On September 13th, the 2022 International Water Association (IWA) World Water Congress & Exhibition 2022 was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the IWA Project Innovation Awards (PIA) were presented to 18 winners, of which the top three awards were gold, silver, and bronze. The silver award went to the project “Achieving A Paradigm Shift Of Water Pollution Control And Social Development: Erhai Lake Project”, which was jointly put forward by the China Water Environment Group, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and the Government of Dali.
The PIA aims to commend outstanding contributions and significant innovations in water science, management, research, and technology. It is awarded every two years and issued at the IWA World Water Congress to encourage practitioners worldwide to contribute to the sustainable development of water resources. The PIA has six categories. Through public nomination, 203 applications from 52 countries were received, setting a new record. The IWA expert panel independently assessed their innovation, main achievements, project design environment, and the potential for broad impact. The engineering technology of the distributed-underground reclaimed water ecosystem developed by the Erhai Lake Project and its successful application in the Erhai Lake in Dali were highly recognized by the expert panel.
Tom Mollenkopf, President of the IWA, warmly congratulated the Erhai Lake Project on winning the PIA prize. He said that the comprehensive control of the Erhai Lake in Dali, through the excellent implementation of the project, integrated the improvement of the ecological environment of the Erhai Lake with the social and economic development of the area, reflecting the fundamental role of water, which is of great significance for the development of the global water environment.
The PIA-winning Dali project has tackled the severe water environment challenges in Erhai Lake by building a distributed-underground reclaimed water ecosystem. The technology fully covers all the application scenarios of water environment governance and resource utilization. The six distributed-underground water reclamation plants built around Erhai Lake are like pearl necklaces, giving full play to the advantages of the distributed-underground reclaimed water ecosystem technology system, i.e., being environmentally friendly, resource utilization, ecological security, and green and low-carbon, forming a “major artery” to cut off and reuse the domestic wastewater around Erhai Lake. Placing the water plants underground has solved the problem of noise pollution and fully utilizes water and land resources. This project has played an essential role in the sustainable improvement of the water quality of Erhai Lake and the fundamental change of the ecological environment. It provides Chinese technology and solutions for countries lacking water and land in the world. In 2021, the water quality of Erhai Lake reached Class II in seven months, and it was rated to be excellent throughout the year. Seaweed, a natural indicator of water quality that until recently was rarely seen, blossomed in large areas of Erhai Lake.
Hou Feng, Chairman of the China Water Environment Group, was invited to give a speech at the event, where he expressed his gratitude to the experts involved in the R&D and practices of the engineering technology in Erhai Lake, as well as to the Government of Dali and the people of the Bai nationality, for their support, care, and understanding.
Kong Hainan, Chair Professor of SJTU and the head of the National Water Pollution Control and Treatment Project in Erhai Lake, said that the award is a significant prize won by China’s environmental community in the international field of water science and technology. The wastewater interception around the lake is a completely closed-loop system, achieving the integration and efficient utilization of water resources, green energy, and land resources. It has a leading role in the field of large lakes in the world, and is worthy of the title “global innovative technology”.
The reuse of water resources has become a worldwide issue. The team of Kong Hainan and Wang Xinze from the SJTU School of Environmental Science and Engineering has been living and working on the banks of Erhai Lake for decades, where they worked hard to protect the clear and bright waters. The team has insisted on writing papers, making field visits, and translating theoretical knowledge into practical solutions. They encouraged students to align their plans with the future of the country, the development of the nation and the needs of the society, to be on the same path with the development of the party and the country, and armed with their strong academic background, contribute to green hills and clear waters. In 2018, the team was selected as one of the first batches of “Faculty Teams of Huang Danian Style of Chinese Universities”. In 2019, it was awarded the “National Model Group for National Unity and Progress”; and in 2021, Wang Xinze, the team’s leader, was named “National Role Model for Poverty Alleviation”. The team’s water management efforts have been widely reported by media outlets such as CCTV, People’s Daily, Science and Technology Daily, and China Environment News.