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.

Meet our Rising Stars of 2022


Abbie Mowat

Specialist Graduate, Scottish Water

Abbie is currently undertaking a two-year specialist development role involving four varied six-month placements in different areas of the company, relevant to Scientific Service. She has also developed technical laboratory training skills in lab-based role before gaining knowledge and experience in an auditor position within the Business Excellence Department as well as delivered a webinar to university students on the use of flow cytometry as a method of bacterial identification and volunteered at the Virtual 2021 Careers HIVE event as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival and currently has a BSc Biological Sciences (Microbiology) with Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. In 2019 Abbie worked at Scottish Water and her roles included an Internship specialising in Water Science before progressing to work as a flow cytometry analyst and in 2020 offering expertise and support in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, helping the labs cope with the increased demand for microbiology testing.

Abbie has had a passion for science from a young age and enjoyed attending competitions as part of her high school’s ‘Geoscience’ club. Abbie now looks for opportunities to help new starts with their water industry journey and encourages young enthusiasts to pursue a career in science. Abbie was also a Choreographer at Alness Academy where she led a team of 100+ students aged 12-17 on a regular basis, encouraging them to take up dance and performance while advocating against the use of drugs and alcohol amongst teenagers. For this work she received the Scottish Saltire Award for commitment and dedication to volunteering with young people.

Abbie’s message to the water industry:

I am very excited to learn more about the area in which I work and to network with as many water industry professionals as I can. After a difficult year and with the on-going complications brought on by the pandemic, I think we should all take time to reflect on the positives that we have achieved this year and what we can improve about ourselves and our profession going forward into 2022.

Alisha Syal

Technology Consultant, Isle Utilities

Alisha began her career with Isle in 2019 as a Graduate Technology Consultant and her roles involved, managing large part of projects across water, wastewater and industrial sectors, playing a key role on multiple projects for joint client groups which span Water and also Industrial sectors. Examples include projects on Direct Water Reuse for Non-Potable Application, Carbon Dioxide Free Treatment of Potable Water, Engaging Customers through Water Efficiency, Automated Solutions for Monitoring of Microplastics and Selective Removal and Recovery of Salts from Industrial Wastewater, Scouting innovative and lower TRL (Technology Readiness Level) solutions to solve client issues spanning topics from Resource Recovery and Hazardous Substances Removal to Efficient Ways to Generate and Store Hydrogen Onsite, heavily involved in carrying out projects in water stressed regions, mainly South Africa, carrying out literature review and managing and organising European Innovation Forums through engaging with UK and European utilities.

Alisha is interested in anything to do with food (including growing her own veg and herbs), cooking, baking and travelling. Her go-to stress relief is swimming and she has recently started beginner’s piano as well.

Alisha’s message to the water industry:

Isle’s small but global footprint has enabled me to work across different cultures and be part of a truly diverse team and also give me insights into specific water issues that different parts of the world face. I am specifically heavily involved in Isle’s South African business, a region classified as one of the most water stressed in the world. In such extreme situations, I have learnt that innovation and collaboration becomes even more crucial to help problem solve effectively. My message to the industry is to try and adopt more of a collaborative approach between water utilities to share common insights to come up with innovative solutions to barriers and challenges in the water sector.

Beth Fairley

Senior Catchment Management Officer, Portsmouth Water

Beth began her career in the water industry back in 2016 as part of an industrial placement within the Catchment Management Team at Portsmouth Water. From her efforts she was offered a part-time position in the team as she finished her final year of University. Upon graduating with a BSc First-Class Honours in Environmental Science she was offered a full-time position as a Catchment Management Officer at the company.

Beth is now a Senior Catchment Management Officer and leads on the delivery of Portsmouth Water’s Catchment Programme. Beth can find herself in the countryside advising farmers on the protection of water quality and leading on pollution prevention campaigns.

Beth also chairs Portsmouth Water’s Future Innovators Board; a board created to drive continuous improvement and innovation in the company. She is now leading an inclusion initiative at Portsmouth Water as this is something she is extremely passionate about.

Beth’s message to the water industry :

Effective collaboration is the key theme running across the industry. It is crucial the industry works together as well as outside the industry to overcome the challenges we face. The challenges we face are not just industry-wide and we need to open up more opportunities to work across industries to support one another through the social-economic challenges as well as the significant environmental challenges which will impact us all in some way.

