November 2011, Vol. 23, No.11


New Jersey student receives international SJWP award

Alison Bick of Short Hill, N.J., was named international winner of the 2011 Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) during a competition held in conjunction with World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, in August.

Bick, who competed against national winners from 28 other countries, won for her project titled, “Development and Evaluation of a Microfluidic Co-Flow Device To Determine Water Quality.” She conducted the research in response to the threat of contaminated drinking water due to natural or man-made disasters.

Seeking a low-cost, portable, and publicly accessible method to test whether water is potable, Bick concluded that she could determine water quality with a combination of microfluidics, cell phones, and Colilert-18 (a chemical that turns yellow in the presence of coliform bacteria).

Bick received $5000 and a crystal sculpture for winning the international competition, which is administered by SIWI and sponsored by ITT Corp. (White Plains, N.Y.).

To participate in the international competition, Bick competed against more than 40 other U.S. state SJWP winners to be named U.S. SJWP winner. The Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) sponsors the U.S. SJWP with support from ITT Corp., The Coca-Cola Co. (Atlanta), and Delta Air Lines (Atlanta).

For winning the U.S. competition, Bick received $3000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Stockholm for the international competition. In addition, her school, Milburn (N.J.) High School, will receive a $1000 grant for enhancing water science education. She also presented her research at WEFTEC® 2011 in Los Angeles. 

More than 80 waterways experience record levels following Hurricane Irene

Since Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast in August, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has measured record water levels in rivers and streams in 10 states and Puerto Rico, according to a USGS news release. 

With higher-than-average precipitation saturating the ground in many locations before the hurricane’s arrival, the Northeast experienced a bulk of the record-breaking events. More than 80 USGS stream gauges registered new records.

USGS, in cooperation with state and federal agencies, operates a nationwide network of more than 7000 stream gauges on inland rivers and streams. Find real-time, nationwide stream data at


Ancient history discovered at future wastewater treatment facility in Iowa

Workers unearthed a piece of ancient history during construction of the Des Moines (Iowa) Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority’s new combined sewer solids-separation facility.

A well-preserved site nearly 7000 years old containing four structures as large as 74 m2 (800 ft2) and furnished with hearths, two partial skeletons from a woman and infant, and more than 6000 artifacts has been discovered at the location of the wastewater treatment facility, according to a University of Iowa (Iowa City) news release.

Archaeologists gathered information from the site, named “The Palace,” which is home to the oldest known structures and human remains discovered to date in Iowa, the news release says. Radiocarbon date calculation based on wood charcoal from the burial site indicates that the individuals died between 6680 and 6890 years ago.

The University of Iowa-based Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) excavated the site, which sits on the western edge of the existing wastewater treatment plant and north of the Des Moines River. Using laser technology, the archaeologists mapped more than 12,000 archaeological data points, which will enable them to develop three-dimensional representations of the site.

“We don’t get many opportunities to see deeply buried, well-preserved sites of this size,” said OSA general contracts program director Melody Pope, according to the release. “This discovery will provide important clues about what the living environment was like 7000 years ago.”

Removal and reburial of the human remains is taking place in consultation with descendant American Indian peoples and members of the OSA Indian Advisory Council, and in accordance with state and federal laws, the release says.

Laboratory analyses of collected data continue, and as additional details about the site emerge, OSA will produce a formal report, a website gallery of images, and educational publications and presentations to share with the public, the release says. For more information, see


California water utility educates about water-wise gardening


Mesa Consolidated Water District (Costa Mesa, Calif.) educated members of the public about a variety of drought-tolerant plants and landscaping techniques during the 2011 Orange County Fair in July and August. The district offered the demonstrations to promote water conservation and water-conscious gardening as part of its water-use efficiency program to educate customers about using water wisely.

The district’s certified conservation specialist, Justin Finch, led the demonstrations, presenting information about plants to choose for water-wise gardening and the best way to maintain gardens.

Each of the six Water-Wise Garden Demonstrations, held from July 20 through Aug. 7, lasted approximately 30 minutes, was free, and included a guided tour through a demonstration garden. Finch described a variety of drought-tolerant flowers and showcased the diversity of native plants to participants. For more information, see


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