2011 Stockholm Junior Water Prize. Winner Alison Bick together with Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria. Photo: Cecilia Österberg/Exray
The World Water Week has filled Stockholm with water-related events all week. On Tuesday, this year’s Junior Water Prize was announced, going to American 17 year old Alison Bick, who has spent four years developing a low-cost portable method to test water quality. The reason why Alison Bick has spent four years working on this project, writes the Swedish environment magazine Miljöaktuellt (in Swedish), is that her home region was flooded and the media that the water wasn’t safe to drink. This made Alison start thinking about if there could be a way to measure water quality with things you have at home. Her idea combines micro-fluidic devices, cell-phones, and chemical indicators and does not only accurately assess the bacteria content of water. It is both significantly faster and up to 200 times less expensive than standard testing procedures.
But all water news haven’t been as positive during this World Water Week. One problematic area concerning Sweden a lot is the Baltic Sea. Daniel Conley, who is a professor at Lund University, has taken a closer look at the levels of oxygen in the coastal areas of all the countries surrounding the Baltic. The result is disheartening: The lack of oxygen is worse than the researchers had thought, reaching much closer to land than before.
The big problem of the Baltic is that a lot of nutrients leak out in the water, making the algae grow in abnormal quantities. When these algae die, they sink to the bottom, consuming all the bottom oxygen when they decompose.
– We have to reduce the emissions [of nutritients] or this problem will just grow worse, says Daniel Conley to Dagens Nyheter.
Another one was this, reported in an interview by Miljöaktuellt (in Swedish): Sweden’s drinking water, that we often boast about, might not be as good as we think. During the last two years we have had two outbreaks of water-transmitted infections and a lot of our water purification plants still don’t have the equipment to deal with this kind of parasites, says Erika Lind who is national drinking water coordinator at the National Food Administration. To keep a good water quality, especially in the light of climate change, Sweden needs to deal with the risks associated with our drinking water, she says.
– If nothing bad happens you don’t do anything about it – and that’s how we have lived until now.
One week full of water discussions of course contains a lot more than this. A nice sample collection of that can be found at WaterCube.tv that have made short interviews with the participants. Watch this one, where Phd and Masters students, Karin Edberg and Melissa Denbaum talk about their insights during the week.
More about World Water Week in Swedish media (in Swedish, but can be translated here):
Miljöaktuellt: Here’s the inventor who might be able to solve the world’s water problem