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Citation for Professor John Anthony Cherry


Professor John Anthony Cherry Short Motivation

Professor John Anthony Cherry is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2016 for his contributions to the advancement of groundwater science, policies, and technologies. A world-renowned hydrogeologist, his revolutionary research in collaboration with international partners has provided the global groundwater community with a better scientific framework to formulate policies and best practices. He has been a major influence in advancing global recognition of groundwater processes and the development of better field methods for monitoring groundwater contamination.

Beyond research and policy impacts, the scientific framework for monitoring technologies and clean-up efforts developed and recommended by Professor Cherry has been implemented in many areas with groundwater contamination around the world. With groundwater making up 95% of the planet's usable freshwater, and as a major water source for many countries and regions including the United States, Australia, Europe and China, Professor Cherry's advocacy for and contribution to the protection of the world's groundwater resources is truly remarkable and impactful.


Professor Cherry is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2016 for his contributions to scientific understanding, technology advancements and policy influences in groundwater management. A world renowned hydrogeologist, his revolutionary research, in collaboration with international partners, has provided a better scientific framework for groundwater regulators and practitioners to formulate policies and best practices.

Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, groundwater research efforts were limited mostly to laboratory-scale studies, primarily because of the complexities and challenges in conducting direct subsurface measurements and observations in actual physical environments. In particular, there was no established science on contaminant hydrogeology – the movement and fate of contaminants in groundwater. Professor Cherry revolutionised groundwater research by developing, through strongly collaborative efforts, innovative field measurement approaches and methods that integrate drilling and subsurface instrumentation with conceptual modelling. In the 1980s, he established the Borden Groundwater Field Research Facility which is used by many researchers internationally to discover major scientific insights about groundwater flow as well as the movement and fate of contaminants in the earth layers. He also stimulated the development of new approaches and technologies to monitor, control and clean-up contaminated groundwater. These findings and insights were influential in convincing policy makers to adopt new conceptualisations for groundwater management and remediation of industrial contamination.

One of the most important insights unearthed by Professor Cherry and his collaborators is the proof that the movement of natural chemical constituents and contaminants in many aquitards (low-permeability, clay-rich zones within the earth that restrict groundwater flow) is diffusion-controlled rather than flow-controlled. Therefore, such aquitards contain groundwater of geologic age that is thousands or even millions of years old. This formed the theoretical basis for a set of benchmark criteria used to select aquitards for the disposal of solid-form, hazardous industrial and nuclear waste, which has been incorporated into regulatory frameworks.

Working with a team of colleagues, Professor Cherry led a major breakthrough in contaminant hydrogeology through field research concerning the unusual behaviour of a group of industrial contaminants known as dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs), which behave differently in the subsurface soil than all other types of contaminants. This resulted in a paradigm shift in groundwater pollution control measures from expectations for complete contaminant removal using the pump-and-treat approach which was excessively expensive and technically ineffective, to strategies for risk management involving contamination control and targeted in situ remediation. In 1993, Prof Cherry was invited to present and answer questions on the effectiveness of pump-and-treat remediation of groundwater to a committee of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. This was part of a process that resulted in new groundwater remediation guidelines and approaches in the United States and other countries, e.g., United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Technical Impracticability waivers and Handbook on DNAPL by ENV UK.

Beyond these research and policy impacts, the scientific framework for clean-up efforts and monitoring approaches recommended by Professor Cherry have been implemented in areas with groundwater contamination worldwide, including those in Canada, the United States, and Brazil, among others. Most recently, he has become a strong advocate for the need to intensely monitor and research the effects on groundwater resources of shale gas exploitation using hydraulic fracking.

In recent years, Professor Cherry has also focused his participation in research on fractured rock, the least understood of all groundwater systems but one that is particularly susceptible to contamination. This is consistent with his career-long focus on identifying and filling knowledge gaps that limit the ability to understand and manage the world’s precious groundwater resources. He is applying his knowledge about fractured rock hydrology and rock drilling to help find safe drinking water supplies to communities in mountainous bedrock regions with limited vehicle access. In addition, Professor Cherry continues to contribute to the scientific community through the mentorship of promising young scientists and engineers; many of whom have gone on to play influential roles in groundwater science globally.

