The first annual Aspen Design Challenge, "Designing Water's Future," encourages students to design solutions that will increase awareness of the global freshwater crisis. The Aspen Design Challenge is part of the Aspen Design Summit, an annual international conference that brings together leaders from the private and public sectors, nonprofit organizations, and international donors like the United Nations. "Designing Water's Future" was co-conceived by water communications NGO Circle of Blue, a frequent ECSP collaborator, and communication design firm Collins, and is the result of discussions the two organizations convened at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2008.

The Aspen Design Challenge provides case studies on water, sanitation, and education in Africa; desertification in China; and drought and migration in Mexico. The latter features several photographs that appeared in Water Stories, a multimedia presentation developed by the Environmental Change and Security Program and Circle of Blue Managing Editor Carl Ganter on water scarcity and sanitation in Mexico.

Proposals are due on December 15, 2008, and will be reviewed by a jury in January 2009. That spring, the finalists will refine their ideas for a presentation to a group of designers, scientists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and NGO leaders in spring/summer 2009. Forty students will be selected to develop their designs at a three-week workshop in Copenhagen in August and present them at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in the fall of 2009.