Park wins U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize

Naomi Park of Greenwich, Connecticut, was named the national winner of the 2023 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP). Park’s research explores collecting Styrofoam debris in the ocean and then using that collected material as a filter to reduce ocean carbon levels. This simultaneously addresses two water issues and illustrates the need to think outside the box on global water issues.

Park will receive a $10,000 prize and will travel to Stockholm in August to represent the United States at the international competition. After being named the overall winner by the competition’s 18 judges, Park said, “I did not think this would happen. I’m just so excited!”

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Xylem Inc. sponsored the 26th annual event, held this year at the Colorado School of Mines. The competition is open to projects focused on improving water quality, resource management, protection, and drinking water and wastewater treatment.

“WEF member associations work hard annually to organize their own state competitions,” said Brad Lovett, National Organizer for the USA competition and association engagement manager at WEF. “We see the strength of that national volunteer network annually when WEF hosts a cohort of approximately 50 students on-site for this unique national competition.

Other students receiving awards at the U.S. SJWP ceremony included two runners-up. Saranya Anantapantula, of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, conducted research on using gypsum as a low-cost and natural control for algal blooms. The team from Clarksburg, Maryland – Jay Wankhede and Neel Bhattacharyya – was also named as a runner-up for their prototype water buoy, which is designed to predict harmful algal blooms.

Garrett Ordoñez, of Henderson, Nevada, received the Xylem Inc. Bjorn von Euler Innovation in Water Scholarship for research on Las Vegas residents and the psychology of choice related to publicly supported xeriscape lawn programs.

Grace Leavitt, of Cedar Run, New Jersey, received the James L. Condon Recognition for Environmental Stewardship for work in developing a bioplastic alternative to single-use plastics.

In the U.S., WEF and its member associations organize and present regional, state, and national competitions with support from Xylem, which also sponsors the international competition.

“We host and underwrite the SJWP competition to encourage students as they develop solutions to water challenges,” said Ifetayo Venner, President of WEF’s Board. “This is the nation’s most prestigious youth competition for water-related research. It’s extremely gratifying to see the students’ talent and passion for water issues, and I hope to see them in the water workforce in the future.”

Learn more about the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

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