Seeking water and sanitation projects for Environmental Challenge

Reed Elsevier offers $75,000 in prize money for winning proposals to help the developing world

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The Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge awards prize money to two projects that best demonstrate how they can provide sustainable access to safe water or sanitation where it is presently at risk. Projects must have clear practical applicability, address identified needs and advance related issues such as health, education or human rights. This is the third year that Reed Elsevier (Elsevier's parent company) has held this challenge.

How to enter

RE Environmental Challenge

The Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge is open to individuals or organizations operating in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Projects must advance sustainable access to safe water or improved sanitation where it is presently at risk and include the following criteria:

  • Be replicable, scalable and sustainable and set a benchmark for innovation
  • Have practical applicability
  • Address non-discrimination/equity of access
  • Involve and impact a range of stakeholders
  • Have local/community-level engagement

Applications will be accepted through April 15. For more information, visit the Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge website and apply here.

There is a $50,000 prize for the first place entry and a $25,000 prize for the second place entry. Applicants gain access to Elsevier's scientific online publications and databases, and the winning projects will be highlighted in Elsevier journal Water Research.

This year, the challenge ties in with the United Nation's declaration of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation.

It also contributes to the Water for Life Decade (2005-15) established by the UN General Assembly in support of the Millennium Development Goal to reduce by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

And it ties into Elsevier's aim to facilitate the exchange and dissemination of scientific information – in this case, information on improving access to a sustainable water supply and sanitation.

Sharing knowledge in a fragmented field

Elsevier publishes 26 percent of the world's scientific literature in the field of water resources, helping experts share knowledge of today's most sophisticated methods and technologies while understanding the underlying issues that affect the water supply.

For example, the new journal Water Resources & Economics addresses the financial and economic dimensions affecting the use of water resources, be it water extraction, pollution or allocation, across different economic sectors like agriculture, energy, industry and urban water supply as well as between local, regional and transboundary river basins.

[caption id="attachment_20016" align="alignright" width="187"]Christiane Barranguet, PhD Christiane Barranguet, PhD[/caption]

Dr. Christiane Barranguet, Executive Publisher of Aquatic Sciences at Elsevier, explained that in order to boost efficiency, augment supply and create new technologies for water reuses, "water and wastewater research topics need to be shared and evaluated in a discussion forum (for) all the different players in the field of water research, ranging from microbiologists to engineers, city planners and policy makers."

She said Elsevier continuously looks for new partnerships "to develop water from a highly fragmented field of research to an integrated scientific discipline":

  • By collaborating closely with the principal players in the generation, dissemination and policy applications of water.
  • By working with scientific institutes, societies, industry and NGOs.
  • By organizing conferences, webinars and innovative competitions
  • By providing scientists in developing countries with free or low-cost access to the latest water research.

Partnerships produce new resources

[caption id="attachment_20026" align="alignleft" width="220"] Mark van Loosdrecht, PhDMark van Loosdrecht, PhD[/caption]

The Environmental Challenge itself is based on partnerships. One of the judges is Dr. Mark van Loosdrecht, Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier's journal Water Research and recent winner of the 2012 Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for his breakthrough contributions in creating sustainable solutions in the field of wastewater treatment.

[caption id="attachment_20166" align="alignright" width="270"]The Water and Food Nexus: Trends and Development of the Research Landscape Elsevier produced this report in collaboration with the Stockholm International Water Institute. Download it here.[/caption]

At the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm in August, the 2012 Environmental Challenge winners were announced as part of a joint sponsorship with Elsevier.  Dr. Barranguet took the opportunity to introduce four new water journals in cooperation with the International Water Association (IWA) and a research report Elsevier produced in collaboration with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) was released: The Water and Food Nexus: Trends and Development of the Research Landscape.

The report analyzes the major trends in water and food-related article output at international, national and institutional levels. It's based on the analysis of Scopus citation data by Elsevier's SciVal Analytics team . The aim of this report is to provide a transparent view of the water research landscape and the key players in the field, which is becoming more dynamic, complex and, in some places, fragmented. The report clearly shows that water research is growing in new places and becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, where collaboration is a key factor in producing high impact research.

The RE Environmental Challenge was launched in January at the International Water Summit in Abu Dhabi, organized by Reed Exhibitions, a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier. And the Challenge will draw on expertise of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) community through the Dutch WASH Alliance, which will provide judges for the competition.


2012 Winners and their Projects

The winner of the $50,000 first prize was "Iron-amended Biosand Water Filter in Nepal,"developed by Tommy Ngai, Director of Research Learning at theCentre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST)

. The project modifies conventional Biosand Filters with iron particles to remove all three classes of water contaminants, including viruses, and bring safe drinking water to two impoverished rural villages in Nepal. Over a period of two years, 150 filters will be installed, and CAWST will update its educational material and hold workshops to promote the technology. The project will benefit over 1,000 people in the two villages and has the potential to be scaled to help millions over the next 10 years.

[caption id="attachment_20052" align="alignnone" width="800"] Diagram of the Iron-Amended Biosand Filter being used to treat drinking water in Nepal (Credit: Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology)

Diagram of the Iron-Amended Biosand Filter being used to treat drinking water in Nepal (Credit: Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology)[/caption]

The $25,000 second prize was awarded to "Sustainable Sanitation in Urban Slums of Africa," developed by Lindsay Stradley of Sanergy. The project will expand a pilot project in Nairobi to ensure that hygienic sanitation becomes accessible and affordable through a network of small-scale, high-quality sanitation centres close to homes. In Kenya 8.5m people live in slums with 80 per cent of the communities lacking access to adequate sanitation. Sanergy toilets are franchised to local entrepreneurs and stimulate the local economy by turning waste into products—organic fertilizer sold to farms, and electricity sold to the national grid. The prize money will be used to expand the current pilot project in Nairobi.

[caption id="attachment_20055" align="alignnone" width="800"]Trained and equipped Fresh Life Front Line collect the waste daily — a critical part of Sanergy's "franchise, collect, convert" model (Credit: Sanergy)

Trained and equipped Fresh Life Front Line staff collect the waste daily — a critical part of Sanergy's "franchise, collect, convert" model (Credit: Sanergy)[/caption]  

[caption id="attachment_20050" align="alignnone" width="800"]Youngsuk Youngsuk "YS" Chi, Director of Corporate Affairs for Reed Elsevier, with winners Tommy Ngai, Director of Research Learning, CAWST, and Lindsay Stradley, Operations & Consumer Marketing, Sanergy (Photo by Fredrik Sjögren)[/caption]


The Author

Emmy StevensEmmy Stevens, Corporate Responsibility Associate for Reed Elsevier, is managing the 2013 Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge. She is based in London.

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