Singapore International Water Week today announced that Dr James L. Barnard has been awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2011, a prestigious award that recognises outstanding contributions towards solving global water problems by either applying technologies or implementing policies and programmes which benefit humanity.
For his groundbreaking invention of the Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) technology, an environmentally sustainable, biological method to treat used water, Dr Barnard stood out from a record of 72 high-quality nominations received from 29 countries this year, to become the fourth recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize - one of the highlights of the Singapore International Water Week.
Dr Barnard's BNR technology revolutionised used water treatment processes by using naturally occurring micro-organisms instead of conventional chemicals to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from used water. This helps to protect water quality in lakes and rivers, minimise negative impact on the environment and promote the recycling of water.
Commenting on Dr Barnard's achievement, Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Nominating Committee said, "The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize celebrates Dr James Barnard's outstanding achievement in the development of the BNR technology. His relentless pursuit of adaptable solutions to resolve the challenge of water reclamation has led to a highly sustainable technology that protects the quality of precious water resources and the environment, and delivers immense benefit to mankind. Bridging the gap between research and industrial application, his technology now forms the basis of all BNR processes in use today in both developed and developing countries."
Internationally recognised as the "Father of BNR", Dr Barnard began exploring the possibility of removing phosphorus and nitrogen from used water when faced with water quality challenges in his native South Africa, and arid Namibia in the 1970s.
Prior to the development of the BNR technology, wastewater treatment plants used chemicals to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. Left to accumulate, nitrogen and phosphorus can lead to excessive algae growth, which adversely affects the ecology in water bodies and contributes to poor water quality in rivers and lakes. Dr Barnard's BNR technology eliminates the use of chemicals, which is costly, needs more resources and energy to produce and creates more sludge for disposal. This environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional chemical processes makes it possible to return treated used water to rivers and lakes with minimal detrimental impact on the environment.
"Not only have his efforts been instrumental in the development of a technology (BNR) that has become essential to protecting global water resources, through his efforts, Dr Barnard serves as a role model for all water professionals through his generosity, development of people and commitment to continued advancements," said Mr Glen Daigger, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer CH2M Hill, and President of the International Water Association.
For more than 40 years, he has pursued adaptable solutions in order to bridge the gap between his research and the industrial application of his technology. Dr Barnard has adapted his BNR technology to suit different climates, environmental limitations and water infrastructure across the globe. This has led to the widespread implementation of BNR-based processes around the world such as in the US, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In recent years, the technology is being adopted in developing countries such as China and Brazil.
"It is really a great surprise to win this prestigious award. I am honoured to be recognised for all the years I spent working in the field. This is particularly meaningful coming from Singapore which has taken the reclamation of wastewater for potable use to new heights," said Dr Barnard.
Dr Barnard will receive the award from Singapore's first Prime Minister and present Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, at a presentation ceremony and banquet to be held on 5 July during Singapore International Water Week 2011. Dr Barnard will also deliver the Singapore Water Lecture 2011 to some 1,500 delegates comprising government, business and academic leaders attending the Singapore International Water Week 2011.
Past winners of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize include the Yellow River Conservancy Commission, honoured in 2010 for its outstanding accomplishments in integrated river basin management which has brought about widespread and sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits; Professor Gatze Lettinga from the Netherlands whose ground-breaking development of anaerobic technology for used water treatment won him the prize in 2009; and Canadian researcher and technopreneur, Dr Andrew Benedek who received the inaugural prize in 2008 for pioneering the development of low-pressure membranes.
Nominations for the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize underwent a rigorous selection process by a Nominating Committee comprising chief executives of multi-national water companies, leading academics and government officers. The Committee's recommendations were endorsed by the Water Prize Council, which is chaired by Dr Tony Tan, Chairman of the Singapore National Research Foundation.
The winner of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize receives a cash prize of S$300,000, an award certificate and a gold medallion. The award is sponsored by the Singapore Millennium Foundation, a philanthropic body supported by Temasek Holdings.
About Singapore International Water Week
The Singapore International Water Week is the global platform for water solutions. It brings policymakers, industry leaders, experts and practitioners together to address challenges, showcase technologies, discover opportunities and celebrate achievements in the water world. Comprising the Water Leaders Summit, Water Convention, Water Expo and Business Forums, it culminates in the presentation of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, a prestigious international award to recognise outstanding contributions in solving global water issues. The fourth Singapore International Water Week will be held from 4 to 8 July 2011. The theme is Sustainable Water Solutions for a Changing Urban Environment. For more information, log onto www.siww.com.sg.