As a leading authority in hydrogeology, Professor Cherry is lauded for his lifelong dedication to the protection of groundwater resources. His advocacy and contributions are truly remarkable and impactful, especially since groundwater constitutes 95% of the usable freshwater on our planet.

About Professor John Anthony Cherry:

Professor John Anthony Cherry is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He retired from the University of Waterloo in 2006, but continues to conduct research and provide research leadership as the Director of the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Contamination Research that he established in 1988. An Adjunct Professor at the University of Guelph, he is also the Associate Director of the G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater G360 – The Centre for Groundwater Research.

Professor Cherry has participated in the development of technologies for groundwater monitoring and remediation, and co-holds several patents on this. He has co-authored textbooks and monographs that have very wide impact, including the textbook “Groundwater” with R.A. Freeze (1979) and the book “Dense Chlorinated Solvents and Other DNAPLs in Groundwater” with James Pankow (1996). Professor Cherry was the Chair of the Canadian Council of Academies Expert Panel Report on the ‘Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada’. He has received awards from scientific and engineering societies in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom and an honorary doctorate from the University of Neuchatel. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Foreign Member of the U.S. Academy of Engineering. His innovative field-based research has created new paradigms and scientific insights that enable decision makers worldwide to formulate more effective groundwater management policies.

Orange County Water District, Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2014 Laureate

  Short Motivation

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2014 for its pioneering work in groundwater management and water reclamation using advanced water reuse technologies, and achievements in public policy and community outreach that have advanced public acceptance on water reuse.

OCWD is a sterling example of a water reuse programme that meets multiple objectives. Water Factory 21, operated by OCWD since the mid 1970s, was the first facility in the world to produce potable-quality water from treated used water. The reclaimed water was recharged into the ground as a barrier against seawater intrusion. The Water Factory 21 has since been replaced by the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) which came online in 2008. In addition to acting as a barrier against seawater intrusion, the reclaimed water that GWRS produces is used to recharge the aquifer for indirect potable use, supplying enough to cater to the needs of 600,000 people. This comprehensive implementation model that OCWD pioneered includes scientific study, technological development, as well as public outreach and engagement; its success paving the way for public acceptance of water recycling for indirect potable use. The impact of OCWD's successful water reuse programme extends far beyond the county to the states of Texas and Colorado in the United States, and has also been replicated in countries such as Australia, Singapore to achieve water sustainability through water reuse, benefitting millions in the process. OCWD continues to evolve and remains at the forefront of innovation in water treatment and reuse worldwide.


The Orange County Water District (OCWD) is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2014 for its pioneering work in groundwater management and water reclamation using advanced water reuse technologies, as well as its achievements in public policy and community outreach that have advanced public acceptance on water reuse.

OCWD was formed in 1933 as a California Special District to manage the large groundwater basin that underlies both north and central Orange County. The groundwater basin provides approximately 70 percent of the water for 2.4 million people in 19 municipal water agencies and special districts.

Pioneer in groundwater management & water reuse

In the 1970s, OCWD piloted Water Factory 21, the first facility in the world to successfully demonstrate that potable-grade quality recycled water can be reliably produced from treated used water effluent through an advanced water purification system relying on reverse osmosis and granular activated carbon. Since then, based on research and demonstration efforts by OCWD, a three-stage advanced treatment process of microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet/hydrogen peroxide has been established as the standard for potable water reuse in the industry.

With Water Factory 21, OCWD established itself as the pioneer in water reuse and groundwater management. Armed with this track record, OCWD launched its most ambitious project in 2008. The Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) is a visionary water reuse project that reuses sewage effluent to recharge aquifers.

This project, which began producing water in January 2008, provides a new source of high­ quality water for year-round recharge to the aquifer. It is currently capable of supplying 70 mgd (or 265,000 m3/d) of water, enough to meet the needs of nearly 600,000 people. Approximately half of the advanced purified water is pumped to OCWD surface recharge facilities in Anaheim, California and the remaining water is injected into Orange County's seawater barrier for its expansion. To date, 125 billion gallons (443,000 megaliters) of water has been produced by the GWRS. In addition, the GWRS provides a water supply that is produced using half the energy required to pump water from Northern California - saving enough energy to power 21,000 homes each year.

