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Prestigious prize stirs enthusiasm for water in future leaders

This year's National Water Week theme, "Reimagining our Water Future", pairs well with the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, which aims to encourage brilliant young minds to develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest water problems.

With the 2021 Australian Stockholm Junior Water Prize now open for entries, we asked two of this years’ prize judges to reflect on the importance of the award in supporting and celebrating young water minds.

Xylem is a proud supporter of the Australian Stockholm Junior Water Prize and judge and Xylem Product & Marketing Manager Treatment, Philipp Raichle, said the prize supports the ideas of young people, but it’s also important for the water sector.

“The prize is important for many reasons; it encourages upcoming talent to think about water problems and it also creates great role models for other young people interested in water, too,” he said.

“But the prize is also important for the water sector. As a sector, sometimes we can get set in our ways. We tend to look at problems the same way. It’s important for us to encourage the contribution of the next generation.

“It’s incredibly inspirational to see what students come up with; it’s truly great work.”

Aspirations for the future

Prize judge and SA Water Manager Risk Jeremy Lucas agrees, saying that the prize gives Australia’s water sector the chance to inspire young people towards careers in water.

“The enthusiasm from these young high school kids is quite incredible. The prize gives them a platform to promote their ideas, but it also gives the water sector an opportunity to promote itself among talented young scientists and engineers,” Lucas said.

“The challenge is keeping these young people in the water industry. A lot of these kids end up studying electronic engineering, medicine and the other areas of science.

“The prize gives the sector an opportunity to promote what we are all about to young people, and hopefully sow a few seeds to keep them involved in future.”

In terms of water solutions, Lucas said many of the entrants' work revolved around solving environmental issues, and clearly reflected a desire to make a positive change in the way water is managed.

“[The entrants] are enthusiastic, they see the world around them and often there's an environmental flavour to their work, whether they are creating a device for monitoring water or creating a solution for a local council,” Lucas said.

“And because participants are looking for low cost and easily reproducible devices, there's often good potential for application in developing countries. There’s a real potential for some of their ideas to go further.”

Ingenuity and inspiration

Furthermore, Raichle said the ideas produced in pursuit of the prize are often solutions unlikely to be developed by larger corporations or water companies, adding real ingenuity to the water solutions and tools developed.

“I don't know if a corporation would necessarily come up with the same solutions as these young students. For example, recent Australian winner Emma Serisier’s eggshell solution for nutrient runoff is an effective, circular economy solution. It’s unlikely to make anyone any money, but it's truly relevant for the actual problem,” Raichle said.

“Some of the entries really blow me away. You could probably put ten adult engineers into a room and they’d never devise some of these solutions. All the entrants showcase the desire to make a difference, as well as incredible talent.

“All of these young people are capable of contributing to the sector in fantastic ways. It’s inspiring to see just how much water solutions really matter to young people around Australia, and the world.”

The 2020 Stockholm Junior Water Prize was won by two students from Japan for their research into controlling soil runoff and increasing food production by the functional water collection system using traditional Japanese soil solidification technology: “Ta-Ta-Ki”. Read about it here.