By Stockholm International Water Institute
Published September 4, 2014
Hayley Todesco, a student from Canada’s Alberta province, has won the 2014 Stockholm Junior Water Prize for inventing a method that uses sand filters to treat oil-contaminated water for reuse.
Receiving the prize from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden during the World Water Week in Stockholm on September 3, 2014, Todesco—a senior at Queen Elizabeth Junior Senior High School in Calgary—said she was shocked but grateful.
“I got the idea of using sand filters from a pen pal in Namibia two years ago, and started testing them on waste-water in a tank at home. Now I have just started studying to become a microbiologist and I hope to spend a great deal of time in the lab to continue developing the method,” she said.
The international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment. This year, thousands of participants in countries all over the globe joined national competitions for the chance to represent their nation at the international final held during the World Water Week in Stockholm. Teams from 29 countries competed in the 2014 finals.
“This year’s winning project addresses a neglected but pressing environmental issue. The entry displays genuine outside the box thinking. Hundreds of hours of self-driven effort achieved a project that excelled in all judging criteria,” said the Jury in its citation.
The winning entry is a new application of an old water treatment technology that dates back to 1804. Sand filters have traditionally been used to treat drinking water, but Hayley Todesco instead used slow sand filters on contaminated water in oil sands tailing ponds. The method proved to treat wastewater at a faster rate than typical processes, as the sand filters grow bacteria that effectively break down toxic waste.
A Diploma of Excellence was awarded to students Orawan Thasanabenjakul, Pannawat Peanjad and Natthanicha Jairungsr from Thailand, for transforming wastewater generated during the production of raw natural rubber sheets to a valuable bio-plastic.
“The students created a new useful, environmentally friendly product from something previously regarded as waste. The project has the potential to help improve the quality of life for many people and solve an important water-related environmental problem.” said the Jury in its citation.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition is open to young people aged 15-20 years who have conducted water-related projects on topics of environmental, scientific, social and technological importance. The aim of the competition is to increase awareness, interest and knowledge of water and the environment. As of this year the board of SIWI has decided to increase the prize sum to the winners and also to institute a new prize. The international winner will from now on receive a US$15 000 award and a prize sculpture, the winner’s school receives US$5 000 (new category) and the winner of the Diploma of Excellence US$3 000. Stockholm International Water Institute administers the competition.