Institute of Water - Rising Stars
Contact Us LinkedIn

Not a member? Join here
Tel: 0191 422 0088

Rising Stars

Back to Career Development

Are you new to the water industry and feel you have potential and appetite to progress ?

The Institute of Water’s Rising Stars programme brings together a collection of unique opportunities, designed to develop the skills and professional excellence of new industry talent.

Applications for Rising Stars 2018 are now closed. 


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.

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

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

Speaking about the programme, Lynn Cooper, Chief Executive of the Institute of Water said: “Year-on-year, the Rising Stars programme has offered ambitious members the opportunity to get involved in initiatives to help them with their personal and professional development and to progress their water industry career.”

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

For more information about the Rising Stars 2018 programme, go here.


2017 Rising Star, Kirstin Watt, Asset Planner at Scottish Water, said:

“My participation in the Rising Star programme over the past year has undoubtedly been one of my career highlights thus far and offered a plethora of opportunities for professional and personal development that I will now be able to reinvest throughout my career.”

See what other 2017 Rising Stars have said about the programme here.


How to apply *Applications now closed*

Applicants must be:

  • An individual Member of the Institute of Water.
  • At an early stage in your water sector career.

Applicants will need to complete a short application form and return this along with their CV and 1000 max words describing why they consider themselves a Rising Star to

Download the application form here.

Our 2017 Rising Stars

Jonny May

Mechanical Design Engineer, MWH Treatment

After graduating with an MEng in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Warwick, Jonny worked on a variety of appropriate technology projects in Uganda for EFOD, the Development Technology Workshop and Rwenzori Hydro. These included feasibility studies, design, construction and implementation of self-managed micro hydro systems in rural communities, research into power pole protection methods, roof-water harvesting, EcoSan design, and the development of level measurement systems for underground rainwater harvesting tanks.

Following his time in Uganda, Jonny joined MWH Treatment as a graduate in 2015. At MWH, Jonny has worked on a number of wastewater treatment non-infrastructure projects, and is largely focussed on delivering SR15 upgrades for Scottish Water as part of the ESD joint venture. Jonny is currently working towards becoming a chartered engineer.

In his work, Jonny continuously seeks to implement new technologies and innovative ways of construction project delivery and build better, safer and more efficient solutions. This recently took him to Colorado where he presented ideas on the implementation of ‘The Left Shift’ to MWH at their annual global conference.

Jonny’s message to the industry:

No other sector has such a far reaching influence on human health, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and national security as water. With climate change, retail competition, population growth posing unprecedented threats to the status-quo; it is critical that we work together to increase efficiency and adapt to the evolving challenges of the water industry.

Innovations surrounding BIM and big data promise to provide a platform to meet these challenges. Yet it is only through a holistic approach to asset management, with inter-company knowledge sharing and collaboration across the asset lifecycle, that we can fully realise the benefits of the technology available to secure a sustainable future, whilst maintaining profitability and customer satisfaction.

Kirstin Watt

Specialist Graduate, Scottish Water

Graduating top of her year with a First Class Honours Degree in Geography from the University of Glasgow, Kirstin was successful in securing a place on the Specialist Graduate scheme offered by Scottish Water. Commencing in 2014, this consisted of four rotational placements, each with a duration of six months, allowing her to spend two years gaining a holistic introduction to the Water Industry. Having recently completed this programme, Kirstin has adopted her first substantive position as an Intervention Manager within the Strategic Customer Service Planning Directorate of Scottish Water. This will see her play a key role in the Intervention Definition Process for wastewater assets in order to identify needs, scope options informed by local studies, select preferred options and confirm affordability and priorities. This will ensure that within the Capital Maintenance programme for SR15 and SR21 planning, investment decisions are evidenced and risks are managed proactively.

Kirstin is a member of the Institute of Water Scottish Area Committee where she is currently serving as Publicity Co-ordinator. She is also Lead for the Innovation Awards, Scottish Area Newsletter and is a member of the Events sub-committee.

Kirstin’s message to the industry:

Considering the rising political, economic and environmental uncertainty of late, I believe that the Water Industry must be prepared to respond to the challenges that will undoubtedly arise in the near future. In conjunction with continually evolving customer expectations and advances in technology within an increasingly globalised world, there has never been a greater requirement for collaboration within the Industry in order to safeguard the service that we all provide. I view knowledge sharing as one vehicle for success in building our resilience and, in doing so, securing our position as a trusted Industry. Continual improvement is no longer an option; we must invest in innovative, informed and aspirational decisions today for the benefit of posterity.

I am very much looking forward to the professional and personal development opportunities that the Rising Star programme will provide over the course of the next year. I have come to realise that the Institute of Water rewards its active members who engage with all that is offered and I’m grateful for this platform that will help me to reach my full potential within the Industry.

Naimh McElroy

Graduate Civil Engineer, Water and Waste Water, AECOM

Since enrolling in a career in Civil Engineering Naimh has been particularly interested in the water industry, focusing on a number of water based modules whilst at university. Naimh graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 2015 with a First Class MEng (Hons) in Civil Engineering and began working for AECOM in their Water and Waste Water section. Throughout her time in the industry she has gained considerable experience while working on a variety of projects in both potable and waste water. This includes a major scheme to refurbish valve towers at a number of impounding reservoir, Base Maintenance of Waste Water Pumping Stations and Sewer Rehabilitation projects. Through her role on these projects Naimh has enhanced her knowledge of the water industry and the importance of water to our society.