This is increasingly important in today's climate, where sources of imported water that have historically been relied upon for recharge (such as the Colorado River and the California State Water Project) are becoming increasingly scarce. It also brings about increased water supply reliability and better utilisation of a precious resource.

Role model in shaping public policy and community outreach

To ensure a comprehensive and sound assessment of water reuse and aquifer recharge efforts, an Independent Advisory Panel was set up, comprising experts from various fields including toxicology, microbiology, hydrogeology, public health and environmental engineering. This Panel provided public confidence that critical aspects of the projects have been independently and scientifically scrutinised.

OCWD has also been instrumental in driving various policies around groundwater management, including the introduction of a fee, since the 1950s, based on volume of groundwater extraction for cost recovery and to encourage water conservation. Harvesting storm water with the cooperation of the US Army Corps of Engineers and purchasing imported water to create a buffer to periods of drought have also been important parts of the groundwater management programme by OCWD. Comprehensive monitoring of groundwater quality throughout the groundwater basin has helped to assure that OCWD's retail water agencies could reliably comply with all US and California water quality standards.

Besides being recognised as a technical leader in the field of water reuse, the comprehensive manner in which OCWD undertook public outreach and engagement to bring about public acceptance of potable water reuse is notable, and has been emulated by countries such as Australia, Singapore and many cities in the United States.

In particular, the aggressive outreach campaign to garner public acceptance for GWRS started several years before the project came on-line in 2008. From 1999 to 2007, more than 1,200 presentations about the science behind the GWRS were given to local, state and federal policymakers, business and civic leaders, health experts, environmental advocates, academia and the general public. Thousands of media impressions were secured and unanimous support for the project was received from OCWD's local, state and federal delegation.

The public outreach and public support programme implemented by OCWD for the GWRS has become the model for gaining public acceptance of new indirect potable use water projects. OCWD has been sharing its outreach system with various cities and countries to help further boost the public acceptance of this important new water supply. OCWD's public outreach programme has won the nation's highest outreach award, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Silver Anvil Award in 2006 and most recently in 2013, the American Academy for Environmental Engineers and Scientists Environmental Communications Award.

Against today's backdrop of weather variability which poses major challenges for water resource management, water reuse is increasingly becoming a viable and sustainable option around the world. While many cities face some form of resistance in their water reuse efforts, OCWD has pioneered all the elements that are relevant for the successful implementation of water reuse and groundwater management, including the application of innovative water treatment technologies for treating used water, artificial groundwater recharge, groundwater monitoring, groundwater modelling, pollution prevention, water quality management and public outreach. Its successful implementation model has been replicated in the states of Texas and Colorado in the United States, and in countries such as Australia and Singapore to achieve water sustainability through water reuse, benefitting millions in the process. IIt is widely considered an international leader - with hundreds of engineers, scientists, officials and water experts from around the globe visiting its facilities each year. OCWD staff are also sought out by local, state, national and international agencies and governments to provide expert advice and participate in important research in numerous fields resulting in innovative technology and water projects. Its staff serve on prominent and prestigious boards and expert panels that help solve global water problems.

OCWD has greatly influenced the global water reuse market and the GWRS has become a model for groundwater recharge and water reuse schemes worldwide. It is noted that OCWD continues to evolve and continues to inspire innovation in water treatment and reuse worldwide.

About Orange County Water District

Orange County Water District (OCWD) manages the large groundwater basin that provides reliable, high quality groundwater to 19 municipal and special water districts, serving 2.4 million customers in northern and central Orange County in California. The groundwater basin has been valued at over $4 billion and must be sustainably managed for future generations. OCWD is committed to constantly improving Orange County's groundwater quality and reliability in an environmentally friendly way. With years of sound planning and appropriate investment in the groundwater basin, OCWD has more than doubled its output of water that has been extracted from the basin and supplied to the municipal and special water districts. The basin, which is larger than the largest reservoir in Southern California, has helped Orange County weather multi-year droughts in Southern California. It also provides an emergency backup supply of water for citizens living outside OCWD in southern Orange County.

