Groundwater Scientist Awarded 2020 Stockholm Water Prize

26 Mar 2020 by Staff - Water Diplomat

Dr John Cherry, a world-renowned hydrogeologist and leading authority on threats to groundwater contamination is to receive the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize in 2020.

As creator of the academic field of contaminant hydrogeology, Cherry’s work has raised awareness of the extent of groundwater contamination and his work has been at the forefront of the research and development of more efficient methods to tackle the problem.

Contaminant hydrogeology examines how chemicals and waste leach into the groundwater. Cherry has pioneered highly collaborative field experiments and new systematic approaches to monitor, control and clean up contaminated groundwater.

His work is instrumental in understanding how contaminants are transported and has made it easier to protect groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half the global population.

On receiving news of the prize, Cherry said: “I’m very pleased to receive the Stockholm Water Prize and to get this opportunity to speak about the importance of protecting groundwater. Though the global water crisis is starting to get more attention, groundwater is often forgotten, despite making up 99 per cent of the planet’s liquid freshwater. Many people still perceive it as pristine when in fact it is threatened by human activity.”

“We urgently need to raise awareness of the importance of groundwater. It’s the essential water for our ecological world and sustains rivers, lakes, peatlands, wetlands, everything. For humans, groundwater is also becoming more and more important. Already today, almost half the global population is drinking groundwater. In coming years, when our planet will have an additional two or three billion inhabitants, most of them will rely on groundwater,” he says.

Cherry emphasizes that groundwater is overused in many places and contaminated in others. But in other places, groundwater is underutilized as a source of safe drinking water, saying that “Groundwater should be monitored and valued, but all over the world, it is overlooked and abused. The technology exists, but not a single country is doing enough to keep its groundwater safe. For the sake of future generations, we must start protecting our groundwater".

In its citation, the international Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee said: “With the Stockholm Water Prize, John Cherry is recognized for his contributions to science, education, practice and for translating his well-earned stature into a passionate and highly effective advocacy for groundwater science to inform current and future policies, laws and collective deliberations that governments must establish to protect water, our most essential and yet most imperilled resource".

Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) Torgny Holmgren said that “Dr Cherry has made us aware of how much we depend on groundwater and that it is all too often threatened by contamination. We are very grateful for his invaluable contributions in helping us understand how we can protect the world’s groundwater from the threats it faces.”