World Water Week: SA’s own, Dr Jackie King wins prestigious Stockholm Water Prize

Dr King was named laureate of the award at a lavish banquet hosted by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Sylvia of Sweden, at the Swedish City Hall on the evening of 28 August. In attendance were family and friends, ambassadors, the finalists in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and other esteemed guests.

Dr King, who is based in Cape Town, won the award for her game-changing contributions to global river management research. According to SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute), she has advanced the scientific understanding of water flows, giving decision-makers methods and tools to assess the full range of costs and benefits when managing or developing river systems.

Dr King’s work influenced South Africa’s 1998 National Water Act and is increasingly guiding governments and institutions across the globe.

At the award ceremony, the King of Sweden referred to Dr King’s work as ‘an important contribution’ to the water industry and said he was honoured to present Dr King with her award. The King of Sweden is the Patron of the Stockholm Water Prize and has personally handed it to its recipient every year since the award’s inception, barring one. He spoke of how climate change and pollution were further limiting access to the already stressed resource, and how competition for water was a reality for many across the globe.

On receiving her award, Dr King warned that: “The natural systems that support everything we do are increasingly under threat, and our planet is in trouble. We have to put the brakes on, as we cannot continue along the course we are on now.”

She spoke of shifting mindsets from exploitation to caring and nurturing of support systems. “This year’s water prize focusses on our inland waters – it acknowledges the rights of rivers, wetlands and estuaries to exist, and in good condition. It is a right that is increasingly featuring in national water laws, including our visionary one in South Africa,” said Dr King.

Dr King took time to acknowledge the work of other African scientists and water specialists who care for the inland water systems and rivers in Africa.

Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director at SIWI, commented that Dr King has helped decision-makers understand that healthy rivers ecosystems are not a luxury, but the basis for sustainable development.

Dr King is the third South African in the history of the Stockholm Water Prize to take home the glory. Before her were John Briscoe in 2014 and Kader Asmal in 2000.

The Stockholm Water Prize, presented annually since 1991, is the world’s most prestigious water award and honours women, men and organisations that have achieved extraordinary water-related results. All nominations are carefully reviewed by the world’s leading water experts of the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee. After the Committee has selected a candidate, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences makes the final decision which is confirmed by the Board of Stockholm International Water Institute.

Australian wins the Stockholm Junior Water Prize

The Stockholm Junior Prize went to Australian student Macinley Butson for her project on water purification, but not before the two South African nominees had truly shown off their best. Calden Gounden and Kiaran Chetty were the epitome of gentlemen as their dream of holding this year’s Stockholm Junior Water Prize came to an end on 27 August.

The boys, both from Durban, had been in Stockholm for World Water Week to present their project on water conservation before a panel of esteemed judges. Their teacher, Tahir Danli, spoke after the award ceremony of how proud he was of the boys. “I know that they will be disappointed, but they have made us all very proud. They worked very hard and they gave the judges good answers to their questions. I am very proud,” he said.

After the awards the boys commented that although disappointed, they were happy about the experience. “We are here, and we have achieved a lot to get here. We are all winners,” they said of themselves and their fellow entrants.

This year, a total of 35 countries took part in what is one of the biggest academic competitions in the world.

Source: Capricorn Review