prince_khaled_announces_4thwinnersWith the conclusion of the 4th Award (2008-2010), the Prize Council convened to review the achievements of the past two years and confirm the winners for the 4th Award.

The meeting, which was held in Riyadh on 27 October, was presided over by PSIPW Council chairman, HRH Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz – Assistant Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General for Military Affairs.

The Council also discussed topics for the upcoming 5th Award and the Prize’s future plans.   

The Prize Council confirmed the following winners for the 4th Award (2008-2010):

Creativity Prize

The Creativity Prize, which is worth one million Saudi Riyals, is being shared by two teams of researchers:

1. The team of Dr. Marek Zreda (University of Arizona) and Dr. Darin Desilets (Sandia National Laboratory, USA).

They are being awarded for their groundbreaking work with the Cosmic Ray Probe, a technology which uses cosmic-ray neutrons to measure soil moisture content and snow pack thickness over an area of tens of hectares — passively, non-invasively and economically. These measurements provide hydrologists and atmospheric scientists with an entirely new perspective on water near the interface between the ground and the atmosphere, as well as giving water managers, engineers and agriculturalists an invaluable but economical new tool to monitor a critical part of the hydrologic cycle.

Until now, techniques for measuring soil water content and snow pack have operated at the point scale (e.g. invasive probes inserted into soil or snow) or at the kilometer scale (e.g. satellite and airborne remote sensing images). However, many hydrologic processes operate at a scale of tens to hundreds of meters - and it is this critical "blind spot" that the Cosmic Ray Probe reveals.

This new technology can be employed in water supply forecasting and promises to improve the utilization of irrigation water and should have its greatest impact in water scarce regions.

The probe can also be used for predictive weather and climate models by measuring soil water condition, since soil water content is currently a major source of uncertainty in weather and climate forecasts, due largely to a lack of suitable observations.

2. The team of Dr. Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe (Princeton University, USA) and Dr. Andrea Rinaldo (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausan, Switzerland).

{mosimage}They are being awarded for their invention and development of the new field of Ecohydrology, which bridges the gap between the physical and life sciences.

Ecohydrology is a multi-disciplinary research field borrowing from a number of “classic” disciplines (physical sciences; life sciences), yet aiming at a unified picture of water-supported biological dispersion. In practical terms, the new research field presents itself as a comprehensive blend of theory (mathematical modeling), interpretation of past and present biological records, and field experimentation.

The work being awarded represents  the joint Princeton-Lausanne research group that was built by the two prizewinners through years of collaboration. Some of their work shows how river networks act as ecological corridors, and how they influence the spread of a water-borne disease like Cholera that still a plague society today.

Their work facilitates avenues of research into many areas of vital importance for society, especially where the ecological significance of human water use is at issue. Ecohydrology has a wide range of practical applications, including water resources management, the development of strategies to minimize the loss of freshwater biodiversity, and the effective prevention of water-borne diseases.
Specialized Branch Prizes

Dr. Bart Van der Bruggen of the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven - Alternative (Non-traditional) Water Resources Prize

{mosimage}The topic for the 4th Award of the Alternative (Non-traditional) Water Resources Prize was “Innovative Methods for Water Production from Non-traditional Water Resources”. This prize, worth 500,000 Saudi Riyals, is being awarded to Dr. Van der Bruggen for his work in the use of nanofiltration membrane technology for industrial water recycling.

Dr. Van der Bruggen has conducted important work on water recycling, including water recycling situation and principles, and the applications of various membrane technologies in wastewater regeneration. These works have made new contributions to the knowledge and practice of water recycling.

Dr. Van der Bruggen’s research explores the use of a number of different nanofiltration membrane technologies for a wide range of industrial situations as diverse as the textile industry, breweries, and car washes.  He also takes up “the challenge of zero discharge” where  he explores, within the context of the brewery process, methods for assessing the potential for water re-use directly or after regeneration, with the remaining wastewater included in an overall process scheme aiming at the ambitious goal of zero wastewater discharge.

 Dr. Soroosh Sorooshian of the University of California, Irvine (USA) - Water Resources Management and Protection Prize

{mosimage}The Water Resources Management and Protection Prize, also worth 500,000 Saudi Riyals, which had the topic of “Remote Sensing and GIS Applications for Water Resources Management”, is being awarded to Dr. Sorooshian for his development and refinement of the PERSIANN model to estimate precipitation from satellite remotely sensed data.

PERSIANN is a method that uses artificial neural networks – a form of artificial intelligence – and infrared (GOES IR) and TRMM satellite data to estimate global precipitation.

Dr. Sorooshian not only led the development of a very important precipitation estimation model – PERSIANN – but with his team he has continued to improve its predictive ability between 2000 and 2009 by applying different methods drawn from AI (e.g., self organizing algorithms), using new sources to compare and calibrate its estimates (e.g., TRMM and the TOGA experiment), and in simulating data anticipated sensors (e.g., ABL). He shows not only insight and innovation but also dedication to a mission that is of vital importance to hydrologists and water managers the world over.

Two of the four specialized branch prizes were not awarded for the current 2008-2010 round. They were the Surface Water Prize and the Groundwater Prize. The topic which had been announced for the 4th Award of the Surface Water Prize was “Innovative Methods for Rain and Runoff Water Modeling”, while the designated topic for the Groundwater Prize was “Assessment and Control of Radioactive Contamination in Groundwater”.

Based on the recommendations of the Sel ection Committee after a careful study of the referee evaluation reports, the Prize Council decided not to award these two prizes, due to the lack of nominations of sufficient scientific quality that also conformed to the designated prize topics.

Awards Ceremony Announcement

The awards ceremony will take place on Monday evening, 6 December 2010, under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General. The awards ceremony is being held concurrently with the opening session of the 4th International Conference on Water Resources and Arid Environments 2010 which will run fr om 6-8 December and which is being organized by King Saud University through its Prince Sultan Research Center for Environment, Water and Desert in conjunction with PSIPW and the Ministry of Water and Electricity.

Dr. Abdulmalek A. Al Alsheikh, PSIPW General Secretary, took the occasion of the Prize Council meeting to extend his deepest thanks to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, and to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz and to His Royal Highness Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz. He also extended his thanks to King Saud University, and especially to its Prince Sultan Research Center for Environment, Water and Desert which hosts the Prize’s General Secretariat, and to all the scientists and specialists in Saudi Arabia and around the world who have contributed to the Prize’s achievements. He also congratulated the prizewinners for the 4th Award, and wished them continued success in their efforts to serve humanity.