Competing to solve the water crisis

About a billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water, but solving the crisis could cost up to $4 billion a year. Sam Eaton reports on a competition that's using entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions.

Scott Jagow: Over the weekend, there were dozens of events commemorating World Water Day. The United Nations is trying to draw attention to the billion people who lack access to clean drinking water. One group hopes to find an entrepreneurial solution to the problem. Sam Eaton reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.

Sam Eaton: The United Nations says solving the global water crisis would cost an estimated $4 billion a year. But a global competition ending this Wednesday aims at doing the same thing for a fraction of the price. It's called the Global Water Challenge.

Executive director Paul Faeth says the traditional top down approach has failed, and it's time to enlist the help of local innovators.

Paul Faeth: So what we're trying to do is help communities help themselves and finding in social entrepreneurs some great ideas for doing things that no one has ever thought of before.

So far, the online competition has generated more than a hundred proposals from all over the world. Everything from clay water filters with antibacterial silver linings to locally owned public bathrooms in slums.

The competition aims to connect global investors with local entrepreneurs to foster both clean water and economic activity.