SINGAPORE: World-renowned hydrogeologist John Anthony Cherry was awarded this year's Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize on Monday (Mar 21).
The prize was launched in 2008 to honour outstanding contributions by individuals or organisations towards solving the world's water problems by developing innovative technologies or implementing programmes which benefit humanity. It will be handed out at the Singapore International Water Week in July.
Professor Cherry was selected from 98 nominations - double 2014's number - for his contributions in groundwater management, a major water source for many countries in the world. Groundwater currently forms 96 per cent of all fresh water on the planet, with more than 50 per cent of the world's population depending on groundwater.
In particular, his research has contributed significantly to more effective management of groundwater pollution. Technologies and processes developed by him have been implemented in areas such as the United States, China and Brazil, among others.
Prof Cherry said he has plans to use the S$300,000 cash prize towards creating a free online textbook on the topic of groundwater. The Canadian native hopes to translate the e-textbook to as many languages as possible for more people to benefit.
"The hope then would be groundwater knowledge will be free. It'll be available across the globe and it'll be good knowledge," he said.
"I was pleased not just by having recognition for my works, but more pleased (about) the fact that it draws attention to the type of groundwater issues that I'm talking about. Given all the complexity, quite often we're able to come up with ideas that will actually allow us to expect what's going to happen, and have practical benefits like helping governments have better regulations," Prof Cherry added.
Past winners include the Orange County Water District for its pioneering work in water reclamation using advanced water reuse technologies, Dr James Barnard for his Biological Nutrient Removal technology, and Professor Gatze Lettinga from the Netherlands for his anaerobic technology for used water treatment.
This year's nominations came from various regions, including Asia Pacific, United States, Canada and Europe.