Rising Stars



About Rising Stars

The Institute of Water is dedicated to supporting the careers of people working in the UK water utility sector and the Rising Stars programme is a key feature of our ongoing work to nurture rising talent in the water sector.

This tailor-made programme was originally developed in partnership with the industry magazine company, Utility Week, to celebrate and reward Institute of Water members who have demonstrated both the potential and an appetite to progress in the water industry. The programme is now stand-alone and sits solely within the Institute of Water.

Through an application process each year, we choose eight Institute of Water members who have shown both the potential and an appetite to progress within the water industry.

Rising Stars brings together a collection of unique opportunities, designed to develop the skills and professional excellence of new industry talent and particularly focuses on providing professional development in the skills areas that are not traditionally tackled or made available to individuals.

“This programme has enabled me to explore parts of the industry I’d otherwise never get the chance to and those experiences are invaluable for my CPD.”
Fionn Boyle, Optimisation Project Engineer, Anglian Water, 2018 Rising Star

See what other Rising Stars have said about the programme here.


Meet our Rising Stars of 2020/21

Rachel Powell

Business Planning Manager, United Utilities

Rachel joined United Utilities on a graduate scheme in 2014 after completing a BSc in Environmental Science at Lancaster University and an MSc in Water, Energy and the Environment at Liverpool John Moores University. The graduate scheme offered a unique opportunity to explore a wide range of roles in UU, including Strategy, Trade Effluent and wastewater process, Bioresources, water process and a large-scale transformation project.

Following the graduate scheme, Rachel was a business analyst before establishing a new team leading the response to water supply incidents from within United Utilities’ Integrated Control Centre (ICC). Rachel revelled the fast-paced operational role and combining technical knowledge and leadership to identify and respond to customer incidents.

After two years working shifts, she was ready for a new challenge. Since September 2019, Rachel has been the Business Planning Manager for Network Delivery. Working with the water and wastewater network operational and strategy areas, she is building the plan for AMP7 and what spend, and projects will be needed to meet the next AMP’s performance challenges.

Rachel’s message for the industry:

My message to the water industry is a simple one: stop being so silo’d.

We’ve probably all experienced that realisation when you’ve found out a colleague or other team has been working on something very similar to you? This is true for an individual level, team, or across an organisation. We could all benefit from learning from others’ experiences or recognising when we have something to share.  It’s only then will we develop and grow, but also be equipped to deal with the significant challenges we face such as climate change.

Anna Figueras Carril

Laboratories Team Leader, Scottish Water

After completing her BSc in Chemistry in Barcelona, Spain, Anna moved to Scotland to study an MSc in Forensic Science. From there she then worked as a scientist in an oil and gas service laboratory, which included setting up the company’s new testing facilities in Abu Dhabi. At this point Anna decided to return to Scotland and seek employment in an industry with a more positive outlook on the environment.

Anna joined Scottish Water as a scientist in 2016 and was quickly promoted to Senior Scientist and then Team Leader within the Inorganic Chemistry department. She currently leads a team of scientists in a fast-paced operational environment. She works closely with the Public Health and Process Science teams to effectively support incidents and treatment effectiveness assessments as well as identifying process optimisation opportunities.

An interesting fact about Anna’s career is that during her MSc placement with the Scottish Police Authority she developed a new method to recover petrol residue from hands, which is currently used nationwide.

Anna’s message to the water industry:

The Water Industry has a great opportunity to help deliver national targets to achieve net zero emissions and combat global heating. Scottish Water’s target is to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, five years ahead of the Scottish Government’s target of 2045.  This can be achieved by transforming our emissions, embracing and delivering the circular economy and enhancing the natural environment to support carbon sequestration. However, how do we achieve this at the same time as our customer expectations are increasing and we face challenges adapting to the impact of our changing climate and maintaining our ageing assets?

These wider challenges are also mirrored in our laboratories as we work to analyse increasing numbers of samples which increases our carbon footprint. Resolutions to this challenge however, will not be achieved by further compartmentalising our laboratories and regarding them often as a results-generating ‘black box’. Moving forward we must change our approach and work as a team, engaging all parts of the business to solve our major challenges as a collective.

My message to the water industry is that in order to help resolve our climate emergency we must work together. Now more than ever we must collaborate to forge a better future.