Professor Mark von Loosdrecht, Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2012 Laureate

Professor Gatze Lettinga Short Motivation

Professor Mark van Loosdrecht is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2012 for his breakthrough contributions in used water treatment, with his completely autotrophic nitrogen removal process - Anammox. The Anammox process has greatly reduced the overall energy consumption, chemical usage and carbon emissions of a conventional used water treatment plant. This was made possible by the discovery of a unique group of bacteria that removes pollutants in used water using less oxygen and no added organic carbon compared to conventional processes. By pioneering an innovative biological process that serves as a cost-effective, robust and sustainable way of removing pollutants in used water, Prof van Loosdrecht has introduced a paradigm shift in the understanding of the used water treatment process. His ground-breaking work in marrying nature and engineering has formed the basis for many variants in use today and this technology is seeing increasing adoption worldwide.


Prof Mark van Loosdrecht is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2012 for his breakthrough contributions in used water treatment, with his completely autotrophic nitrogen removal process - Anammox. Prof van Loosdrecht pioneered an innovative biological process that provides a cost-effective, robust and sustainable way to remove ammonia, one of the unwanted pollutants in used water. Anammox significantly reduces the overall energy consumption, chemical usage and carbon emissions of a conventional used water treatment plant. The invention of the Anammox process was the result of almost 20 years of work and dedication by a team of microbiologists and engineers at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) led by Prof van Loosdrecht.

At the heart of the Anammox process is a group of autotrophic bacteria that possesses a unique set of enzymes which allows them to convert ammonia to harmless nitrogen gas, which is then discharged into the environment. Unlike conventional used water treatment systems, the ammonia in used water is converted to nitrogen gas, bypassing the intermediate nitrate form. This short circuiting of the traditional nitrogen removal process, known as nitrification/denitrification, is the key to the reduction of energy consumption in used water treatment. Such energy saving technology is essential for used water treatment plants seeking energy self-sufficiency.

Though the possibility of such a shortened pathway for the conversion of ammonia to nitrogen gas had been theorised as early as the 1970s and some used water treatment facilities had for years been reporting such findings, the removal mechanism eluded investigators. In the 1990s, Prof van Loosdrecht and the TU Delft team discovered that it was possible to shorten the conventional pathway of ammonia removal in used water treatment through the development of a 2-step completely autotrophic nitrogen removal process.

When researchers at TU Delft showed that the group of bacteria responsible for this phenomenon were members of the extremely slow growing Planctomycete family, Prof van Loosdrecht and his team devised the engineering tools and systems to deliberately harness the natural properties of these unique bacteria. The first step of the process which he termed Sharon involves the use of ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) to oxidize half of the ammonia to nitrite instead of nitrate. Essential in this engineering is the prevention of the growth of nitrite oxidising bacteria which forms the unwanted nitrate intermediate. The second step Anammox which uses the anaerobic ammonia oxidation (anammox) bacteria to convert the nitrite and the rest of ammonia to produce nitrogen gas, without the need for added organic carbon.

Prof van Loosdrecht was instrumental in building the world's first demonstration plant using the Anammox process in Rotterdam. The world's first Anammox reactor was installed in conjunction with the Sharon plant at the Dokhaven Wastewater Treatment Plant (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) in 2002.

Conventional used water treatment is an energy intensive process. It is estimated that in most industrialised countries, the energy used in the water cycle takes up about 1% to 3% of a country's total energy budget even when the power generated by harnessing the limited biogas produced is factored in. Prof van Loosdrecht and his team are currently studying the feasibility of Anammox being applied to mainstream used water treatment processes. If successful, it will revolutionise the nitrogen removal process worldwide and its energy savings will be enormous.

Prof van Loosdrecht has dedicated his career to pushing the boundaries and challenging the paradigms in used water treatment. Prof van Loosdrecht's paradigm shifting work in marrying nature and engineering is now the basis for many variants used today and gaining worldwide adoption.

As of January 2012, there are 16 referenced full-scale Anammox plants implemented by Paques (licensee of Prof van Loosdrecht's technology) and more than 30 full-scale variant plants in Netherlands, Austria, China, Japan and USA in operation around the world. Singapore is currently conducting a pilot trial of the anaerobic ammonia oxidation process at its water reclamation plant and this has shown positive results. National water agency PUB is looking into the adoption of this technology to improve energy efficiency.

Aside from Anammox, Prof van Loosdrecht is also credited with the development of Sharon, Nereda®, CANON®, BABE®, BCFS® and SANI®, working closely with a variety of Dutch companies.

About Prof Mark van Loosdrecht

Prof van Loosdrecht is currently a full Professor and the Group Leader of Environmental Technology at TU Delft. He did his Masters of Science in Environmental Engineering at Wageningen University and obtained his PhD in Microbiology/Colloid Chemistry at the same university in 1988. He has been lecturing at TU Delft since 1988.

His research interests include biofilm and granular sludge systems, microbial storage polymers, nutrient removal processes and microbial ecology of engineered systems. He is also developing a start-up company, BiAqua, based on ferritin technology, and addressing the process of converting waste into chemicals.

Dr James Barnard, Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Laureate 2011

Professor Gatze Lettinga Short Motivation

Dr James Barnard is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2011 for inventing a biological method to treat used water so that it can be returned safely to lakes and rivers. His technology, Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR), uses naturally-occurring micro-organisms to remove nitrogen and phosphorus which cause poor water quality.

This technology is cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than traditional treatments which use chemicals. It protects and maintains the water quality of lakes and rivers. It also helps to promote the recycling of water. All BNR systems used worldwide today were developed from Dr Barnard's technology.


Dr James Barnard is awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2011 for his invention of the Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) technology to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from used water. His technology uses naturally-occurring micro-organisms to remove nitrogen and phosphorus and allows the treated used water to be safely returned to rivers and lakes.

BNR is cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than traditional chemical treatments used in water reclamation plants all over the world. Dr Barnard's technology helps to protect and maintain the water quality of lakes and rivers, and promotes the recycling of water.

Before the development of BNR, water reclamation plants commonly removed nitrogen and phosphorus through the use of chemicals. Nitrogen and phosphorus need to be removed because they can lead to excessive algae growth which affects the ecology in water bodies, contributing to poor water quality.

Working with water quality challenges in his native South Africa and arid Namibia in the 1970s, Dr Barnard conceived the idea of using naturally-occurring micro-organisms to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from used water. In this way, treated used water can be returned safely to rivers and lakes. At the same time, BNR eliminates the use of chemicals, which is costly, needs more resources and energy to produce, and creates more sludge for disposal.

BNR is thus a more sustainable alternative to conventional chemical treatments. Dr Barnard's Bardenpho (BARnard DENitrification and PHOsphorus removal) technology can reduce the operating costs of used water treatment by as much as US$400,000 per million gallons per day over 20 years. (Source: Ovivo, formerly Eimco Water Technologies, 2007).

The development of biological processes to remove nitrogen and phosphorus has continued to evolve since the early days of Dr Barnard's invention in South Africa. Dr Barnard actively adapts his BNR technology to different climates, environmental limitations and water infrastructure around the world. He has been involved in over 100 BNR plants around the world.

His work has led to the widespread implementation of BNR-based technology such as in USA, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In recent years, BNR has also been widely adopted in developing countries such as China and Brazil.

Dr Barnard is internationally recognised as the "Father of BNR". Dr Barnard's relentless research and development work on BNR has helped to advance the reclamation of used water as a precious resource that can be recycled. BNR processes have also protected the world's water resources and the communities that depend on it.

About Dr James Barnard

Dr James Barnard is a Global Practice and Technology Leader for Black & Veatch Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri. He studied civil engineering at the University of Stellenbosch in the Republic of South Africa before obtaining an M.S. in Environmental Health Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, followed by a PhD in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

He also served as Senior Chief Research Officer at the National Institute of Water Research in South Africa, where he pioneered BNR to conserve scarce water resources in the 1970s. He is at the forefront of the recovery of phosphorus, a vital nutrient on which all life depends.

Yellow River Conservancy Commission, Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Laureate 2010

  Short Motivation

Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC) was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for its outstanding accomplishments in integrated river basin management that is unrivalled in scale. YRCC's innovative policies and solutions have brought about widespread and sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits. In just 10 years, the remarkable transformation of China's second longest river by YRCC has secured water supply for over one hundred million people, restored extensive areas of wetlands and biodiversity and protected some 90 million people living in the flood-prone areas of the Yellow River from devastating floods.


The Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC) was empowered by the central government in 1999 to manage and integrate water allocation in the entire Yellow River. In just 10 years, YRCC made remarkable progress in balancing water availability with social, economic and ecological developments. YRCC employs the latest technologies in remote sensing and automation to collect real-time river system information and operate a series of reservoirs on the main stream and tributaries of Yellow River in an integrated manner. Central to this highly coordinated water allocation and sediment regulation operation is the Xiaolangdi Dam. ln addition, it uses a drought monitoring and flow forecasting meteorological satellite system - the first of its kind in the world - to predict water run-off patterns. Furthermore, YRCC conducts extensive research on hydrology and sediment transport, and practises water and sediment regulation in Yellow River to effectively enlarge its flow capacity to prevent flooding. YRCC is currently focused on studying the Yellow River using the "Three Yellow Rivers" approach. Through a combination of data collection, scale modeling and computer simulation, YRCC strives to gain deeper insights into the river system to manage the Yellow River basin more effectively.

Under YRCC's integrated water allocation programme, the Yellow River has flowed unabated over the last 1O years. Over one hundred million people living in the nine provinces within the river basin as well as in Hebei and Tianjin now enjoy an improved and reliable supply of water for domestic use, agricultural irrigation and industrial consumption. Nourished by the Yellow River, previously dry-cracked agricultural lands bear bountiful harvests. Large areas of wetlands and biodiversity in Yellow River Delta have also been restored over the years, returning life and vitality to the river. In addition, the regulated release of water and sediments has prevented floods and protects some 90 million people living in the flood-prone areas from loss of lives and damage to property.

To augment its integrated water allocation programme, YRCC has also put in place emergency response plans to manage, control and mitigate major water pollution incidents. Taking a unified approach to protect public safety, YRCC works closely with local environmental protection agencies and has implemented a public notification system to inform the public of any major water pollution incident.

The technological innovations and holistic policies of Yellow River Conservancy Commission have rejuvenated the Yellow River, and revived its aquatic ecosystem from severe deterioration. With its emphasis on nurturing life, YRCC's river basin management strategies - based on a philosophy of "Maintaining the healthy life of the Yellow River'' - are not only effective but also sustainable. One of the world's famous rivers, the Yellow River belongs not only to China, but also the entire world. The accomplishments of YRCC have preserved this great river for our future generations.

About Yellow River Conservancy Commission

The Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC) was established in 1946. Its main functions are to:

  • Implement and supervise the enforcement of Water Laws adn other water-related Acts.
  • Draft water policies at the basin level.
  • Undertake water resources administration and resolve the inter-provincial water dispute.
  • Develop and implement a river basin master plan.
  • Carry out basin flood control through evaluation, construction and management of hydraulic projects, like dams and embankments, in Yellow River.
  • Monitor and control soil erosion in key areas of the Loess Plateau.
  • Manage and protect river water quality.
  • Formulate guidelines for the conservation of the rivers, lakes, estuary, and coastline within Yellow River basin.


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Professor Gatze Lettinga, Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Laureate 2009

Professor Gatze Lettinga Short Motivation

Professor Gatze Lettinga was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2009 for his breakthrough, environmentally sustainable solution for the treatment of used water using anaerobic technology. His revolutionary treatment concept enables industrial used water to be purified cost-effectively, and produces renewable energy, fertilisers and soil conditioners. By choosing not to patent his invention, Professor Lettinga made his technology universally available. As a result, his technology has seen widespread adoption in industrial as well as municipal use, especially given increasing concerns about energy efficiency.


Prof Gatze Lettinga pioneered the widespread use of anaerobic technology which uses micro-organisms in an oxygen-free environment, to remove pollutants in used water. His anaerobic reactor is able to pre-treat polluted used water from industries such as breweries, beverage, paper and pulp manufacturing, sugar, starch and alcohol distilleries.

While the anaerobic technology has been around for over a hundred years, Prof Lettinga made a breakthrough with his invention by proving that anaerobic technology could be operated as a highly effective and self-sustaining process for low and medium strength used waters. It is also a simpler system compared to the aerobic process, as it does away with the use of oxygen, generating energy savings of 30 to 40 per cent. At the same time, energy such as methane, which can be reused as fuel, is produced in the process.

