March 22, 2016 HealthSociety

“ Water is Life, But Water Quality is Health ”

Professor Joan Rose, the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University and IWA Distinguished Fellow, was today named the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. The award was made for her tireless contributions to global public health, in particular her work assessing risks to human health in water and creating guidelines and tools for decision-makers and communities to improve global health.

Professor Rose has dedicated her professional life to water quality and public health safety, and is a leading world authority on water microbiology.

On receiving news about the prize, Professor Rose said: “I feel humbled. I am very honoured to be part of a list of such distinguished past winners. The Prize calls attention to the most important issues around water in the 21st century, and for me, that is water quality.”

In its citation, The Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee says that, “The nexus of water-related microbiology, water quality and public health is rife with uncertainty – in both theory and practice. The world is blessed with few individuals who can tackle the increasing and changing challenges to clean water and health, starting from state-of-the-art science through dedicated and original research, then moving to professional dissemination, effective lobbying of the legislative arena, influencing practitioners, and raising the general awareness. Joan Rose is the leading example of this extremely rare blend of talents.”

“I have always been motivated by the principles of public health, how to prevent disease. A key barrier, our water infrastructure, is crumbling or non-existing in many parts of the world. The global population unserved by sewage treatment is counted in the billions” says Professor Rose.

It is estimated that around 1000 children under five die every day-from diarrhoeal diseases, one of the leading causes of child mortality and only one of the illnesses caused by poor water quality.

There are still more than two billion people in the world who lack adequate sanitation, and over one billion lack access to safe drinking water. WHO says that overall, 842,000 deaths from diarrhoeal diseases each year could be prevented by improved water, sanitation and hygiene.

“We need to develop a global water curriculum to educate the next generation of problem solvers. The need is enormous,” adds Professor Rose.

“Professor Rose embarked long ago on a quest for securing the health of all human beings. But she did not stop at that. She expanded it to ensure that water also supports health in the aquatic ecosystems. Professor Rose has continued to show dedicated leadership in making the world a better place for both humans and other species that share the planet,” says SIWI’s Executive Director Torgny Holmgren.

Joan Rose is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on the microorganism Cryptosporidium. In 1993, the largest outbreak to date of the intestinal parasite Cryptosporidium affected more than 400 000 people in Milwaukee, US, who got sick from contaminated drinking water. 69 people died in the outbreak. Cryptosporidium, which exists in both humans and animals, cannot be killed by chlorine, and lives for several months.

Professor Rose and her team, whom she calls “water detectives” investigate waterborne disease outbreaks globally, to determine how they can be stopped, and prevented. She was the first person to present the widespread occurrence of Cryptosporidium in water supplies in 1988.

H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Patron of Stockholm Water Prize, will present the prize to Joan Rose at a Royal Award Ceremony on 31 August, during the 2016 World Water Week in Stockholm.


More about Professor Joan Rose

Professor Rose was key in establishing the 2004 WHO Drinking Water Standard, setting out a new WHO paradigm with direct impact on virtually all countries; Rose also worked in Malawi and Kenya to help translate these into local regulation. UNESCO’s International Hydrological Program asked for her leadership in meeting its goals of resource management and capacity building for Member States. She chaired a specialist group within the International Water Association to ensure understanding and incorporation of updated standards at the state and national level in engineer standards around the world. Her expertise in identifying and prioritizing issues of water quality led to codification of the Great Lakes Water Quality agreement. She Chairs Singapore’s Water Audit Panel of the influential Public Utilities Board; Canada and Korea sought her guidance. And to use today’s technology, she established an online collective of 140 scientists in the Global Water Pathogens Project.

About Stockholm Water Prize

The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1991 and presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) to an individual, organisation or institution for outstanding water-related achievements. The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives USD 150,000 and a specially designed sculpture. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is patron of the prize.

Initially founded by the Stockholm Water Foundation to encourage research and development of the world’s water environment, the Stockholm Water Prize is additionally supported by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, International Water Association, Water Environment Federation and the City of Stockholm. The Founders of the Stockholm Water Prize are companies united in their strong conviction to drive sustainability in the water sector. They are Bacardi, Borealis & Borouge, Europeiska ERV, Fujitsu, HP, Kemira, Poul Due Jensen Foundation, Ragn-Sells, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Snecma/Safran, Water Environment Federation, Xylem and Ålandsbanken.

About SIWI

Stockholm International Water Institute is a policy institute that generates knowledge and informs decision-makers towards water wise policy and sustainable development. SIWI performs research, builds institutional capacity and provides advisory services in five thematic areas: water governance, transboundary water management, water and climate change, the water-energy-food nexus, and water economics. SIWI organizes the World Water Week in Stockholm – the leading annual global meeting place on water and development issues – and hosts the Stockholm Water Prize and the Stockholm Junior Water Prize.