By Ogova Ondego
Published April 29, 2016
An American scientist, researcher and water champion who has worked in Kenya and Malawi has won the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize.
Joan Rose, who holds the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University, won the coveted prize for what is described as her dedication “to water quality and public health.”
A leading world authority on water microbiology, Rose was further praised for her “tireless contributions to global public health; by assessing risks to human health in water and creating guidelines and tools for decision-makers and communities to improve global wellbeing.”
On receiving the news, she said: “I am very honoured to be part of a list of such distinguished past winners. The Prize calls attention to the most important issues around water in the 21st century, and for me, that is water quality”.
Saying she is “motivated by the principles of public health” and “how to prevent disease”, Prof Rose laments: “A key barrier, our water infrastructure, is crumbling or non-existing in many parts of the world. The global population un-served by sewage treatment is counted in the billions.”
It is estimated that around 1000 children under five die every day from diarrhoeal diseases; that two billion people in the world lack adequate sanitation; that more than a billion lack access to safe drinking water; and that the 842000 deaths that result from diarrhoeal diseases each year could be prevented by improved water, sanitation and hygiene.
“We need to develop a global water curriculum to educate the next generation of problem solvers,” Prof Rose says of the problem. “The need is enormous.”
Professor Rose and her team, whom she calls “water detectives”, investigate waterborne disease outbreaks globally, to determine how they can be stopped, and prevented. She was the first person to present the widespread occurrence of Cryptosporidium in water supplies in 1988.
Joan Rose is said to have been a major player in the establishment of World Health Organisation’s WHO Drinking Water Standard in 2004.
In its citation, The Stockholm Water Prize Committee says, “The nexus of water-related microbiology, water quality and public health is rife with theoretical and practical uncertainty. There are few individuals who can tackle the increasing and changing challenges to clean water and health; from state-of-the-art science and original research, through professional dissemination, effective legislative lobbying, guiding practitioners, and raising general awareness. Joan Rose is the leading example of this extraordinary blend of talents.”
Torgny Holmgren, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)’s Executive Director, says of the laureate, “Professor Rose is on a quest to secure the health of all human beings and aquatic ecosystems. She has continuously shown great leadership in making the world a better place.”
Joan Rose is the world’s foremost authority on Cryptosporidium, presenting its widespread occurrence in water supplies in 1988. In 1993, the microorganism affected over 400000 people, killing 69, in Milwaukee, USA.
King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Patron of Stockholm Water Prize, will present the prize to Joan Rose at a Royal Award Ceremony on August 31, 2016 during the World Water Week in Stockholm.
The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1991 and presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) to an individual, organisation or institution for outstanding water-related achievements. The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives US$150000 and a specially designed sculpture.
Stockholm International Water Institute is a policy institute that generates knowledge and informs decision-makers towards water wise policy and sustainable development. SIWI performs research, builds institutional capacity and provides advisory services in five thematic areas: water governance; trans-boundary water management; water and climate change; the water-energy-food nexus; and water economics. SIWI organizes the World Water Week in Stockholm.