2020: Dr John Cherry

Dr John Cherry is named the 2020 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for discoveries that have revolutionized our understanding of groundwater vulnerability. His research has raised awareness of how groundwater contamination is growing across the world which has led to new, more efficient methods to tackle the problem.

Dr John cherry wins the 2020 Stockholm Water Prize
no caption

Dr John Cherry is a world-renowned hydrogeologist and a leading authority on the threats to groundwater from contamination. As the creator of the academic field contaminant hydrogeology, showing how chemicals and waste leache into groundwater, he has changed the scientific paradigms of groundwater research. 

Dr Cherry has pioneered in-depth systematic approaches, including measurement tools and deep insights into groundwater transport processes. Through highly collaborative field experiments he has developed new ways to monitor, control and clean up contaminated groundwater. 

On receiving news of the prize, Dr Cherry said: “I’m very pleased to receive the Stockholm Water Prize and to get this opportunity to speak about the importance of protecting groundwater. Though the global water crisis is starting to get more attention, groundwater is often forgotten, despite making up 99 per cent of the planet’s liquid freshwater. Many people still perceive it as pristine when in fact it is threatened by human activity.” 

In its citation, the Stockholm International Water Prize Nominating Committee said: “With the Stockholm Water Prize, John Cherry is recognized for his contributions to science, education, practice and for translating his well-earned stature into a passionate and highly effective advocacy for groundwater science to inform current and future policies, laws and collective deliberations that governments must establish to protect water, our most essential and yet most imperilled resource.” 

“Today, almost half the global population is drinking groundwater. In coming years, when our planet will have an additional two or three billion inhabitants, most of them will rely on groundwater.”

Dr Cherry, Oon receiving news of the prize


Many students have had their understanding of groundwater shaped by John Cherry’s 1979 textbook Groundwater, which he co-authored together with R.A Freeze. Making groundwater knowledge freely available to students and practitioners has always been close to his heart and in 2020 the innovative Groundwater Project was launched. Dr Cherry has collaborated with other leading groundwater scientists to create a comprehensive resource platform, with all material being free of charge. 

“We urgently need to raise awareness of the importance of groundwater. It’s the essential water for our ecological world and sustains rivers, lakes, peatlands, wetlands, everything. For humans, groundwater is also becoming more and more important. Already today, almost half the global population is drinking groundwater. In coming years, when our planet will have an additional two or three billion inhabitants, most of them will rely on groundwater,” he says.

SIWI’s Executive Director Torgny Holmgren comments: “Dr Cherry has made us aware of how much we depend on groundwater and that it is all too often threatened by contamination. We are very grateful for his invaluable contributions in helping us understand how we can protect the world’s groundwater from the threats it faces.” 

Dr Cherry is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Guelph, Canada, Director at the University’s Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Research and Associate Director of the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research. He is also a Distinguished Emeritus Professor, University of Waterloo. 

Dr Cherry has published over 210 peer-reviewed publications and been cited over 35,000 times. 

Interview with John Cherry