Phosphorous recovery and mobile phone water tester attract international awards

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 25, 2011 -- Phosphorous recovery and algal blooms, a mobile phone water quality tester and improving water usage in the food and drink supply chain have all been topics which helped to secure water prizes at the World Water Week.

This week has seen Alison Bick from the U.S. award the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for developing a low-cost portable mobile phone method to test water quality; Professor Steven Carpenter from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S. scooping the Stockholm Water Prize for his work on trophic cascades and also Nestlé taking the Industry Award for improving water management in its international operations.

Bick's mobile phone solution saw her working for four years on the project, which combines micro-fluidic devices, cell-phones, and chemical indicators to evaluate water quality.

The solution is said to not only accurately assess the bacteria content of water, but it is also "significantly faster and up to 200 times less expensive than standard testing procedures".

For the industry prize, Nestlé was cited for reducing total water withdrawals by over 30%, more than doubling its water efficiency of internal operations and improving wastewater processing.

Professor Carpenter is expected to pick up the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize today, presented by H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at a royal ceremony.

During the opening ceremony of the World Water Week, discussing causes of eutrophication, Carpenter said: "Phosphorous is the magical element of eutrophication. We often hear about the modification of carbon and how this is related to climate change but we have actually tripled the cycle of phosphorous."

He said that high livestock density is a major driver of phosphorous over-use and warned that mined phosphorous capacity could reach severe shortages in as little as 30 years' time.

During an interview with Water & Wastewater International magazine (WWi) (see interview in May-June issue), the professor said that phosphorous is a pollutant that causes enormous damage, yet at the same time there's evidence supplies are running low.

At the time he said: "Phosphorous is controlled by a small number of countries - the U.S., China, Morocco, South Africa. In essence, they could function like a phosphorous cartel as OPEC [Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] functions for petroleum.

"There could be some very interesting price dynamics if that happens...If the price of phosphorous starts to go up due to limited production, these sort of recycling and conservation measures for phosphorous (see WWi story) will be a lot more attractive economically. And that could have big benefits for freshwater quality."

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- The World Water Week will continue in Stockholm until August 27. Video interviews from the week will be available on WaterWorld TV soon.

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