An award-winning water treatment system

September 04, 2014
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Sept. 4, 2014, Stockholm — A Canadian has won the 2014 Stockholm Junior Water Prize today for inventing a method that uses sand filters to treat oil-contaminated water and recover water for reuse.

The winning entry is a new application of an old water treatment technology that dates back to 1804. Sand filters have traditionally been used to treat drinking water, but Hayley Todesco instead used slow sand filters on contaminated water in oil sands tailing ponds.
Hayley Todesco from Canada (at left) was congratulated by H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
The method proved to treat wastewater at a faster rate than typical processes, as the sand filters grow bacteria that effectively break down toxic waste.

“This year’s winning project addresses a neglected but pressing environmental issue. The entry displays genuine outside the box thinking. Hundreds of hours of self-driven effort achieved a project that excelled in all judging criteria,” said the Jury in its citation.

“By happy coincidence the topic is on the cutting edge of the water-energy nexus. Tailings from tar sands pose a serious and growing environmental problem. Slow sand filters may date back to the 19th century, but the winner proved them applicable to 21st century problems,” the Jury concluded.

“I am shocked but so grateful,” said Todesco upon winning the prize. “I got the idea of using sand filters from a pen pal in Namibia two years ago, and started testing them on wastewater in a tank at home.

"Now I have just started studying to become a microbiologist and I hope to spend a great deal of time in the lab to continue developing the method.”
The international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment.


The competition is open to young people between the age of 15 and 20 who have conducted water-related projects at local, regional, national or global levels on topics of environmental, scientific, social and/or technological importance.

The aim of the competition is to increase awareness, interest and knowledge of water and the environment.


The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is a policy institute that generates knowledge and informs decision-makers towards water wise policy and sustainable development.

SIWI performs research, builds institutional capacity and provides advisory services in five thematic areas: water governance, trans-boundary water management, water and climate change, the water-energy-food nexus, and water economics.

SIWI organizes World Water Week in Stockholm – the leading annual meeting place for water and development issues – and hosts the Stockholm Water Prize, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and the Stockholm Industry Water Award.

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