The Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize
"Nothing is more important than the careful stewardship and development of our water resources," said Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke, co-founder of NWRI.
Mrs. Clarke recognized the vital importance of water and strongly promoted better water science and technology.
In honor of Mrs. Clarke's vision, NWRI established the Clarke Prize in 1993 to honor outstanding individuals who have implemented better water science research and technology.
The Clarke Prize - a medallion and $50,000 award - is presented annually in the summer. As part of the award ceremony, the Clarke Prize recipient delivers the annual Clarke Lecture.
The Clarke Prize is:
- Distinguished by the International Congress of Distinguished Awards as one of the most prestigious awards in the world.
- One of only a dozen prizes that awards scholarly and practical achievements in water research.
- Awarded annually to an outstanding individual who is significantly contributing toward any of the following areas: the discovery, development, improvement, and/or understanding of the issues associated with water quality, quantity, technology, or public policy.
- Granted on the recommendation of the Clarke Prize Executive Committee.
- Not granted posthumously.
To learn more about Mrs. Clarke, watch the video on the “Twentieth Anniversary Celebration: Tribute to Mrs. Athalie R. Clarke” presented by James Irvine Swinden, grandson of Mrs. Clarke, at the 2013 Clarke Prize Award Ceremony and Lecture.
2014 Clarke Prize Recipient: Dr. David L. Sedlak
David L. Sedlak, Ph.D., civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, was selected as the twenty-first recipient of the NWRI Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for excellence in water research. Sedlak is also Co-Director of the Berkeley Water Center and Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center on Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt).
Sedlak was selected as the 2014 recipient because of his pioneering research on advancing the way water resources and urban water infrastructure are managed, including implementing water reuse and reducing the discharge of emerging contaminants (such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products). His work has served as the foundation for major policy and technical initiatives to reduce the effects of these contaminants and protect public health.
Sedlak arrived at UC Berkeley in 1994. In 1996, he began studying wastewater-derived contaminants with a focus on natural and synthetic estrogens. His research on the presence of steroid estrogens in wastewater effluent raised concerns for public health and the aquatic environment, especially in situations when treated wastewater was reused or discharged to rivers in arid climates. From this study, he and his research group developed analytical techniques to detect these contaminants at low concentrations and also published one of the first papers on the topic.
In 2000, Sedlak made another breakthrough in wastewater-derived contaminant research working with his student, William Mitch, when they identified the source and fate of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a carcinogen formed during the disinfection of wastewater. Disinfectants, like chlorine, are used to control microbial contaminants, but these disinfectants can react with organic nitrogen-containing compounds to form NDMA. If the chlorinated wastewater is used for drinking water supplies, the formation of NDMA can cause serious health concerns. From their research, Sedlak and Mitch developed approaches for decreasing NDMA concentrations, quantifying the compounds that form NDMA, and adjusting the disinfection process. These approaches are now applied in efforts to control NDMA.
More recently, Sedlak focused his research on natural system processes, such as using engineered treatment wetlands to remove chemicals from wastewater-impacted waters. His research may change the way wetland treatment systems are enhanced and operated to eliminate micropollutants and improve water quality. As Deputy Director of ReNUWIt, a research center focused on advancing the way urban water is managed, he also has had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for improving water infrastructure, such as expanding water distribution systems, increasing planned water reuse, and reducing the amount of emerging contaminants released into the environment. Another notable achievement is Sedlak’s newly published book, Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of The World’s Most Vital Resource, which discusses the evolution of the urban water system over the last two millennia and his perspective on the technologies and advancements needed to remake the system in the near future.
Because of his considerable knowledge and expertise, Sedlak has been invited to serve on numerous boards and committees throughout the water industry. For instance, in 2004 and 2012, he served as Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Science: Water, the leading conference on exploring advancements in water quality science and technology. He was also a member of the Drinking Water Committee for the United States Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, panel member for the National Science Foundation, and member of the National Research Council Research Committee on Water Reuse. Currently, he serves as Associate Editor for both Environmental Science & Technology and Water Research, two prestigious journals in the scientific community. Sedlak also offers his expertise serving on an NWRI Expert Panel to advise the California Department of Public Health on scientific, technical, and public health issues regarding the development of uniform criteria and regulations for advanced treatment water reuse in California.