Singapore, Stockholm Name Water Prize Winners

Andrew Benedek, Ph.D., a Canadian researcher and successful technopreneur, has been named the winner of the inaugural Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize in Singapore while Professor John Anthony Allan from King’s College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies has been named the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. The announcements were made March 18 and 19, respectively.

Benedek pioneered the development of low-pressure membranes that enabled drinking water to be produced from even highly polluted water.

"Dr. Andrew Benedek is held in high esteem by the global water industry community for his pioneering work in low-pressure membranes. For this outstanding contribution, he deserves to be the recipient of the inaugural Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize," said Professor Anthony Gordon Fane, UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science & Technology, University of New South Wales.

Low-pressure membranes use less energy, have lower operating costs, and are more easily operated when compared with conventional water purification technologies.

"Through Dr. Benedek's significant R&D contribution and commercialization efforts, a superior low-cost technology for water treatment is now available for large-scale use," said Mr. Tan Gee Paw, chairman of the Nominating Committee of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize.

The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize is an international award recognizing an individual or organization for outstanding contributions in the world of water management. Such works have to solve the world's water problems through the application of innovative technologies or the implementation of policies and programs that benefit mankind.

Named after Singapore's founding father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, the award comes with a cash prize of $215,000. The award is sponsored by the Singapore Millennium Foundation, a philanthropic body supported by Temasek Holdings that has pledged $1.5 million in Singapore dollars over five years to the award.

The widespread adoption of low-pressure membranes has made the technology even more affordable. Utility providers in the United States, Europe, China, India, the Middle East, South America, Japan, Australia and Singapore have incorporated Benedek's membranes into their water treatment processes. In addition, low-pressure membranes are used in the pre-treatment stage in sea water desalination.

A gold medallion, an award certificate, and the cash prize will be presented to Benedek by Lee Kuan Yew. Benedek, who is now based in the United States, will deliver the inaugural Singapore Water Lecture on June 24.

Stockholm's honoree, Allan, pioneered the development of key concepts in the understanding and communication of water issues and how they are linked to agriculture, climate change, economics, and politics.

In 1993, Allan, 71, demonstrated the “virtual water” concept, which measures how water is embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products. Behind that morning cup of coffee are 140 liters of water used to grow, produce, package, and ship the beans. That is roughly the same amount of water used by an average person daily in England for drinking and household needs.

Virtual water has major impacts on global trade policy and research, especially in water-scarce regions, and has redefined discourse in water policy and management. National, regional, and global water and food security, for example, can be enhanced when water-intensive commodities are traded from places where they are economically viable to produce to places where they are not. While studying water scarcity in the Middle East, Allan developed the theory of using virtual water import, via food, as an alternative water “source” to reduce pressure on the scarcely available domestic water resources there and in other water-short regions.

In its citation, the international Nominating Committee wrote: "Professor Tony Allan is awarded for the Stockholm Water Prize for his unique, pioneering, and long-lasting work in education and raising the awareness internationally of interdisciplinary relationships between agricultural production, water use, economies, and political processes."

Allan also has developed the idea and terminology of “hydro-hegemony” and the “problemshed.” This work has led to better understanding of potential and real conflicts in transboundary regions such as the Nile Basin, where water resources are shared between countries, while providing perspective on economic and political processes that can make food and water security possible for all nations in such water basins.

He has served as a consultant for numerous governments, the World Bank, and the European Union. His keen perceptions and scientific analysis have inspired new thinking on the spectrum of water challenges. He is described by many as one of the most influential thinkers in the global water sector today.

The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1990 and presented annually by the Stockholm Water Foundation to an individual, organization, or institution for outstanding water-related activities. The activities can be within education and awareness-raising, human and international relations, research, water management, and water-related aid. The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives $150,000 along with a glass sculpture. The award will be presented Aug. 21 in the Stockholm City Hall.

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