New Design Challenge Empowers and Informs Responses to Global Water Crises

Initiative engages cross-disciplinary teams of next-generation thinkers to shift the world’s dangerous course through:

  • Creative design and innovative communications
  • Citizen science
  • Applied data analyses and visualization
  • AI-powered connectivity

DETROIT and THE HAGUE, Netherlands (June 4, 2019) — Circle of Blue — in collaboration with leading institutions, designers, educators, and youth organizations — today announced Designing Water’s Future, an unprecedented global challenge to develop creative, cross-disciplinary, and participatory stories and solutions for water crises worldwide. The World Economic Forum ranks water crises among the gravest risks to political, environmental, and economic stability.

Designing Water’s Future, leverages the power of creative design and communications, citizen science, frontier data analysis, visualization tools, and Artificial Intelligence-powered analysis to advance responses and solutions. Circle of Blue – the leading media, science and convening organization that reports on the global competition between water, food, and energy in a changing climate – announced the initiative at the Sustainable Brands conference in Detroit and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in The Hague, The Netherlands.

“Time has run out and we no longer have any margin of error. We must unite the best in creativity, technology, and story-telling to shift the world’s most dangerous course,” said J. Carl Ganter, co-founder of Designing Water’s Future, managing director of Circle of Blue, and past vice chairman of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water Security.

New data indicates conflicts over water are increasing around the world while acceleration of debilitating droughts, catastrophic floods and other risks pose imminent and material threats to lives, livelihoods, and businesses. Yet imperatives such as the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation are underfunded, global water stories of success and failure remain underreported, data is still often lacking, unverified or remain unshared with stakeholders, and increasingly urbanized populations are out of touch with where their water comes from and where their wastewater goes.

“Despite that many organizations are working on promising solutions, the scale and urgency of water challenges outpace current efforts and resources,” Ganter stated.

Designing Water’s Future connects four critical challenge areas where water intersects with food security, energy production, climate change, health, and sustainable cities.

The specific challenges will be active this summer and previewed at World Water Week in Stockholm in August:


  • Innovation: Narrative challenge, design and communications. Students from more than 250 universities from Beijing to Boston will be challenged to take on “water as a client” using a broad array of design tools, working through cross-disciplinary teams. They will create campaigns to communicate the value of water and imminent threats of inaction.
  • Participation: Grassroots stories and citizen science. A dynamic platform will integrate crowd-sourced content on “#MyWaterStory,” “#MyWaterScience,” and “#MyWaterSolutions,” sparking participation and creative problem-solving among researchers, engineers, practitioners, (unrecognized) geniuses, students, and the wider public. Citizens can share their water status, challenges, history, culture, and perspectives (#mywaterstory); are empowered to collect and share data on their water (#mywaterscience); and showcase solutions, large or small (#mywatersolutions).
  • Inspiration: Visualization hackathon. A visualization challenge will invite data experts, designers, and others to verify and package water data into insightful and compelling visualizations to enable awareness and decision-making.
  • Interaction: Collaboration network linking efforts across sectors. Designing Water’s Future will serve as an accumulation of content and resources between experts, executives, policy-makers, design professionals and the public, aligning efforts and resources.

“The only hope for water’s future is the one we deliberately design,” Ganter said. “People need to be connected, inspired, and empowered with shared stories, data, solutions and urgency. This is the moment in history when arts, culture, and story combined with science and technology can truly define our future.”


Designing Water’s Future’s first iteration grew out of a 2008 session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, led by Brian Collins, Chief Creative Officer at COLLINS, and Ganter of Circle of Blue. It engaged more than 10,000 students worldwide.

Collaborators include the World Economic Forum, Voice for the Planet, Global Commons Alliance, Science Based Targets Initiative, China Environment Forum, Columbia University Water Center, Northwestern University Segal Design Institute, Imagine H2O,, Water Foundry, and Vector Center.

Circle of Blue, founded in 2003, is the internationally recognized centre for original frontline reporting, research, and analysis on water resource issues and the competition between water, food, and energy in a changing climate. In addition to delivering award-winning reportage, it curates the World Economic Forum Transformation Maps, and produced Watershed at the Vatican which was opened by Pope Francis. Circle of Blue is a member of the Science Based Targets Network and founding member of the Global Commons Alliance, whose partners are engaged with more than 10,000 cities and local governments worldwide. Circle of Blue’s unique model received the Rockefeller Foundation Centennial Innovation Award.


For updates please register at


Twitter: @circleofblue

Facebook: circleofblue

Instagram: circleofblue




Judit Arenas

APCO Worldwide

jarenas (at)

+1 646 750-6771


For technology, sponsorship, and collaboration opportunities, contact:

Laura Herd

Circle of Blue

laura (at)

+1 231 941-1355

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