Groundwater Prize

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charles_franklin_harvey2The team of Dr. Charles Franklin Harvey (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) and Dr. Abu Borhan Mohammad Badruzzaman (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka).

The prize is awarded to this team for developing a complete diagnostic and conceptual model for understanding and preventing the arsenic contamination of groundwater.


They have followed one of the most important groundwater contamination cases known, the arsenic contamination of the groundwater in the Ganges Delta in Bangladesh. This contamination was recognized some 20 years ago, and this team began early on to investigate the case. Their specific, original approach soon made clear that dissolved organic carbon was one of the main causes, and they started to address the carbon sources. Step by step, their research led to a more and more complex view of the mobilization to the deposition of arsenic in a complex aquifer system, influenced by different land use activities, like rice field irrigation and sewage disposal. At each step, their investigation led to more and more detail, solving part of the puzzle and raising more detailed questions, which in turn led to further, more detailed research.

This group gives an excellent example of the application of scientific methods to solve a specific problem, following the issue for more than 10 years until arriving at a plausible, yet stunning result, which not only answers a major puzzle in groundwater hydrology, but which more generally demonstrates that complex natural systems can be understood.

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