of gallons of drinking water. STEM principles are heavily involved in our solution. We also make sure that we reduce carbon footprint while implementing our solution by treating ocean water.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Since all the freshwater supplies will be gone in the next 30-years, we need to think from now about this grave situation. Currently, carbon emissions creating further acidification of oceans have enhanced the problems. The significant time delays associated with climate change mean that the worst effects perpetuated by yesterday’s pollution will not arise for decades. Some effects cannot be stopped because of the accumulation of past carbon emissions or future, inevitable emissions. It will ultimately affect freshwater supplies due to stress on various resources which may not even last that long. We thought long and hard enough to be able to do something tangible. All these problems when I heard changed us to an extent that we decided to bring about a positive change wherein we can treat ocean water to produce freshwater, create a start up and solve society’s freshwater depletion.

5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

These activities are as follows: - We have completed research and feasibility studies. - We produce drinkable water from the vast salty ocean to solve ever depleting fresh-water resources using a specific process. - We prototype & design a water purification system that combines technologies, solar energy and membranes (cheapest option). The main cost would be nanobots. - We are applying membrane chemistry to filter out contaminants. - We are using Nanotechnology in Filtration (Nanobots).

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Various organizations advocate for environmentally-progressive policies, but there are no organizations focusing solely on developing environmental friendly ocean water treatment technologies and commercializing to convert to fresh water. Another unique element of our team is that it directly talks to children, as opposed to solely organizing our own events. We work with local communities, schools to conduct assemblies during the school day itself, and interact with many people at a time on STEM. We also conduct presentations in schools/communities alluding to depletion issues.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.

It is at the initial stage having completed some activities. When we presented to people we interviewed before, we received positive feedback. Most of them became interested in helping conserve freshwater resources and we saw some movement. Others wanted to reduce carbon footprint with desalination techniques. The startup portion is a little slow during this pandemic with meetings virtually. But there is also paucity of capital and investors. Those who earlier wouldn't contribute to eco-friendly technology because they weren't "interested", said they would change their ways on conserving water. While others wanted to join the eco-friendly "startup" on developing desalination technologies to create freshwater from the ocean thus reducing carbon footprint. Most became changemakers in conserving freshwater after our presentation. The impact is huge qualitatively but unable to measure.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We are working on the following initiatives: - Creating a startup with like-minded people/students. - Submitting a project-level business plan to fund the project, where the initial investment is little high in comparison to other projects. Create business pitches at select places. - Submitting technology improvement plans and partner with research institutions such as Argonne National Laboratories, Fermi Laboratories, at other Chicago-based higher institutions, and other institutions in New Jersey among others. - Work on developing and perfecting technologies. - Create new advertising campaigns for schools, communities and for other places. - Form new company structure and strike partnerships for the startup. - Research and improve

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

We presented gravity of freshwater sustainability problems at various business competitions, science fairs, schools, communities locally or nationally. We have run various STEM workshops in storytelling ways to involve others. If we are crazy enough to think about environmental sustainability, we can actually follow through, as the greatest superpowers of visible positive change lie within each of us - the powers to create, express, connect, change the environment in meaningful positive ways.

11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We are partnering with other changemakers in my community to get different perspectives and inspire other changemakers as teamwork and collaboration are the backbone of our project. Gone are the days of individual problem solvers. Simple problems are non-existent these days or are very few and far in between. Futuristic issues will need a collective mindset to solve and will be intuitive, challenging, and complex, requiring multiple collaborators for our project. We also reached out to others.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

We did advertisement, STEM advocacy, school clubs, community programs, and contacting institutions of higher learning to get buy-ins. We have partnered with schools/local communities Bolingbrook STEM Association, and Purdue University. We conducted educational activities, workshops on STEM-outreach and water sustainability. Argonne/Fermi national laboratories invited us to perform STEM-based research and offered help in perfecting treatment technology. We contacted local and national lawmakers.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $100-$1k

14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.

  • Marketing Strategy

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Search engine
  • Recommended by others
  • Email
  • Word of mouth
  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or General Motors, who was it?

NorthSouth Foundation

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Carson McBain

I'm impressed with the technology you are developing to convert saltwater into safe drinking water! I feel a bit unqualified to give advice, since I'm not an expert on the chemistry of how to create fresh water. Your statistic about there not being enough fresh water by 2050 alarmed me and has me thinking about ways I can conserve water in my daily life, so I thank you for raising awareness of this issue. I know that established methods of desalination are expensive and involved; as you develop your own system it would be interesting to do a cost comparison to highlight the superior features of your method. I'd love to learn more about how you're doing outreach and education. As you put it so aptly, "the greatest superpowers of visible positive change lie within each of us." Keep up the great work and it'll be great to have this technology!

Photo of Trisha Patnaik

Thanks Ms. MacBain for your feedback. Our group has done cost analysis with a value proposition. They are at the bottom of the site or you can access it here with some financial projections.


Yes, you are right about the cost factor of Desalination that's why technology comes into play and I am sure it can be reduced after advances in STEM/technology.

I am doing outreach as part of STEM promotion in school/communities/research institutions.

Thank you.