WEF awards U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize

June 23, 2022
The Water Environment Federation recognized John Benedict Estrada and Pauline Victoria Estrada for an AI- and rover-based drought assessment tool to combat drought and save water.

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has announced the winners of the 2022 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

WEF selected John Benedict Estrada and Pauline Victoria Estrada, siblings from Clovis North High School in California, as the winners for their project on conservation of irrigation water using a drought assessment tool powered by artificial intelligence.

The Estradas won $10,000 and will represent the United States at the international competition in Stockholm, Sweden in August.

Students from 45 states and Puerto Rico competed in the national finals held at the Colorado School of Mines. The Stockholm Junior Water Prize is the nation’s most prestigious youth competition for water-related research and aims to increase students’ interest in water issues and careers. The competition is open to projects focused on improving water quality, resource management, protection, and drinking water and wastewater treatment.

"I had the opportunity to speak with the students at the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition and was thoroughly impressed by their intelligence, ingenuity, and passion for solving water problems," said Jamie Eichenbeger, WEF President. "WEF is proud to support these students as they continue to identify and explore solutions to the challenges facing our global water environment."

Development of an early detection tool to assess drought stress in plants is crucial in reducing irrigation water used to grow agricultural crops. The Estradas developed an artificial intelligence drought assessment model using field data and variables that are indicators of drought stress. They then built a rover with infrared and RGB cameras to capture plant canopy images. Infrared temperature, soil moisture reading, and red, green, and blue light reflectance values were used to train the artificial intelligence model.

The Estradas say that if the tool and model were used on all tomato farms in California, approximately 26 billion gallons of irrigation water could be saved each season.

WEF also recognized a number of runner-ups and other recognitions:

Runner-Up: Ruchi Agarwal

Ruchi Agarwal of Rowland High School in Utah was selected as a runner-up for her project evaluating the role of harmful algal blooms on water scarcity in the arid West.

Runner-Up: Roberto Lopez

Robert Lopez of Brentwood High School in New York was selected as a runner-up for his project evaluating accumulation of phragmites in a Long Island salt marsh ecosystem and assessing the effort on carbon sequestration, the nitrogen cycle, and sediment biota.

Bjorn von Euler Award for Innovation in Water from Xylem, Inc.: Johanna Bernu

Johanna Bernu of Cloquet Senior High School in Minnesota received the award for innovation for her project on the disinfectant properties of Nuphar advena, commonly known as the Spatterdock plant.

James L. Condon Recognition for Environmental Stewardship: Emily White

Emily White of McIntosh High School in Georgia received recognition for her project to create sustainable habitats for Crassostrea virginica, commonly known as the Eastern oyster.