I look forward to my time on the programme to work together and learn from others in the industry and explore opportunities for effective collaboration to deliver the best for our customers and the environment.

Emma Webster

Process Engineer, Veolia UK

Emma has been a part of the water industry since her undergraduate placement year with Veolia as a Process Technologist. After graduating in 2019 from Queen’s University with a BSc First-Class Honours in Biochemistry, Emma re-joined Veolia as a Process and Performance Coordinator, progressing to Process Engineer for Omega Project in May 2021.

Emma is responsible for the continued compliance and process optimisation of five wastewater treatment works operated by Veolia on behalf of Northern Ireland Water. Emma works closely with the operations teams and finds no day is the same. Emma can find herself supporting operations hands on to investigate and resolve problems while also delivering high quality projects to improve plant efficiency, reduce cost and drive innovation.

Emma sits on the NI Area Committee undertaking the role of Young Persons Network Representative. She has really enjoyed working along the committee to run engaging events for members and learn about different sectors of the industry. Outside of work, Emma is heavily involved in the Northern Ireland Scout Association and is completing a part-time Masters in Environmental Engineering through the sponsorship of Veolia.

Emma’s message to the water industry:

Digitalisation and innovation will drive the industry forward in these challenging times. My work has been in the wastewater infrastructure and treatment sector and I have experienced some of the major challenges facing this sector such as reaching net zero targets, investing in aging infrastructure, improving over-capacity networks and maintaining compliance.

Investing in digitalisation and innovative technologies will be important for tackling these challenges by providing better insights of plant conditions in real-time and remotely, making more datasets available for analysis and interpretation and ultimately leading to earlier predictions and faster response. The use of digital tools will enable better monitoring, control and management of plant instruments, processes and overall operations.

I have seen first hand how providing real-time control and better monitoring to a plant can increase the knowledge of the operations team and their ability to assess plant performance. My question is, how do we overcome the barriers to digitalisation such as lack of investment into the sector and collaborate with key stakeholders to accelerate its integration? I look forward to discussing this during my time with the Rising Stars Programme and taking away new ideas and ways of working from other water companies across the UK.

Grace Wilson

Optimisation Support Engineer (Water Services), Anglian Water

Grace began her career in the water industry in 2017 where she was a Water Connections Customer Advisor within Development Services at Anglian Water. Over four years later Grace is still working at Anglian and has since moved on to technical and analytical roles within the business. From 2019 she worked within the businesses busy control room, where she analysed and manipulated various data sources to support Interruption to Supply events; in 2020 she contributed heavily to the lowest ODI score the business has achieved for I2S events.

In June 2021 Grace secured a Support Engineer role within Water Optimisation. She uses statistical and modelling tools to identify and prioritise solutions, whilst carrying out in depth investigations of the current water network by interrogating and obtaining information from corporate data systems for use in developing solutions.
Grace is passionate about women in the water industry and having seen the launch of the Women’s Network, would relish being involved. Whilst perusing engineering, Grace hopes to be working towards a professional qualification within the Institute.

Grace’s message to the water industry:

I believe the industry is a very siloed environment. With the industry constantly changing and growing, what better way is there than to collaborate and work together. By doing this, we can ensure that our goals are achieved, and we are delivering the best service to our customers. By continually collaborating we can openly discuss the challenges we face with one another, which could then enable solutions to be made. During my time on the Rising Stars programme I am excited to work together with others in the industry, to gain knowledge and experiences that I can share back to my team and company.

Justine Leadbetter

Environmental Consultant & Project Manager, WRc

Justine is a PRINCE2 qualified Project Manager who joined WRc as a Graduate Scientist in 2019. Her technical knowledge in data, GIS and process design combined with experience in stakeholder engagement allows her to successfully manage technical projects Justine has experience delivering projects for UK and international clients, with diverse drivers such as innovation, technical evaluation and process design. In addition to project management, Justine is the lead GIS analyst at WRc. She is skilled in a number of digitising and geoprocessing techniques including spatial analysis, raster analysis and cartographic representation and has utilised these skills for a number of projects with topics ranging from water resources to corrosion initiation modelling. Key current projects include an OFWAT innovation challenge project looking at sewer CCTV AI and a project on the impact of climate change on water quality in water resource planning.

