Philip Singer tapped to receive National Water Research Institute Award

May 23, 2006
Dr. Philip C. Singer

Dr. Philip C. Singer

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health Professor Philip C. Singer will be the 13th recipient of the National Water Research Institute’s (NWRI) acclaimed Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for excellence in water research.

The NWRI announced this week that the award will be presented to Singer, the Dan A. Okun Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering and director of UNC’s Drinking Water Research Center, on Thursday, July 13, 2006, at the Thirteenth Annual Clarke Prize Award Ceremony and Lecture, to be held at Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano, California.

NWRI established the Clarke Prize in 1993 to recognize outstanding research scientists who have demonstrated excellence in water-science research and technology. The prize, which includes a gold medallion and $50,000 award, is presented annually.

Established in honor of NWRI’s co-founder, the late Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke, the Clarke Prize is awarded to outstanding research scientists who are currently active in the water and wastewater fields. It is one of only a dozen water prizes awarded worldwide and has been distinguished by the International Congress of Distinguished Awards as one of the most prestigious awards in the world.

Singer has devoted his 37-year career to increasing our knowledge of water chemistry and drinking water treatment. His research activities have spanned a broad range of water quality issues, from providing a fundamental understanding of the chemistry of ozone – allowing for the development of chemical oxidation processes as a safe, reliable, and cost-effective means to purify water – to understanding the formation and control of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in drinking water. Considered a human carcinogen, DBPs are formed when chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in water during treatment and, therefore, have been one of the most challenging issues within the waterworks industry for the last 30 years.

Singer’s pivotal work on DBPs has directly led to the development of water treatment and distribution practices to control DBP levels in drinking water. His research results were used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in setting regulations for both trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, the two major classes of DBPs, and in identifying coagulation as a best available technology to control DBPs. He has also taken the lead in linking environmental engineering with epidemiological principles to provide an assessment of the effects of human exposure to DBPs in drinking water. One such effort is a 2005 publication that he co-authored, titled Drinking Water Disinfection By-Products and Pregnancy Loss.

A teacher as well as a researcher, Singer has taught courses in aquatic chemistry and physical-chemical treatment processes at UNC since 1973. He was responsible for forming the Drinking Water Research Center at UNC in 1998 to address critical drinking water issues, and presently serves as its director. He has also supervised 17 Ph.D. students and 95 master’s students.

In 1997, Singer received the Bernard Greenberg Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Service awarded by alumni of the UNC School of Public Health. For his outstanding efforts in the classroom and toward the treatment of water supplies, he was elected a Member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1995 and a Life Member of the American Water Works Association in 1999. He was also selected by the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors as the 2003 Distinguished Lecturer, in which he visited 14 universities to present his research on DBPs in drinking water. He is also a previous recipient of the A.P. Black Research Award given by the American Water Works Association for career contributions to water quality research, and the Gordon Maskew Fair Award given by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers for substantial contributions to the status of the engineering profession, the quality of the world’s environment, and the Academy.

Among his scholarly achievements, Singer has authored or co-authored more than 200 publications, including 106 refereed journal articles. He has also edited two books and served as an associate editor of Environmental Science and Technology and served on the Editorial Board for Ozone Science and Engineering, both journals in the environmental field.

He received a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from Harvard University, an M.S. in Sanitary Engineering from Northwestern University, and a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Cooper Union.

Recent past recipients of the Clarke Prize include: water-quality engineer Charles R. O’Melia, Ph.D., of The Johns Hopkins University (2000); microbiologist Joan B. Rose, Ph.D., of Michigan State University (2001); microbiologist Harry F. Ridgway, Ph.D., of AquaMem Consultants (2002); wastewater engineer George Tchobanoglous, Ph.D., P.E., of the University of California, Davis (2003); water-quality engineer Vernon L. Snoeyink, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2004); and water-quality engineer Menachem Elimelech, Ph.D., of Yale University (2005).

The National Water Research Institute (NWRI) was founded in 1991 by a group of Southern California water agencies in partnership with the Joan Irvine Smith and Athalie R. Clarke Foundation to promote the protection, maintenance, and restoration of water supplies and to protect the freshwater and marine environments through the development of cooperative research work. NWRI’s member agencies include Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Irvine Ranch Water District, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Orange County Sanitation District, Orange County Water District, and West Basin Municipal Water District.


Note: Singer may be contacted at 919-966-3865 or

NWRI contacts: Gina Melin, (714) 280-5709, or Jeffrey Mosher, (714) 378-3278, or

For further information please contact Ramona DuBose either by phone at 919-966-7467 or by e-mail at