Student innovators take on water threats from flash floods to pharmaceutical pollution to water access.
Global water challenges are intensifying, but a new generation of innovators are hard at work, discovering exciting new ways to solve water. Every year, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize invites students aged 15 to 20 to share their bold ideas. Established in 1997 with Xylem as a founding sponsor, the competition attracts tens of thousands of entries from over 40 countries.
You can play a role in selecting one of this year’s winners! From now until August 15, you can vote for your favorite project in the People’s Choice category. The winners will be announced on August 30 during World Water Week in Stockholm. Below is a sample of some of this year’s amazing projects. View them all and vote here by August 15!
1. Using wine byproducts to treat textile industry effluent
The textile industry uses 1.3 trillion gallons of water to dye garments every year. Much of that water gets discarded – without being treated – into local waterways, causing serious damage to the environment. Amanda Ribeiro Machado, a student from Brazil, developed a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to treat textile effluents that uses biomembranes produced with wine byproducts.
“Water is a human right,” said Amanda. “This project has social, environmental and scientific relevance in developing a sustainable alternative for textile effluent treatment, addressing 8 of the 17 SDGs.”
2. Recycling seagrass to recover phosphate from wastewater and produce fertilizer
Excessive phosphate in water can cause rapid growth of algae, leading to water quality problems that can be harmful to humans and wildlife. Eleni Makri and Themis Themistokleous, students from Cyprus, developed a solution that uses thermally-treated seaweed to recover phosphate from wastewater. The phosphate-exposed material can also potentially be used to produce a fertilizer substitute for growing crops like lentils. Another benefit: many communities today pay to remove seaweed from beaches so it doesn’t interfere with tourism. This solution turns a nuisance into a new way to help the environment.
3. Leveraging satellite and digital technology to manage saltwater intrusion and flash floods
The problems of saltwater intrusion and flash floods pose a major challenge to the world’s food security, and these threats are expected to intensify in the face of sea-level rise and increased occurrences of severe weather due to climate change. To address this, Pawarit Chayawiwatkul, a student from Thailand, turned to cutting-edge technologies.
“The satellite communication system combined with artificial neural networks provides an intelligent and efficient worldwide early warning and water management system, guaranteeing sustainable agricultural production and global food security,” said Pawarit.
4. Desalinizing seawater through the innovative use of wood ash
Over 97 percent of the earth's water is found in the oceans as salt water. As the challenge of clean water access intensifies around the globe, many communities are looking to desalination; however, the process can be energy-intensive and costly. Esaïe Aïmass and Jennifer Sèyido Laeticia Hounkpe of Benin developed a more affordable way for communities to desalinate seawater using wood ash mixed with tap water.
“Our country Benin faces enormous challenges related to access to drinking water. We asked ourselves how a coastal country like Benin could meet such a challenge?” – Esaïe and Jennifer
5. Using toilet paper as a tool to reduce pharmaceutical pollutants in water
A massive amount of pharmaceutical residue ends up in the water chain through human urine. Diona de Jager, Femke Kruisselbrink and Elle Raven, students from The Netherlands, researched whether it’s possible to produce toilet paper that will bond with drug residue, so it can be removed more effectively from sewage. Their findings showed that toilet paper containing lignin – a common network polymer in plants that is currently extracted in the toilet paper manufacturing process because of its brown color – can significantly reduce pharmaceutical pollutants.
6. Designing a portable device for water purification in emergencies
In war and natural disaster situations, ensuring people have access to safe drinking water can be a devastating challenge. Artur Kosohin and Anastasiia Kozak, students from the Ukraine, developed a portable solution for water purification in emergencies that does not require a continuous power source.
“Since the beginning of the war, we have faced a tremendous number of emergencies, when it is difficult to get quality water. We thought: ‘What can we do to provide people with safe quality water?’" – Artur and Anastasiia
Vote for your favorite 2023 student water innovation project here.
Learn more about Xylem’s commitment to igniting the next generation of water innovators.