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Canadian student wins 2014 Stockholm Junior Water Prize for new water treatment method

Stockholm (2014-09-03) – Hayley Todesco from Canada received the 2014 Stockholm Junior Water Prize today for inventing a method that uses sand filters to treat oil contaminated water and recover water for reuse. H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the prize at an award ceremony during the World Water Week in Stockholm.

The winning entry is a new application of an old water treatment technology that dates back to 1804. Sand filters have traditionally been used to treat drinking water, but Hayley Todesco instead used slow sand filters on contaminated water in oil sands tailing ponds. The method proved to treat wastewater at a faster rate than typical processes, as the sand filters grow bacteria that effectively break down toxic waste.

“This year’s winning project addresses a neglected but pressing environmental issue. The entry displays genuine outside the box thinking. Hundreds of hours of self-driven effort achieved a project that excelled in all judging criteria,” said the Jury in its citation.

“By happy coincidence the topic is on the cutting edge of the water-energy nexus. Tailings from tar sands pose a serious and growing environmental problem. Slow sand filters may date back to the 19th century, but the winner proved them applicable to 21st century problems,” the Jury concluded.

“I am shocked but so grateful. I got the idea of using sand filters from a pen pal in Namibia two years ago, and started testing them on wastewater in a tank at home. Now I have just started studying to become a microbiologist and I hope to spend a great deal of time in the lab to continue developing the method”, said Hayley upon winning the prize.

The international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment. This year, thousands of participants in countries all over the globe joined national competitions for the chance to represent their nation at the international final held during the World Water Week in Stockholm. Teams from 29 countries competed in the 2014 finals.

Diploma of Excellence to students from Thailand

A Diploma of Excellence was awarded to students Orawan Thasanabenjakul, Pannawat Peanjad and Natthanicha Jairungsr from Thailand, for transforming wastewater generated during the production of raw natural rubber sheets to a valuable bio-plastic.

“The students created a new useful, environmentally friendly product from something previously regarded as waste. The project has the potential to help improve the quality of life for many people and solve an important water-related environmental problem.” said the Jury in its citation.

About Stockholm Junior Water Prize

The competition is open to young people between the age of 15 and 20 who have conducted water-related projects at local, regional, national or global levels on topics of environmental, scientific, social and/or technological importance. The aim of the competition is to increase awareness, interest and knowledge of water and the environment. As of this year the board of SIWI has decided to increase the prize sum to the winners and also to institute a new prize. The international winner will from now on receive a USD 15,000 award and a prize sculpture, the winner’s school receives USD 5,000 (new category) and the winner of the Diploma of Excellence USD 3,000. Stockholm International Water Institute administers the competition. H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden is the Patron of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and Xylem Inc. is the global sponsor. SAS & Coca-Cola Environment Foundation is the official supporter of the prize. Official suppliers are People Travel Group and Europcar.

About World Water Week

Hosted and organised by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), World Water Week in Stockholm is the leading annual global event for addressing the planet’s water and development issues. Leaders and experts from the world’s scientific, business, government and civic communities convene in Stockholm to exchange views, experiences and shape joint solutions to global water challenges.

About Stockholm International Water Institute

Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is a policy institute that generates knowledge and informs decision-makers towards water wise policy and sustainable development. SIWI performs research, builds institutional capacity and provides advisory services in five thematic areas: water governance, transboundary water management, water and climate change, the water-energy-food nexus, and water economics. SIWI organises World Water Week in Stockholm – the leading annual meeting place for water and development issues – and hosts the Stockholm Water Prize, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and the Stockholm Industry Water Award.

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