This month we meet Rachael Shaw, qualified Design Engineer and Technical Director for Wastewater at Beca.
How do you describe your role to family and friends?
I help councils and industries figure out how to clean up their wastewater so it’s safe to discharge back into the environment.
What is your proudest moment in your role so far?
I don’t think there is one single proudest moment. I always feel incredibly proud whenever one of our new or upgraded plants becomes operational. It is usually the culmination of several years of hard work by our clients, their stakeholders, our design engineers and other specialists and the contractor resulting in a tangible difference in the quality of the water and the environment.
What is the most exciting aspect of working on #TheBigWastewaterStory?
What’s really exciting to me is that the Big Water Story gives a unique opportunity to develop a long term wastewater strategy at a district wide level, rather than on a piecemeal community by community level. This provides the opportunity to provide more holistic and integrated solutions, and to really plan for the future. It also allows the community as a whole to see and understand the vision for the future.
What is the most challenging aspect of working on #TheBigWastewaterStory?
Historically treating wastewater in ponds has been really quite cheap. But pond systems are no longer appropriate for meeting the tightening environmental discharge standards that we are seeing now and in the future. In general the cost of treating wastewater to higher standards requires a step change in capital investment and in operational cost. This means that many communities around New Zealand are facing big increases in their rates for water and wastewater infrastructure. As wastewater design engineers, trying to balance the capital investment and ongoing operational costs to meet the increasing environmental discharge standards, whilst allowing for population growth and economic development and still remain affordable for the community is one of our biggest challenges.
What is something people might not know about Wastewater?
Most people don’t realise that the powerhouse of modern treatment plants use biological systems to treat wastewater. In essence, we create an environment where micro-organisms or “bugs” use the waste in the water as a food source. Our job is to create an environment where they thrive and grow, and in doing so, they clean up the water.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Wastewater?
Everyone can help protect the environment by making sure they only put down the drains what can be treated at the treatment plant. By that I mean the 3 P’s. Flushing baby wipes, oil, coffee grounds, chemicals and other objects down the drain only increases the risk of blocking pipes and pumps and causing environmental spills.
What is one element of the #TheBigWastewaterStory that you are most looking forward to working on or completing?
Through this process we are seeing a lot more enquiry about using the wastewater for farm irrigation. This is really exciting as it shows that the tide is turning and people are starting to see that wastewater is a valuable resource. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of those conversations converted into reality.
What’s your go-to productivity trick?
Much of my day is spent supporting others, through giving direction and advice. However, when I really need to be focused and productive, I find working from home is really hard to beat.
If you could be automate one part of your job, what would it be?
The administrative aspects. Time sheets and filing/storing emails. Whilst necessary it’s tedious and mundane.
What is one thing you couldn’t live without at work?
My team. I couldn’t achieve anything without them.
What’s your favourite thing to do outside of work?
Spend time outdoors with my family. Usually this is walking, biking or at the beach with my husband and kids.
Best minute of your life so far?
So hard to choose just one; however last year we went snorkelling with the kids in Tenerife and got to see sea turtles in their natural environment. It was really special seeing them gracefully glide by, oblivious to us floating above.
What is your favourite place or thing to do in Central Hawke’s Bay?
30 August 2021
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