Mr Evaporation wins water prize

Image: Senning Luk on Unsplash

A renowned hydrologist, affectionately known as 'Mr Evaporation', has been awarded the most prestigious prize in water.

Wilfried Brutsaert has won the Stockholm Water Prize 2022 for his groundbreaking work to quantify environmental evaporation, helping to make accurate predictions of the impact that climate change has on local rainfall patterns and water sources.

Professor Brutsaert is the world’s leading authority on terrestrial evaporation. Such evaporation is a crucial aspect of the water cycle but very difficult to measure or estimate, particularly on a local level.

Professor Brutsaert’s work has given scientists the tools to overcome this difficulty, developing ways to quantify evaporation and its role in the Earth’s energy balance, allowing for more accurate estimations of how precipitation is likely to evolve. This is of particular importance to exposed local communities needing to predict how much water is available today and how much will be available in the future.

"We must know how much water we will have in order to understand how much more a city can expand, or if we can allow industries to settle in a certain area.”

Professor Wilfried Brutsaert, Cornell University

Brutsaert explained: “This is essential information to have when planning our societies. We must know how much water we will have in order to understand how much more a city can expand, or if we can allow industries to settle in a certain area.”

On being awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, Professor Brutsaert said: “Winning the Prize is a great honour and I hold previous winners and their expertise in the highest regard. For me, this feels like a confirmation that my years spent researching and teaching may have caused some good.”

In its citation, the nominating committee said, “Professor Brutsaert is a top hydrologist and a leader in land-atmosphere coupling research. His innovative works on evaporation and hydrology are of lasting theoretical and practical importance, particularly in view of climate change. In addition, Wilfried Brutsaert has pioneered novel approaches to understanding changes in groundwater storage.”

Professor Wilfried Brutsaert has created invaluable tools to predict the effects of climate change. Image: Cornell University.

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), said commented, “Wilfried Brutsaert has helped us substantially, to better understand the critically important aspects of evaporation, giving us invaluable tools to predict climate change effects and ultimately increase our chances of shaping a sustainable future.

“[His] innovative works on evaporation and hydrology are of lasting theoretical and practical importance, particularly in view of climate change.”

Professor Brutsaert is of Belgian origin. He lives in the US, working at Cornell University where he is William L Lewis Professor in Engineering Emeritus at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The Stockholm Water Prize is awarded by SIWI in cooperation with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Prize will be presented to Professor Brutsaert by patron King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on 31 August 2022, during World Water Week. Founding partners of Stockholm Water Prize are Ålandsbanken, Bacardi, PDJ Foundation, WEF and Xylem.