Jack Huggins

Civil Engineer, Arup (Welsh Water’s Capital Delivery Alliance)

Jack began his career in the Water Industry in 2013 where he undertook a year-long placement in Arup Cardiff’s Water Team. He returned for a further 10-week placement the following year before returning to Cardiff University. In 2016, Jack graduated with a First-Class Honours in Civil Engineering and began working full time for Arup’s Water Team. In the three years since, he has excelled technically as a Civil Engineer and simultaneously promoted digital technologies alongside health, safety and wellbeing improvements within his team. He has become renowned for getting things done while bringing the project team on a journey with his engaging attitude. Jack has played a leading role in two award-winning multimillion-pound wastewater schemes through his work with Welsh Water’s Capital Delivery Alliance. The combined design and build cost of the projects was £16.5 million and they have been recognised nationally through winning the Construction Excellence National Award for Value in 2019.

Jack’s message to the water industry:

Clean waterways and safety from flooding are fundamental to maintaining thriving communities alongside our rivers and coastlines. Across the UK, local waterways are a critical natural asset and, as well as being used for recreational and commercial fishing, swimming and sporting events, they are ecologically sensitive and must be safeguarded. As an industry, we need to be developing long-term resilience strategies to ensure this protection, both now and in the future. We must address flooding, improve estuarine water quality and ensure our infrastructure is robust enough to support future growth – especially in those under-developed areas around the UK. Our solutions should be based on holistic optioneering and combine relevant benefits of multiple elements rather than resorting to traditional end-of-pipe solutions. Amenity, whole life cost analysis and carbon savings should all feature prominently in our risk and value process, ensuring we are delivering wastewater solutions in line with our customers’ expectations, local community needs and our environmental agency’s goals.

Peter Knox

Civil Engineer, McAllister Group

Peter has worked in the water industry ever since my first undergraduate placement in 2012. After graduating from Queens University Belfast with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering in 2016, he worked for a large multinational engineering consultancy where he was involved in the planning, design and management of numerous wastewater infrastructure projects.

In 2018 Peter moved to McAllister Group, a contractor who specialises in providing a range of maintenance, survey and repair services for the wastewater industry. He is currently responsible for managing a multi-million pound trenchless sewer rehabilitation project and has helped McAllister Group become the preferred provider of trenchless sewer rehabilitation work on the island of Ireland.

As well as being directly involved in improving the level of service for water customers, Peter is also very proud that he could be part of a team who raised £4,400 for WaterAid’s work in Nicaragua.

Peter’s message to the water industry:

Having gained experience working on all sides as a contractor, consultant and client, I have seen first-hand the benefits good collaboration can bring to the industry. This collaborative working doesn’t only come in the form of a contract through the likes of early contractor involvement. It can also be achieved through knowledge share events, technical presentations, site visits etc. with many such opportunities being made available through the Institute of Water.

Money is important but it shouldn’t act as a barrier. By working together, we can all achieve our goals, ensuring we deliver the best service to the water customers. Collaboration can also feed innovation, the more we talk to people about the challenges we face, the more likely you will hear of potential solutions. During my time on the Rising Star programme I hope to speak with people from all areas of the industry to broaden my knowledge and learn from their experiences.

Natalie Lamb

National Water Industry Account Manager, QCL.

Wading in a river in wellies collecting 10 litre samples was Natalie’s first experience of the water industry. A few years, and several technical roles in the water sector later, Natalie is still always up for finding herself out in the field and deep in the depths of water research. Natalie’s latest and exciting chapter is as the National Water Industry Account Manager at QCL. Her job is to generate awareness of brand new innovative and advanced analytical solutions and steer these technologies from trial to implementation in the water industry. She’s currently working with a technology called SENTRY, a bio-electrode sensor platform that provides real-time microbial performance monitoring in anaerobic and aerobic wastewater treatment systems.


Natalie’s message to the water industry:

Communication is key. We, as an industry, are working really hard to try to communicate more effectively. We need to speak to people in such a way that they appreciate their water and feel responsible for their water usage. It’s so difficult to value something that has always been abundantly available to you but we need to make this happen.

My research is very focused, narrow and specific. Because of this, I’ve been determined to communicate my work to encourage people to think about their own water efficiency. This can include doing public engagement work by being a STEM Ambassador or a Brilliant Club Tutor but it can also involve volunteering to talk at an Operational Team Meeting or a scientific conference.

People want to know about the great work the water industry is doing to make their water – a vital commodity – safe. We can make that happen.

Please click here to learn more about my career and my role.


