Biological nutrient removal pioneer scoops Singapore water prize

SINGAPORE, Mar. 17, 2011 -- Internationally recognised Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) expert Dr James Barnard has been awarded this year's Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for pioneering micro-organism technology to treat used water for the protection of lakes and rivers...

SINGAPORE, Mar. 17, 2011 -- Internationally recognised Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) expert Dr James Barnard has been awarded this year's Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for pioneering micro-organism technology to treat used water for the protection of lakes and rivers.

Dr Barnard's technology has been seen to revolutionise wastewater treatment processes by using naturally occurring micro-organisms, instead of conventional chemicals to remove nitrogen and phosphorous.

Known as the "Father of BNR", his work over the last 40 years has led to widespread implementation of BNR-based processes around the world, including the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In recent years, the technology is being adopted in developing countries such as China and Brazil.

Prior to the development of the BNR technology, wastewater treatment plants used chemicals to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. Left to accumulate, nitrogen and phosphorus can lead to excessive algae growth, which adversely affects the ecology in water bodies and contributes to poor water quality in rivers and lakes.

Dr Barnard’s BNR technology eliminates the use of chemicals and as an alternative makes it possible to return treated used water to rivers and lakes with minimal detrimental impact on the environment.

The prize winner said the award was particularly meaningful coming from Singapore, as the water agency - PUB - has taken the reclamation of wastewater for potable use to "new heights".

Glen Daigger, senior vice president and chief technology officer CH2M Hill, and president of the International Water Association, said: “Not only have his efforts been instrumental in the development of a technology (BNR) that has become essential to protecting global water resources, through his efforts, Dr Barnard serves as a role model for all water professionals through his generosity, development of people and commitment to continued advancements."

Mr Tan Gee Paw, chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize Nominating Committee, said: “His relentless pursuit of adaptable solutions to resolve the challenge of water reclamation has led to a highly sustainable technology that protects the quality of precious water resources and the environment, and delivers immense benefit to mankind. Bridging the gap between research and industrial application, his technology now forms the basis of all BNR processes in use today in both developed and developing countries.”

Past winners of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize include the Yellow River Conservancy Commission (see WWi's video interview), honoured in 2010 for its outstanding accomplishments in integrated river basin management which has brought about widespread and sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits; Professor Gatze Lettinga from the Netherlands whose groundbreaking development of anaerobic technology for used water treatment won him the prize in 2009; and Canadian researcher and technopreneur, Dr Andrew Benedek who received the inaugural prize in 2008 for pioneering the development of low-pressure membranes.

Dr Barnard will receive the award from Singapore’s first Prime Minister and present Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, at a presentation ceremony and banquet to be held on 5 July during Singapore International Water Week 2011.

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