A day in the life of a Senior Catchment Advisor

Nina Yiannoukos graduated from UWE, Bristol in 2015 with an MSc in Environmental Consultancy. During her course, she undertook a placement at Thames Water which was supported by the International Water Security Network. The placement allowed her to collect data for her final year project, which looked at the correlations between tillage practice, field margin and crop rotations with metaldehyde runoff within the Ampney Brook Catchment. She had previously completed a BSc in Geography and Environmental Management at UWE.

After graduating, Nina was employed as a Senior Catchment Advisor at South Staffordshire Water. Here, she talks about her role.

The First Month
I started with South Staffordshire Water (SSW) in January 2016 after being offered my dream job just a few minutes after I left my graduation ceremony! I began by developing a thorough understanding of the company’s main source pressures and as a result of this I have been able to focus our efforts in two of our catchments. The water treatment works (WTW) that abstract from these catchments have undertakings for nitrates as well as certain pesticides and it is our intention to work with catchment land managers to reduce levels of these substances at source.

At present
My job now involves planning our catchment management strategy for this Asset Management Period (AMP6) and this involves creating detailed action plans which meet Environment Agency National Environment Plan and Drinking Water Inspectorate, as well as SSW, deadlines and targets. Included in the action plans for each catchment is a detailed strategy and breakdown of costings for proposed projects. Unlike early pioneers of the catchment approach (for example, Southwest Water’s Upstream Thinking) SSW have less experience of catchment-based approaches and this means that I must go out into the catchment areas and get the word out to farmers and other stakeholders we want to engage with – the land managers and stakeholders that impact on water quality at our WTW. I learned a lot about these approaches in the course of my degree at UWE, including my MSc Project and my placement experience with another water company.

A big challenge for me is to make sure I effectively engage with farmers and other stakeholders (e.g. NFU, EA, NE, VI, Agronomists and Severn Trent Water) to ensure that once the plans are in place the desired outcomes can be achieved. Unlike other water companies, such as Thames Water and Severn Trent Water, we do not have a big team of catchment advisors – in fact, I am the only one for the SSW region and I have a colleague in our Cambridge region who will carry out the proposed plans there. This means that I have to ensure I manage my time well and make sure I have a good balance of office and field working (in both the South Staffordshire and Cambridge regions). Further duties include attending stakeholder and catchment events and wider water company events such as UKWIR and Defra conferences held in London. I am also involved in developing water quality safety plans and audits and related tasks.

A new and unusual task that I have been given in addition to my normal job role is to deal with any environmental threats reported to the company from the public or the SSW team within the urban and rural catchments. I do this by liaising with local landowners, our legal and estates department, and the EA in order to remove the potential threat to public water supply. This role is very new to me and the company but is one part that I find particularly rewarding.

The job is highly variable from day-to-day and I am sure as I develop further within my role and within our catchment management strategy, then my role will continue to evolve. I feel very lucky to have been given this job and to go straight into a relatively senior position straight from graduation. I am really enjoying the challenges it brings!