Professors Bruce Rittmann and Mark van Loosdrecht received the 2018 Stockholm Water Prize on Wednesday for microbiological research and innovations that have revolutionized water and wastewater treatment. The prize was presented to them by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall during World Water Week.
The research of Rittmann from the Biodesign Institute and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University and van Loosdrecht from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has contributed to the understanding of how microorganisms can transform organic pollutants to something of value to humans and the environment.
This remarkable scientific achievement has led to the implementation across the globe of technologies that make it possible to remove harmful contaminants from water, cut wastewater treatment costs, reduce energy consumption and even recover chemicals and nutrients for recycling.
When congratulating the laureates, Crown Princess Victoria said: “There is nothing more hope-inspiring than to learn about new and innovative ways to conquer our most fundamental challenges. Like fresh water, the creativity of the human mind is a most valuable natural resource, holding the keys to a just and healthy future for us all.”
On receiving the prize, the laureates thanked their universities and the nominating committee, with van Loosdrecht adding: “I would also like to thank all the PhD students who I have worked together with developing this technology — without them, not much would have come out of my hands.”
Rittmann remarked: “I view honors like the Stockholm Water Prize not as a 'happy ending,' but as a foundation to contribute in more and better ways. More than Mark and me, the true winner today should be environmental biotechnology, our powerful partnership with microorganisms. Human society needs the power of the human-microbe partnership. It can make our environment cleaner, generate truly renewable resources and improve our health.”
Professor Kartik Chandran, member of the Stockholm Water Prize nominating committee, said: “Professors Rittmann and van Loosdrecht have an exceptional and repeated record of converting pressing societal and environmental challenges all the way from basic research to proven and commercially viable opportunities for municipalities, agriculture and industry around the world.”
In addition to their research efforts, both laureates have trained numerous engineers, scientists and academics who carry on and expand their legacy. Environmental biotechnology is now a rapidly growing field, of relevance to energy, materials, food and human health.
“Professors Rittmann and van Loosdrecht are at the forefront of the environmental biotechnology revolution. I am deeply impressed by how they have converted trailblazing theories into current practice, making water treatment more affordable by borrowing solutions from nature,” said Stockholm International Water Institute Executive Director Torgny Holmgren.
The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1991 and presented annually by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)to an individual, organization or institution for outstanding water-related achievements. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is patron of the prize. The Stockholm Water Prize founders are united in their strong conviction to drive sustainability in the water sector: Bacardi, Europeiska ERV, Poul Due Jensen Foundation, Ragn-Sells, Water Environment Federation, Xylem Inc., and Ålandsbanken. SIWI organizes World Water Week — the leading annual event on global water issues — and the Stockholm Water Prize and Stockholm Junior Water Prize, which are awarded during World Water Week.
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