U.S. Water Quality Expert Awarded 2007 Stockholm Water Prize

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, March 22, 2007 (ENS) - Professor Perry McCarty from Stanford University, a pioneer in the development of the understanding of biological and chemical processes for the safe supply and treatment of water, was today named the 2007 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.

Professor McCarty’s work has led to more efficient biological treatment processes, in particular anaerobic treatment systems for municipal and industrial wastewaters that do not use oxygen, biological nutrient removal, and the development and use of biofilm reactors.

"This is a real surprise. It's a very special award, one of the major water awards in the world," Professor McCarty told ENS today in a telephone interview from his home in Stanford, California.

In its Citation, the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee wrote, "Professor Perry L. McCarty is awarded the 2007 Stockholm Water Prize for pioneering work in developing the scientific approach for the design and operation of water and wastewater systems."

"He has established the role of fundamental microbiology and chemistry in the design of bioreactors. Professor McCarty has defined the field of environmental biotechnology that is the basis for small-scale and large-scale pollution control and safe drinking water systems."


Professor Perry McCarty is the Silas H. Palmer Professor Emeritus of Environmental Engineering and Science in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. (Photo courtesy Stockholm International Water Institute)
The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1990 and presented annually by the Stockholm Water Foundation to an individual, organization or institution for outstanding water-related activities. The activities can be within fields like education and awareness-raising, human and international relations, research, water management and water-related aid.

The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives US$150,000 along with a glass sculpture, which will be presented August 16 during the 2007 World Water Week in Stockholm. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the Patron of the Stockholm Water Prize.

Professor McCarty said he has been "blessed" in conducting research with many outstanding students and colleagues. "It is certainly very gratifying to me, and also to my colleagues who have helped to develop better fundamental understandings of the biologoical systems involved in water pollution contol," he said. "This is a wonderful recognition by others of those efforts."

Being an environmental engineer, Professor McCarty has combined knowledge of physical, chemical, biological and microbiological processes and transferred the results into outstanding technical development widely used all over the world as the basis for design and operation of wastewater treatment systems.

His interests have centered on Superfund and hazardous waste cleanup, groundwater contamination, and wastewater reuse issues, especially in conjunction with drinking water supplies.


Clean drinking water is a precious resource that Professor McCarty has worked all his life to protect. (Photo courtesy City of Burlington, North Carolina)
Professor McCarty’s other important contribution was the identity of mechanisms for biodegradation and the fate of hazardous and trace chemicals as well as engineering for water quality improvement of ground and surface water and soils.

All of his earlier research findings and theoretical developments have been incorporated into these recent studies and culminated in his fundamental theory of water quality improvement in surface and groundwater as well as biological treatment of polluted soils, or bioremediation.

Professor McCarty also has tackled the problem of organic compounds and pollutants in wastewater and underground aquifer systems. His work has led to the development and practical implementation of methods to treat toxic chemicals in groundwater, especially chlorinated pollutants from industry.

"Attempting to remediate groundwater is extremely expensive, so we need to make a great effort in prevention before contamination happens," he said. "This is very important especially for the developing world to understand, because once groundwater is contaminated, it is contaminated for centuries."

"Prevention is relatively inexpensive rather than trying to remediate this precious resource," he said. "It is very vulnerable, and we really must protect it."

sewage beds

Treated wastewater disposal beds, which created a large subsurface plume of contaminated ground water on Cape Cod, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy USGS)
Professor McCarty has published more than 300 papers in water science, environmental engineering, and microbiology science journals with 50 papers just in the last 10 years.

He is coauthor of the textbooks, "Chemistry for Environmental Engineering" and "Science and Environmental Biotechnology - Principles and Applications." These textbooks on the chemistry, biology, and design of treatment systems for municipal and industrial wastewater are daily used by engineers all over the world.

Professor McCarty has been an educator and researcher at Stanford since 1962 where he is known for his ability to attract and develop outstanding doctoral students.

From 1989 to 2002 he was director of the Western Regional Hazardous Substances Research Center, which is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an Honorary member of the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology.

He received the John and Alice Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1992 and the Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for Outstanding Achievements in Water Science and Technology in 1997.

He was selected by the National Academies to be the 2001 Abel Wolman Distinguished Lecturer. Among other awards are the Harrison P. Eddy Award for Noteworthy Research (1964 and 1977) and the Thomas Camp Award for Unique Application of Engineering Research (1975) of the Water Environment Federation; the A. P. Black Research Award of the American Water Works Association (1989); and the Walter L. Huber Research Prize (1964), the Simon W. Freese Environmental Engineering Lecture Award (1979), and J. James R. Croes Medal (1995) of the American Society of Civil Engineers.