Pioneer in groundwater contamination research wins Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize

SINGAPORE- A Canadian pioneer in groundwater contamination research has been awarded this year's prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus John Anthony Cherry, of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Waterloo was awarded the prize for his contributions to the advancement of groundwater science, policies and technologies.

The award, named after Singapore's first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew and launched in 2008, is given out once every two years. It recognises individuals or organisations that have contributed towards solving global water challenges by developing or applying innovative technologies, policies or programmes.

Groundwater, which can be found in spaces between soil particles and fractured rock underground, makes up about 95 per cent of the planet's usable freshwater.

However, the water is prone to contamination as a result of agricultural practices or energy production such as in the case of shale fracking- where natural gas is released from fractured shale rocks underground.

Prof Cherry's work has helped to develop technologies and clean-up processes implemented in countries that face groundwater contamination such as the United States, Brazil and China.

The results were announced on Monday (March 21) by Mr Ng Joo Hee, Chief Executive of national water agency PUB, at the Environment Building.

Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Nominating Committee, said, "Prof Cherry exemplifies the attributes needed to drive the development of innovative solutions that address the global water crises... The insights and contributions made by Prof Cherry form today's framework in understanding one of the world's most precious water resources, and ultimately lead to the provision of safe drinking water to populations that rely primarily on groundwater resources."

There were 98 nominations received for this year's award- double that for 2014's prize.

On winning the award, the 74-year-old hydrogeologist said: "I am confident that global accolades such as the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize will heighten awareness of the global water challenges and encourage the development of innovative water solutions and technologies for more effective water management and protection of our water resources."

Award winners will each receive a cash prize of S$300,000, an award certificate and a gold medallion.

Prof Cherry will be delivering the Singapore Water Lecture on July 11 and will receive the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize at a ceremony and banquet on the same night.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg