The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for 2012 has gone to Mark van Loosdrecht for his pioneering work in developing a sustainable process called Anammox that can be used for removing ammonia from wastewater treatment facilities. The 2012 Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize is a highlight of the Singapore International Water Week, which will be held this year July 1-5 in Singapore.
Dr. van Loosdrecht is a professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and editor-in-chief for the journal Water Resources. His research interests include understanding the role of microbial communities in engineered systems and improving nutrient removal processes.
Ammonia is present in high concentrations in sewage and it can be very toxic to aquatic organisms. Hence, wastewater treatment plants need to remove ammonia before treated effluent can be released back into the environment. Conventional wastewater treatment facilities remove ammonia from wastewater through the use of the microbially-driven processes of nitrification and denitrification. During these two processes, ammonium ions are converted into harmless nitrogen gas.
Anammox is a novel technology that uses a unique group of bacteria that possess unusual enzymes that enable them to convert ammonia into nitrogen gas while bypassing some of the chemical reactions necessary in conventional sewage treatment technologies. The use of Anammox in sewage treatment plants requires a lower amount of aeration, which leads to a significant reduction in energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize is an international award that recognizes outstanding contributions towards solving global water problems that benefit humanity. The award is named after Singapore’s former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who was a champion of water sustainability efforts. Dr. Loosdrecht was chosen for the prestigious award among 61 nominees from 25 different countries.
Upon learning that he was the recipient for the 2012 award, Dr. Loosdrecht said:
I am truly humbled to receive one of the most prestigious awards recognized in the water industry and among our profession. With this award, I am further encouraged to ensure that my technologies and research will continue to help create more sustainable solutions that are applicable to our modern world while protecting the quality of precious water.
Mr. Tan Gee Paw, Chairman of the nominating committee commented:
Prof van Loosdrecht’s technology is set to create a paradigm shift in the used water treatment industry. The adoption of such energy-saving technology is essential for used water treatment plants seeking complete energy self-sufficiency and will be the future for the used water treatment industry. For that, the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize celebrates Prof van Loosdrecht’s outstanding achievement in the development of Anammox and honors his relentless pursuit for highly sustainable technologies that are critical for the future sustainability of urbanized cities.
The award will be presented to Dr. van Loosdrecht on July 2, 2012 at a ceremony in celebration of the Singapore International Water Week.
The Singapore Millennium Foundation, a philanthropic body supported by Temasek Holdings (an investment company owned by the government of Singapore), awards this prize each year to those who make “outstanding contributions towards solving global water problems,” according to its website.
Bottom line: On March 8, 2012 Mark van Loosdrecht was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for his pioneering work in developing a sustainable process called Anammox that can be used for removing ammonia from wastewater treatment facilities. The Anammox process helps sewage treatment plants reduce their energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.