Naimh’s message to the industry:

In Northern Ireland the cost of potable water is not widely known as we have no direct water charges. By increasing the public’s knowledge of this cost I believe it would greatly improve how we use water and would reduce the amount of water waste produced. It would also give a better appreciation for maintenance works of both the sewerage and the water main network.

Nigel O’Donoghue

Water Treatment Process Engineer, WRc

Nigel began his career in the UK Water Industry by carrying out a thesis with Northern Ireland Water on telemetry control as part of his MSc. in Water Engineering (Queens University Belfast). The work consisted of alarm management and rationalisation with several recommendations from the data analysis involved leading to proposals that were trialled and later implemented nationwide. The success of the project earned Nigel a position to continue this work.

The quality of the work carried out during his time at Northern Ireland Water was also recognised by professional bodies such as CIWEM, helping Nigel to win the CIWEM NI Young Members Papers Competition 2014 and get shortlisted for the CIWEM Young Environmentalist of the Year Award 2014.

In 2015 Nigel started his current position as a water treatment process engineer in WRc. While with WRc he has been involved in investigating and assessing new emerging technologies for use in the UK Water Industry like evaluating novel adsorbents for tackling problematic micropollutants. Nigel’s work has ranged from relatively straightforward filtration media testing to more challenging tasks like treating industrial wastewater from the production of catalytic converters in cars. He has also provided consultation to water utilities and governmental bodies worldwide on potable water supply industry best practice.

Nigel’s message to the industry:

I believe it is our moral and social responsibility to utilise our expertise and assets to help provide solutions to the global water crisis where appropriate via applied research. For example, tackling, niche water supply problems in regions that don’t have the water infrastructure, social and economic foundations that we sometimes take for granted. In a highly commercial environment this is easier said than done but with world leading asset management, research and collaboration, including well established collaboration with renowned universities, such an aspiration should be part of an industry which fundamental is built on provision of public health.

Rose Jolly

Regional Account Manager, Developer Services, Severn Trent

Rose graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Masters in Physics & Astrophysics. She entered the water industry through Severn Trent’s Business Leadership Graduate Programme in September 2013. As part of the graduate programme she rotated between different departments to gain a broad understanding of the business and gain key skills to progress in her career. She worked as a Sewage Treatment Team Manager, responsible for all sewage treatment in Gloucester and the Forest of Dean. She then moved on to work as a Customer Journey Specialist, where she developed and rolled out a company-wide app to allow employees to report customer issues. She now works in Developer Services as a Regional Account Manager, managing a cross-functional team responsible for ensuring the end to end delivery of new water connections to customers. Rose has been the Committee Secretary for the Midlands branch of the Institute of Water since 2014 and is regularly involved in organising educational events for its members.

Rose’s message to the industry:

This is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of the water industry. Whilst all companies are driving to improve performance our key focus must always be our customers. The government has announced over one million new homes need to be built by 2020 to manage the housing crisis. The water industry has a key part to play in this by providing wholesome water to these customers within the tight timescales in which they are required. We must carefully plan for the additional demand on the water network, whilst also considering the increasing impact of climate change on our resources.

Sarah Murray

Scientific Officer, Affinity Water

I joined Affinity Water is 2014 after graduating from Lancaster University with a BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences degree. I spent two years on the graduate scheme undertaking six month rotating placements across the business including the Operations Centre to the Water Saving Programme. This involved working on many interesting and varied projects from supply issues caused by population increase to finding solutions to problems occurring during AMR meter reading.

In June 2016 I got the role as Scientific Officer (Compliance and Regulation) in the Water Quality team working on the Drinking Water Safety Plans.

I am a member of Affinity Water’s WaterAid committee and have organised many events including the Ricky Road Run which raised nearly £30,000 for charity.

I am reasonably new to the industry and the Institute of Water, having joined the Institute just over a year ago and I am currently working towards Chartered Scientist status.

Sarah’s message for the industry:

With non-household Competition starting in April this has the potential to reduce inter company collaboration just as we have started to really learn from each other and share ideas. Strong inter company relationships are key for progressing new ideas, developments and solving problems. The challenges individual water companies face are unlikely to be unique, there will be someone undergoing a similar problem somewhere else in the country. Therefore with effective communication and collaboration we could save time, money and effort. It is often seen as senior staffs’ responsibility to make these connections but everyone can learn from making connections with others doing a similar role to themselves around the industry, sharing ideas about how they operate and issues they are having.

Sophie Straiton

Innovation Scientist, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water

Sophie joined Welsh Water in 2011 after completing a BSc (Hons) in Biology from The University of Sheffield followed by an MSc in Environmental Management, Wildlife and Landscape Conservation from Sheffield Hallam University.

On the Welsh Water graduate scheme, Sophie worked in many different areas of the business including Asset Strategy and Planning, Capital Delivery, Local Asset Management and water and waste water Innovation. Since completing the graduate scheme, Sophie has been working on Innovation projects across the business. Sophie’s current role is an Innovation Scientist within the Water Assets team, with responsibility for introducing and project managing the trials of new technologies within the business and managing the innovation programme, focused on clean water networks. Sophie has also had a key role in the planning and implementation of a new innovation process within Welsh Water.

Sophie is an active member of the Institute as Welsh Area events chair and is working towards becoming a chartered environmentalist.

Sophie’s message to the industry:

Through my role in innovation I have experienced first-hand the benefits that can be gained through collaborative working. This includes sharing best practice, learning and coming together to bring new products into the industry, to ensure that we continue to deliver exceptional service to our customers.

As the industry confronts challenges such as climate change, population growth and increasing customer expectations, it is essential that we continue to strengthen collaborative, sustainable and innovative working within and between companies to ensure we get the best value for money for our customers and the environment now and into the future.