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Young Australian inventor wins Stockholm Junior Water Prize

18-year-old Australian inventor Macinley Butson from Wollongong, New South Wales has won the world’s biggest international water science competition for high school students, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

This is the first time an Australian has won the award since its inception in 1997.

The announcement was made on Tuesday evening in Stockholm, Sweden during World Water Week, which runs from 25 to 30 August.

The Australian Water Association (AWA) coordinates the Australian competition, with the local winner then competing for the international prize against 35 other countries.

Butson's winning invention is the SODIS Sticker, an innovative ultraviolet radiation sticker that can accurately measure the solar UV exposure required to sanitise drinking water.

Given that one in three people globally use a biologically contaminated water source, Butson’s invention is a cost-effective solution for providing developing communities with safe drinking water.

In their citation, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize Jury said: “This year’s winning project addresses public health through renewable energy and water. The project embodies simplicity and affordability, leaving no one behind.

“This invention is practical, ready and globally deployable. The project demonstrates experience and expertise by a dedicated and creative young scientist. This entry will stick in our minds for a long time.”

The winner receives US$15,000 and a crystal sculpture presented by HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Butson also won US$5,000 for her high school, Illawarra Grammar.

For Butson, winning the international prize was about much more than the monetary rewards.

“I'm very overwhelmed and feeling a lot of love. I never expected this outcome, but it's been an amazing opportunity to be able to connect with so many like-minded people," she said.

"To come here and see that the future is in good hands and that there are young people who are doing amazing things has been extremely inspiring."

Xylem sponsors the Australian award and Managing Director - Oceania Jim Athanas congratulated Butson on her win.

“On behalf of Xylem Oceania, I would like to congratulate Macinley for winning the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. The SODIS sticker project will provide safe and clean drinking water for many who don't have access to it," Athanas said.

“Xylem is proud to sponsor this award and work with Macinley and like-minded young Australians as they work towards 'solving water'."

AWA Chief Executive Jonathan McKeown said the Australian and global water industry has much to be proud of and even more to look forward to.

“It is so impressive to see how young people like Macinley are tackling the world’s water challenges with such passion and in the process helping to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation for all,” he said.

“We are extremely proud of Macinley for her inventiveness and look forward to seeing what water challenges she and her peers will tackle in the future.”

The 2020 Australian Stockholm Junior Water Prize is now open for entries until Monday, 16 December. To find out about the competition and to enter, visit