The significant cost savings and treatment superiority have led to rapid adoption of the anaerobic technology worldwide over the past decade. Prof Lettinga's decision not to patent his Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket reactor has made it freely available. Today, the almost 3,000 reactors in operation constitute about 80 per cent of all anaerobic used water treatment systems in the world. With energy-efficiency concerns becoming more critical, this technology is being increasingly applied not just to industrial used water, but also to municipal used water in countries like Brazil and India.

Singapore has adopted some elements of the anaerobic technology to reduce the energy costs of treating used water, which is further purified into NEWater.

About Prof Gatze Lettinga

Prof Lettinga was a professor of Environmental Technology from 1988 until his retirement from Wageningen Agricultural University in 2001. He remains an active Board member with the Lettinga Associates Foundation, a not-for-profit knowledge centre that develops and implements sustainable environmental protection technologies. Prof Lettinga continues to support the education of young scientists working on sustainable environmental technologies through his donations to scholarship programmes administered by the Foundation.

Dr Andrew Benedek, Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Laureate 2008

Dr Andrew Benedek Short Motivation

Dr Andrew Benedek was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2008 for his outstanding work in pioneering the development of low-pressure membranes in water treatment. This dedicated researcher and successful technopreneur has redefined the way water can be treated. He has shown how drinking water can be produced from different water sources, even those that are highly polluted. It is a big leap that benefits mankind, both for those in developed and developing countries.


Dr Andrew Benedek was the man who revolutionized conventional water treatment. As a result of his pioneering work in membranes, he showed how water can be treated to drinking standards, even those that come from highly polluted sources. In countries such as Belgium, Canada and the United States, this has allowed water of poor quality to be treated to drinking standards. Singapore is also leveraging on membrane technology to treat water from highly urbanized areas and even those from industrial areas.

By adopting membranes in water purification, Dr Benedek opened up new possibilities so that even used water can be purified to drinking water standards. Singapore is one of the beneficiaries of this. The development of NEWater was made possible as a result of Dr Benedek's diligent research and pioneering work in membranes. Today, treated used water can be purified to drinking water standards, which opens up a new water source for the world. Reclaimed water is an area that many countries are going into, as it is a sustainable solution to overcome the challenges of Mother Nature.

Dr Benedek's work has also opened up a brand new world in desalination. Previously, drinking water was produced through thermal desalination which has high demands on energy. Now, through the use of low-pressure membranes in the pretreatment stage, desalination has become a more cost -efficient and viable option for many countries. The ease of use and affordability of these membranes have also benefited those in small towns and villages. Portable water treatment units can be assembled to treat water for small communities affordably.

Through Dr Benedek, the world has found a superior low-cost technology for water treatment. With his membrane technology, good quality drinking water can now be produced almost anywhere in the world. Utilities in the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia and Singapore have incorporated the use of his membranes in their water treatment processes. Other countries such as China, India and those in the Middle East and South America have followed suit. The wider usage has led to lower prices of membranes which makes it affordable for more countries to adopt it in water treatment as well. To date, more than 15 million cubic metres per day of treatment capacity has been installed and used worldwide and this is growing at the rate of 20% annually.

About Dr Andrew Benedek

Dr Andrew Benedek is the Chairman and CEO for Anaergia Inc. He is actively involved in the development and management of technology related to biogas and other value recovery from waste organics, and has over 30 years of experience in wastewater treatment and breakthrough technology development.

Dr Benedek started out as a Professor in McMaster University, Canada in 1970. In his early research days, he discovered the great potential and benefits of low- pressure membranes that can replace existing water and used water treatment processes. Later, he founded Zenon Environmental Inc, a company that developed and marketed the use of low-pressure membranes, demonstrating its reliability, efficiency and ease of operation. It spawned a market for low-pressure membranes and today, at least five global membrane companies are competing in this lucrative market.

Dr Benedek divested his shares in Zenon in 2006, and became a subsidiary of GE Water & Process Technologies. He continues to be active in water research and in funding water-related R&D projects at universities. His interest has now expanded to include environmental issues in oceanography, climate change and earth sciences. He is also a philanthropist and has led missions bringing the benefits of his membrane technology to developing countries that are in need of clean water and better public health.

Dr Benedek's outstanding innovation in membranes has provided sustainable water solutions to the world. His contribution has benefited humanity and for that, Dr Benedek has the honour of being the first recipient of the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize.

Lecture slides of Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Lecture by Andrew Benedek