Prize Council Announces Winners for the 7th Award

On 5 October 2016, HRH Prince Khaled Bin Sultan announced the winners for the 7th Award of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW).

PSIPW is a leading, global scientific award focusing on cutting-edge innovation in water research. It gives recognition to scientists, researchers and inventors around the world for pioneering work that addresses the problem of water scarcity in creative and effective ways.

To this end, PSIPW offer a suite of five prizes every two years, covering the entire water research landscape.

The Awards ceremony for the 7th Award will be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York, NY on 2 November 2016. It is being hosted by the U.N. Friends of Water and presided over by the U.N. General Secretary H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and by PSIPW Chairman H.R.H. Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz.

Nominations are currently open for the 8th Award (2018). Nominations can be made online for all five prizes directly through the PSIPW website.

Winners for the Seventh Award (2016)

The Creativity Prize is shared by two winning teams:

Creativity Prize: The team of Dr. Rita Colwell (University of Maryland at College Park) and Dr. Shafiqul Islam (Tufts University, USA).

The prize is awarded to this team for developing and testing a model that uses chlorophyll information from satellite data to predict cholera outbreaks at least three to six months in advance.

Dr. Rita Colwell is an internationally acclaimed oceanographer and microbiologist who has spent the bulk of her career studying the V. cholerae bacterium that causes cholera. She and her colleagues have found V. cholerae in oceans around the world, in isolated lakes and rivers untouched by fecal contamination, and even in volcanic springs in Iceland. Colwell and her team were the first to use remote satellite data to develop a predictive model for cholera outbreaks in East Asia, and she is the first scientist to link global warming with a potential rise in cases of infectious disease.

Dr. Shafiqul Islam has applied Colwell’s findings to relate chlorophyll levels and cholera outbreaks in the Bay of Bengal. Using satellite data from NASA, he developed a satellite-based model to predict potential cholera outbreaks at least three to six months in advance. The model has been tested with chlorophyll information from satellites over the Bay of Bengal region to predict cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh. The team is currently working on testing the model with ground-based observations.

Creativity Prize: Dr. Peter J. Webster (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA).

The prize is awarded to Dr. Webster for his work on ocean-atmosphere interactions and their effect on monsoon strength, which is used to provide one to two-week lead time forecasts of monsoonal floods that often provoke catastrophic inundations in highly populated coastal regions.

Dr. Webster started using the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasting (ECMWF) global model for predicting the active and break cycles of the monsoon and developed a method for forecasting upcoming dry and wet spells based on statistical analysis of the ECMWF output. He combined the ECMWF weather forecasts with a river runoff model to forecast river flow and also the inundation following the flood “front”. The system has been able to predict with remarkable accuracy the probability of floods that have devastated Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, and India in the last several years. He then went beyond led the development of the Climate Forecast Applications in Bangladesh (CFAB) project, in which he developed and implemented a probabilistic rainfall and river discharge forecast system for the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers in Bangladesh, which were successfully put to test in the 2007 and 2008 floods. In 2012, Webster helped the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) to obtain a regional stream of the daily ECMWF forecast output. With this data, RIMES was able to take over the CFAB forecasts for Bangladesh, providing them daily to the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre of Bangladesh. He has also applied these models to the Indus River.

Surface Water Prize: Dr. Gary Parker (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA).

The prize is awarded to Dr. Parker, one of the world’s premier river geomorphologists, for work that clarifies the vexing problem of meandering rivers, a field that has long been an uncharted territory of geomorphology and sediment transport. His work contributes to our understanding of the shapes rivers take and how they change themselves and their floodplains as they migrate, eroding the sediment of which old land is composed, and creating new land by emplacing fresh sediment.

Dr. Parker’s research provides models with the ability to capture the coevolution of channel sinuosity and width, so that numerical computations illustrate how meanders generate and how variations in flow bring about the development of meanders. These are effective tools for understanding the processes of meandering, which can be used in a range of engineering computations. He has also provided complex models capable of reproducing the broad range of river width–curvature correlations observed in nature. This research represents a step forward in providing general metrics for predicting width variation patterns in river systems. On a practical level, the work enables knowing what is going to happen in a reconfigured watershed before observing it.

Groundwater Prize: Dr. Tissa H. Illangasekare (Colorado School of Mines, USA).

The prize is awarded to Dr. Illangasekare for his work to improve the fundamental understanding of fluid flow and chemical transport in porous media through innovative multi-scale experimentation and modelling, leading to the reliable prediction of the long‐term fate of pollutants in groundwater systems and the behaviour of multiple phase fluids in shallow and deep geologic formations.

His research on the fundamental understanding of the behaviour of multiphase fluids in heterogeneous porous media has addressed issues of the permanent storage of CO2 in deep geologic formations, with particular focus on the trapping of CO2 and potential leakage to shallow aquifers, mathematical modelling of multi-phase flow, the effect of geologic heterogeneity in enhancing capillary and dissolution trapping of supercritical CO2, and benchmark modelling study of CO2 gas evolution in groundwater systems.

Alternative Water Resources Prize:  The team of Dr. Rong Wang & Dr. Anthony G. Fane (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore).

The prize is awarded to this team for the development and application of novel forward osmosis hollow fibre membranes. Their work combines forward osmosis with a reverse osmosis (RO)-like inner selective layer and a novel and previously undiscovered positively charged nanofiltration (NF)-like outer selective layer.

This novel structure provides enhanced performance by reducing the effects of scaling and flux losses caused by internal concentration polarization. These membranes promise to be a key factor for the reduction of the energy required for water treatment by membrane processes.

Water Management and Protection Prize: Dr. Daniel P. Loucks – (Cornell University, USA).

The prize is awarded to Dr. Loucks for the development and implementation of systems tools for practical water resources management problems worldwide. His work provides an effective, dynamic framework which is used successfully throughout the world to examine the interplay between environmental stress, stakeholder participation processes and hydrological systems. Decision makers in numerous countries, including developing nations, have been trained and influenced by Dr. Loucks’ approach to water resources planning. This is precisely why he is known as the “father of the systems approach to water resources management”.