Stockholm Water Prize 2020: Better Groundwater Management

July 26, 2020

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Each year since 1991 the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has awarded the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize on March 22, World Water Day. This year the focus is on groundwater management.

Originally a part of the Stockholm Water Festival, which ceased to be held in 1999 due to lack of funding, SIWI, in conjunction with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, awards the prize to a person or organization whose work is dedicated to protecting and conserving water resources on a global scale. The award is presented by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustav, the king of Sweden and official patron of the Prize. [1]

Dr. John A. Cherry—2020 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate

Dr. John Cherry is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and a world renowned expert on groundwater contamination.

Dr. Cherry, a geological engineer, has disrupted the scientific paradigm of groundwater research by creating the academic field of contaminant hydrogeology:  the chemical and hydrological study of processes that pollute both ground and surface water. [2]

Many countries—including the United States, Canada, and Brazil—are already implementing Dr. Cherry’s methods for monitoring groundwater. The results have been impressive and Dr. Cherry is confident that his methodology will help keep our ground and surface water resources safe for years to come. He has decided to open up his texts and ideas for free to the public in a new project that will be starting in August, 2020 called “The Groundwater Project.”

The Groundwater Project

Dr. Cherry states that the Groundwater Project came about to raise awareness about the imminent danger posed by the depletion of groundwater resources suitable for drinking. Very little public notice is being taken of the year-over-year deterioration of the overall quality of the Earth’s groundwater repositories.

Most of the world suffers from inadequate groundwater monitoring and treatment methodologies that were designed when science didn’t have the know-how or technology to understand how contaminated ground water affects surface fresh water resources.

With greater awareness today of the mounting needs to fully utilize all fresh water resources, Cherry and his colleagues have initiated the Groundwater Project to educate, provide up-to-date literature, and assist local authorities in 24 different countries across six different continents.

Dr. Cherry is quick to point out that though he originated the project, the level of volunteerism throughout the relatively new field of contaminant hydrogeology has been amazing. They launched their website, https://gw-project.org/ on March 23rd, 2020 — the day after World Water Day, and in the next few weeks will be opening up their library to the administrators and facilitators of groundwater sites.

When asked how the world can stay ahead of the curve for growing freshwater demands due to population growth while climate change wreaks havoc with our groundwater supply, Dr. Cherry suggested many concrete ideas that can be implemented almost immediately, such as: encouraging ecological agriculture vs chemical agriculture, laws requiring that all drinking sources be tested on a regular basis, and transparent monitoring and testing of groundwater sites ensuring that money dedicated to testing is properly spent. He thinks that the UN goals for 2030 are excellent and the key to success all around is to educate people at all levels about proper water care. [3]

Stockholm Junior Water Prize—Our Hope for the Future

Since 1997 15-20-year-olds have competed to win the prestigious Stockholm Junior Water Prize. This year contestants from 29 different countries will watch Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden announce the winner on August 25th by video conferencing due to COVID-19.

The Junior Water Prize has been a great success on many levels. Not only have the ideas been inspiring, but there is a new generation of young scientists who know each other and are already working as a team on communal projects. The hope is that they will continue to contribute for decades to come. [4]

References

[1] SIWI, Stockholm Water Prize March, 2020
[2] University of Minnesota, Contaminate Hydrology and Water Quality 2020
[3] Olivia Tempest, Dr. John Cherry: We need more curiosity about  water in the educational system, June 15, 2020
[4] Ania Andersch, Welcome to Stockholm Junior Water Prize 2020, July 8, 2020

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