Dr Jackie King has been named the 2019 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for her game-changing contributions to global river management.
Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director at Stockholm International Water Institute, noted in a statement that King has helped decision-makers understand that healthy river ecosystems are not a luxury, but the basis for sustainable development.
He noted that she has advanced the scientific understanding of water flows, giving decision-makers methods and tools to assess the full range of costs and benefits when managing or developing river systems.
He said the prize would be presented to Dr King by H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Patron of Stockholm Water Prize, at a Royal Award Ceremony on 28 August, during World Water Week in Stockholm.
The Stockholm Water Prize, presented annually since 1991, is the world’s most prestigious water award and honours women, men and organisations, who have made extraordinary water-related achievements.
Holmgren said King led the early development of the methods as a researcher at the University of Cape Town, funded by South Africa’s Water Research Commission.
According to him, she and colleagues Dr Cate Brown and Dr Alison Joubert created ecosystem models to demonstrate the ecological and social implications of damming and de-watering rivers.
This, he added, has enabled objective assessment of the costs of water-resource developments that could emerge linked to benefits such as hydropower and irrigated crops.
“I find it humbling, energizing and very rewarding. I have never sought high-profile jobs but was happy to be a working scientist, free to say what I felt needed to be said.
“I am delighted that the silent voices of river systems and their dependent people are increasingly being acknowledged.
“We all lose if rivers become severely degraded due to poorly-informed development and management. It does not have to be like that.
“Governments developing their water resources understand the potential benefits but not necessarily the costs in terms of degrading rivers.
“We can now show these ecological and social costs at a similar level of detail to the benefits shown by planners,” King said.
The Founders of the Stockholm Water Prize are companies united in their strong conviction to drive sustainability in the water sector.
Dr King’s work has been recognised with both the Gold and Silver Medals from the Southern African Society of Aquatic Scientists and with South Africa’s “Women in Water” Award in the research category.
She was also the 2016 recipient of WWF-South Africa’s “Living Planet Award”.
Her academic work includes over 100 refereed items in books, international journals and conference proceedings.
Initially founded by the Stockholm Water Foundation to encourage research and development of the world’s water environment, the Stockholm Water Prize is supported by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, International Water Association, Water Environment Federation and the City of Stockholm.