NEW YORK—Oct. 29, 2018— At a United Nations ceremony, ten leading researchers received the PSIPW 8th Award.

The UN Missions of Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Thailand along with the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) co-sponsored the 29 October ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters, which took place under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. The ceremony was held in the ECOSOC Chamber and attended by approximately 400 high-level diplomats and UN officials.

The event was hosted by His Excellency, Mr. Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist and opened by Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Abdullah Al-Muallimi. Mr Muallimi stressed that 2018-2028 has been declared the international decade for water, since concerns over water scarcity have reached a critical level. He also lauded the Prince Sultan Prize as the “Nobel Prize for water science and technology”.

Guest speakers included His Excellency, Mr. Abdurrahman Abdul Mohsen Al-Fadli, Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture; Dr. Badran Al-Omar, rector of King Saud University; and Ms. Simonetta di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

PSIPW General Secretary Dr. Abdulmalek A. Al AlshaikhDr. Abdulmalek A. Al Alshaikh, PSIPW General Secretary, introduced the prizewinners as follows:

  • Creativity: 

The team of Dr. Andre Geim and Dr. Rahul Nair (National Graphene Institute, University of Manchester, UK) was awarded for developing novel graphene oxide membranes that promise to enable energy-efficient and high-volume water filtration and desalination.

  • Creativity: 

The team of Dr. Günter Blöschl (Vienna University of Technology) and Dr. Murugesu Sivapalan (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) was awarded for developing the new field of Sociohydrology, a ground-breaking new paradigm for water management and a new validated approach for studying the dynamic interactions and bi-directional feedbacks between water systems and people.

  • Surface Water:

Dr. Wilfried Brutsaert (Cornell University, USA) was awarded for developing, demonstrating, and validating a new theory that can generate unprecedented estimates of evaporation from the natural landscape.

  • Groundwater:

Dr. Martinus Theodorus van Genuchten (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) was awarded for the development and application of key theoretical and software tools that describe water flow and contaminant transport in the subsurface.

  • Alternative Water Resources:

The team of Dr. Omar Yaghi (University of California, Berkeley) and Dr. Evelyn Wang (MIT) was awarded for creating a solar-powered device that uses an innovative porous metal-organic framework (MOF) to capture water from the atmosphere.

  • Water Management and Protection:

The team of Dr. Jim W. Hall and Dr. Edoardo Borgomeo (Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford) was awarded for developing and applying a new risk-based framework to assess water security and plan water supply infrastructure in times of climate change. 


After the awards were received, Mr. Elliott Harris stressed the importance of initiatives like PSIPW, since “we are not on track to meet SDG 6” referring to the 6th UN Sustainable Development Goal of achieving water and sanitation for all. He added: “Billions of people worldwide still lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” In fact, things are progressively getting worse. “Water scarcity is increasing, water quality is decreasing, and water ecosystems are under threat. ” He concluded that PSIPW is acting to further the SDG’s 2030 agenda to “mobilize science at multiple levels and multiple disciplines to gather or create the necessary knowledge and pave the way for practices, innovations and new technologies that can address the challenges of today and the challenges of the future.”

The concluding remarks were given by Ms. Simonetta di Pippo of UNOOSA, who discussed the relationship between PSIPW and UNOOSA that extends over ten years, and officially launched the Space-for-Water Portal developed by the two organizations as “a dedicated space for information exchange, knowledge management, and data brokerage.” This was followed by a presentation on the portal by Ms. Nina Kickinger, an information systems officer at UNOOSA, where she shared its vision as “capacity building platform” and “multi-stakeholder platform for interdisciplinary knowledge exchange, making information of space solutions and technologies for water-related topics discoverable and filterable.”

The event was followed by a gala dinner at the Delegates Dining Room.