Lewis Orr

Operations Settlement Analyst & Deputy Contract Manager, Pennon Water Services

Lewis has been working at Pennon Water Services (PWS) – a non-household water retailer within the newly created non-household (NHH) water market – for three years now. He currently has two parts to his job role.  Firstly, he looks after PWS financial settlement to ensure that PWS pay their wholesaler accurately and within the payment terms set out by the market operator, MOSL. Lewis also looks for anomalies within the data that PWS are charged on and he has been able to save the company £10m since he started this role back in March 2018.

Secondly, Lewis is the deputy contract manager for PWS which entails interacting with the NHH market operator MOSL, liaising and supplying key information to our portfolio manager, attending key market wide meetings to enhance the NHH customers’ experience of this new competitive water market and helping with market wide issues that all trading parties are currently facing.

Lewis’s message to the water industry:

The key is for businesses throughout the water industry to invest in their young people with different types of incentives to create a lucrative and lifelong career which will mean that this industry will thrive for years to come. Throughout this year I will be using the Rising Stars programme to challenge businesses and CEOs on this topic to ensure the water industry has the next generation of stars coming through.

Mary Porter-Chorley

Retail Account Support for Wholesale Market Unit, Severn Trent Water

Mary joined the water industry as an Operational Call Centre Agent in January 2016 and now works as a Retail Account Support for Wholesale Market Unit. The role focuses on the open Non-Household market working on leakage allowances, general enquiries, metering as well as operational complaints and queries.

Mary was spearheaded by Severn Trent’s CEO Liv Garfield on a research project in 2018 which was solely focused on the cultural aspects on water usage and the perception in water consumption/innovative ideas in Singapore. The project has provided insights which she has shared to the business as part of the company’s present and future vision.

Mary is also the Committee Secretary for the Midlands Committee which she loves to combine with her Rising Stars role as well as her role in Severn Trent. Mary has had many opportunities to represent the company which has given a room to grow her learning.

Mary’s message to the water industry:

I think the opportunity to develop and network in an industry that is continually growing and changing is great. It’s definitely a key aspect to have whilst trying to find ways on how to develop an early career. I feel since I’ve joined Institute of Water, it has helped boost my confidence in order to collaborate with so many in the business. The organisation has helped grow my development to a high standard.

Whilst I do not from a water industry background, through previous work experience, I have transferred the skills I’ve learnt to my everyday activity. I feel both Severn Trent and Institute of Water have given me the best opportunities. It’s important for all organisations to recognise those who wish to develop, tailor development programmes in order for those to develop their career path successfully. I also think water companies need to continue with learning from each other’s experience and work together towards the goal in looking after the one product that people tend to take for granted – our water supply.

I look forward to this great journey as a Rising Star, share my newfound experience and knowledge back to my teams and the company as a whole.

Kim Rodwell

Environmental Protection Advisor, Thames Water

Kim’s career in the water industry began by performing rapid response environmental impact assessments following wastewater pollution incidents for Thames Water. She later joined the Trade Effluent team and within six months had led an investigation into illegal discharges to a surface water sewer discharging to a river. Kim’s investigation culminated with the offending trader being prosecuted in a Magistrates Court and receiving the largest fine for a trade effluent prosecution at the time.

Kim has now progressed into our Environmental Protection Team and her role involves managing and delivering projects on our Surface Water Outfall Programme, which addresses widespread pollution from third party drainage misconnections. Kim lead the Outfall Safari project which is a fantastic opportunity to engage with local volunteers and catchment groups to deliver improvements to watercourses across our region. She also still performs an event response role, assisting with our response to pollution incidents by managing the environmental aspect of these events.

Kim’s message to the water industry:

As my first insight into the industry was responding to environmental pollution incidents, this has heavily shaped my career to date. I have witnessed first-hand the detrimental impact these incidents have on our watercourses, wider environment and our industry’s reputation.

As environmental issues and agendas become increasingly mainstream, our regulators and customer’s expectations change. A zero-incident target is ambitious and it is clear that as an industry we need a real step change in order to drive our pollution figures in the downwards direction.

Currently, environmental performance varies significantly between water companies. To achieve the step change so desperately needed, I believe knowledge sharing and collaboration will be fundamental.

One thing I hope to gain from the Rising Stars experience is an understanding of how we can work together to drive this reduction in pollutions. I’m looking forward to hearing from across the sector about how new technologies and new processes may help achieve our zero pollutions target.

Please click here to learn more about my career and my role.