With water challenges escalating around the world, the need to attract the next generation of innovators and sustainability champions to help solve water has never been more important. One key way to engage youth is through the Stockholm Junior Water Prize – the world’s most prestigious water competition at the high school level – which invites students between ages 15 and 20 to create innovative solutions to address urgent water issues.
This year, Stockholm International Water Institute named Hiroki Matsuhashi and Takuma Miyaki from Japan as winners of the award for their innovation to prevent soil erosion. HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden announced the winners during an online award ceremony as part of World Water Week At Home on August 25. Due to COVID-19, this year the award ceremony and other events were all held virtually.
Xylem is a founding and longstanding sponsor of the competition, which began in 1997, as part of the company’s commitment to engaging and championing the next generation of water innovators and stewards.
Hiroki Matsuhashi and Takuma Miyaki developed a method to control soil runoff and increase food production, using a traditional Japanese soil solidification technology called Tataki.
“This system is made of only inexpensive natural materials, so it is cheap and eco-friendly,” the Japanese team said in their video presentation. “We would like to spread this system to the world and solve water and food problems.”
The Jury noted that: “This year’s winners have proven that simple local solutions can solve water problems in a global context. Through systematic studies the contestants have developed methods to make water conservation and soil management more achievable. The contestants effectively combined scientific knowledge and experimentation to revolutionize the way water is collected, used, and conserved for agriculture in arid regions.”
Xylem President and CEO Patrick Decker encouraged the student finalists to consider pursuing careers in the water sector, so they can leverage their talents to help solve one of the major sustainability challenges of our time.
“There is so much at stake when it comes to water, our health, the global economy, the environment,” Decker said. “But I’ve also never been so optimistic. There are innovations out there that can completely transform the way we think about water. We cannot solve these challenges on our own. We need your innovative minds, your passion and your commitment to justice. And that’s again why we are so proud to sponsor this competition.”
A Diploma of Excellence was awarded to Zoe Gotthold, USA, for a creative approach to limiting the impact of oil pollution in marine ecosystems. By isolating the emulsion that forms between spilled oil and seawater she had found a promising solution and “demonstrated extraordinary knowledge and perseverance,” according to the Jury.
This year, the public could also vote in the People's Choice Award, which went to Adittya Kumar Chowdhury and Khaled Iftekhar from Bangladesh. They have developed a low-cost method to purify water with naturally derived poly glutamic acid and Moringa oleifera seeds.
“I am humbled by the fact that many of these projects were developed under the most challenging of circumstances,” said Ania Andersch, Manager for Stockholm Junior Water Prize at SIWI.