Justine is a key squash player having played on and off since she was 9 years old. She also loves to travel and learn about other cultures and spent a year travelling after university. Justine grew up in Bournemouth so loves spending any free time around water.

Justine’s message to the water industry:

Collaboration is key to the future of the industry. The more problems and uncertainties the water industry faces, whether it’s leakage, ageing infrastructure, the impact of climate change, or the growing population, it’s clear that the best way forwards is through collaboration. As an industry it’s something that is frequently mentioned and strived towards but in practice is often hindered by issues such as data sharing and contractual T&Cs. Although opportunities such as the Ofwat Innovation Challenge are promoting collaboration, we all need to keep working to remove these barriers to allow the industry to continue evolving and improving at the rate it needs to.


Mary-Anne Kilroe

Regulatory Improvement Analyst, United Utilities

Seconded to the Environmental Performance Team on a one-year project, Mary-Anne secured her role in Apr 2021. Her main responsibility is collaborating with internal stakeholders to develop and embed various transformation and delivery plans across a number of environmental requirements. She currently manages a programme of improvement projects which mostly aim to enable more effective investigations and proactive interventions by operational teams, contributing to the wider company Pollution Incident Reduction Plan and Discharge Compliance Improvement Plan.

Mary-Anne is involved in Girlguiding where she has been a Brownie Leader for five years. Since March 2020 she has acted as a County Leadership Qualification Mentor, supporting leaders in training across the Greater Manchester West County through their Leadership Qualification. She is also a member of IWater Northern Area Committee, contributing to the delivery of their events programme.

Mary Anne’s message to the water industry:

As an industry we are in a fortunate position where, for the most part, we are not competing with each other. This opens doors for so many opportunities to share knowledge. We are constantly adapting to whatever is thrown our way, be that tighter performance targets from our regulators, the effects of climate change, or a global pandemic… what we learn from networking and collaborating with each other is vital to empower innovative solutions. My question is, what can we do to better facilitate knowledge sharing and more effective collaboration in order to meet our aspirations as an industry?

Over the next year, I am hoping to gain a greater insight into collaboration at an industry level and how we can work together to provide the best possible service to our customers and reduce our impact on the environment.

Oliver Perkins

Engineer (Water), Arup

Currently seconded to Welsh Water’s Water Quality Modelling Team for a year to support water quality assessments and preparation for PR24. Key highlights are developing SAGIS-SIMCAT models for phosphorous in four Welsh rivers, becoming Welsh Water’s SAGIS modelling expert and developing evidence-based policy for the regulator on how to assess water quality impact of water industry assets. In addition, he is working on network modelling studies of sewer catchments, including root cause analysis of underperforming assets and building and verifying complex sewer model, developing a methodology for water quality studies as part of SOAF (Storm Overflow Assessment Framework) and developing novel methods for water quality studies in a range of situations for various contaminants.

Oliver is a water quality and network modeller with a strong digital focus. He is keen to inspire the next generation, working with the Smallpeice trust and FRANK Water to design and deliver workshops. Outside of work he plays the cello, sings in acapella choirs, leads an outdoor conservation volunteering group and goes on long hikes.

Oliver’s message to the water industry:

The water industry has a great opportunity to break down siloes between different parts of the industry e.g. between companies, between clean and waste, between long-term planning and day-to-day ops. We are all working towards the same goal – clean water, excellent customer service and clean rivers and seas – and have a lot we can learn from each other.

2020/21 Rising Stars

Because activities were suspended through much of 2020 and 2021 the previous cohort of Rising Stars will continue until the Annual Conference in July. They are:

Anna Figueras Carril - Laboratories Team Leader, Scottish Water

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

Kim Rodwell - Environmental Protection Advisor, Thames Water

Lewis Orr - Operations Settlement Analyst & Deputy Contract Manager, Pennon Water Services

Mary Porter-Chorley - Retail Market Insight Analyst- South Staffs Water

Natalie Lamb - National Water Industry Account Manager, QCL.

Peter Knox - Senior Civil Engineer – Water Ports and Power (Ireland), AECOM

Rachel Powell - Tactical Asset Manager – Wastewater Treatment, Severn Trent Water