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Stockholm Junior Water prize winner on travel & saving the world

18-year-old Australian inventor Macinley Butson from Wollongong, New South Wales has won the world’s biggest international water science competition for high-school students, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

This is the first time an Australian has won the award since its inception in 1997.

Macinley with HRH Princess of Sweden

Macinley with H.R.H Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden Credit: Jonas Borg

Macinley’s winning invention is the SODIS Sticker, an innovative ultraviolet radiation sticker that can accurately measure the solar UV exposure required to sanitise drinking water.

Given that one out of three people globally use a biologically contaminated water source, Macinley’s invention is a cost-effective solution for providing developing communities with safe drinking water.

In their citation, the Jury noted that: “This year’s winning project addresses public health through renewable energy and water. The project embodies simplicity and affordability, leaving no one behind. This invention is practical, ready and globally deployable. The project demonstrates experience and expertise by a dedicated and creative young scientist. This entry will stick in our minds for a long time.”

As the winner Macinley received US$15,000 and a crystal sculpture presented by H.R.H Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Macinley has also won US$5,000 for her high-school, Illawarra Grammar in Wollongong, NSW.

“I’m very overwhelmed and feeling a lot of love. I never expected this outcome but it’s been an amazing opportunity to be able to connect with so many likeminded people. To come here and see that the future is in good hands and there are young people who are doing amazing things has been extremely inspiring,” Macinley said.

We caught up with Macinley and found out her travel tips and where she’d like to take her invention.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about being in Stockholm?

A: Being in Stockholm for the SJWP (Stockholm Junior Water Prize) is such an amazing experience! Being able to meet like-minded young innovators from all over the world is an experience I cannot explain with words and yet is one of the best opportunities. And gathering in Stockholm, a city now known for its innovation in water and with a rich history and beauty is something I will be eternally grateful for.

Q: What would you suggest other families with teenagers thinking of visiting Sweden should do/see while they are there?

A: There is so much to do in Sweden especially in the heart of Stockholm!! I must admit my favourite thing to do when going to any city is just exploring. Putting down the map and just wandering through the streets finding little treasures which might be tucked away. I love finding little antique stores and side streets which I can say Stockholm has plenty of, especially in Gamla Stan. It is just such a beautiful city!

Stortorget square in Old Town (Gamla Stan) in Stockholm Credit: MarinaD_37 / Shutterstock

Q: Where is your favourite holiday destination & why?

A: That is such a fantastic question, and not one I think I could answer with one destination! It really depends on the holiday and what the intention for it is! Sweden is the first place in Europe I went to and so I think it will always have a special place in my heart, as it really opened my eyes – especially as some of the buildings were built before Australia officially became a country!! That fact is always something which just blows my mind away.

Typical red house in Sweden.

Typical red house in Sweden. Credit: almgren / Shutterstock

Q: What 3 things do you always pack when you go on holiday?

  1. My camera! Capturing moments and places is something which I always think is special and then being able to share those with family and friends is one of the best parts. But I also like to put down the camera and experience those moments too because that’s what you remember!
  2. Comfortable shoes is always a must for me! Like I said I love exploring and so that involves a lot of walking which a pair of comfortable shoes is so incredibly important for. 
  3. I have a denim jacket which I call my travel jacket that I always bring with me! When I travel I collect patches and these all go on my jacket, so I am getting a little collection together and I always bring it with me!

Q: The award you won was a huge achievement, what would you like to see happen with your invention?

A: I would love to see the invention being used all over the world by people in developing communities, that would be the dream! Obviously that is a little bit off but eventually that is what I am aiming for. Doing these science projects I always do with them with the intention to help people, so having that actually happen is the ultimate goal. 


The 2020 Australian Stockholm Junior Water Prize is now open for entries until Monday, 16 December. To find out about the competition and to enter, visit



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