31 March 2021

Engineer Honoured with Young Water Professional of the Year

Dr Meena Yadav

Dr Meena Yadav

Bolivar Site Engineer & Water Quality Coordinator, Allwater
Cofounder, Shramyog
PhD in Water Engineering

Dr Meena Yadav believes access to safe water and sanitation are the basic right of all citizens. In fact, she has dedicated her career to the cause and as Allwater’s Bolivar Site Engineer & Water Quality Coordinator and water industry professional, she is committed to raising awareness and providing safe water to all.

Last year she was named 2020 Australian Water Associations SA Young Water Professional of the Year, cementing her place as an industry heavyweight and one to watch while tackling the biggest issues facing the water industry today, including water scarcity and long-term climate resilience, the management and ageing of assets, and adapting this current customer-oriented era.

A year after joining the Water Quality and Environment Group (WQEG) at Allwater in 2018, Meena was promoted to Site Engineer at the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant and assisted in the commissioning of the SA Water’s new $150M Advanced Water Recycling Plant, which will provide high quality recycled water to agricultural customers to the north of Adelaide.

Outside the work sector, Meena balances her time participating in WaterAid fundraising events and leading the not-for-profit she cofounded, Shramyog (Shram meaning hard work in Hindi and yog meaning organised union) in India, her home country.

Meena Yadav has always had a special relationship with nature, often spending her free time outside and moving, on park walks and hiking in nature.
Meena Yadav has always had a special relationship with nature, often spending her free time outside and moving, on park walks and hiking in nature.

Over the past decade, Shramyog has been promoting community-based water resource management in India. Meena is deeply involved in the strategic planning and development of the organisation and has been key in their recent ‘Save Natural Heritage’ campaign.

“My passion and focus lie in developing the knowledge, tools and influence to promote a socially inclusive and vibrant sustainable water future for everyone,” Meena says.

“So far, we have rejuvenated five spring catchments through engineering and vegetative works, securing water for the community during dry months.”

Meena’s appetite for science and the environment harks back to when she was a young child. School was a great way to indulge her interest in science by doing something practical. However, due to her dad’s military profession, the family moved every three or so years as they were posted in several places in across India.

Growing up in a country with diverse landscapes and exploring new areas of natural beauty every couple years, helped form Meena’s understanding of the land, its water and the environment, not only from a professional standpoint, but also from a deeply personal one.

Meena enjoying the sights at the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Meena volunteering for “Our Cost Our Mission”, beach clean-up at Glenelg.

“I actually enjoyed changing schools and welcomed it as a new experience and a way to discover India’s multicultural society. Among the many places that we lived, I had fond memories as a child playing in the Himalayan valley or on the western coast of India enjoying the Indian coastline,” Meena says.

“The practicality of science is what really attracted me to it and soon after my undergraduate degree, I started working as an Environmentalist at Peoples’ Science Institute (PSI) in India.”

“Without sounding cheesy, I liked the idea of a career that had a positive impact on the environment. “

At PSI she was involved in various sectors – from sustainable mountain livelihood, community participation, stakeholder analysis, river and spring conservation – conducting pioneering research on assessing environmental flow regimes to satisfy the cultural needs of riparian communities, enabling the inclusion of indigenous communities in the management of global river systems.

After five years of interdisciplinary experience in the environmental and water industry in India, Meena desired to be an expert in the topic and to achieve something significant by challenging herself in the research process. This is when an opportunity to pursue a PhD in water engineering at UniSA became a reality.

Meena at her 2018 UniSA Graduation receiving her doctorate in Pridham Hall
Meena at her 2021 UniSA Graduation receiving her doctorate in Pridham Hall.

Meena says Australia’s reputation in research – and UniSA’s standing as world recognised research leader – plus a generous Australian Postgraduate Award, made her decision easy to move to Australia much easier. The fact that South Australia boasts a multi-cultural community and diverse landscapes, much like India, was also an attraction.

“Time at UniSA was memorable and was a life-changing experience, not just in terms of academic development, but it really helped me grow personally, developed leadership skills and become involved in multicultural events, seminars, division games,” Meena says.

“I threw myself into everything, following every endeavour, chasing every possibility and not regretting later. I took advantage of collaboration and networking opportunity within or outside the university. Which I believe is important if you want to pursue your career in industry or research.”

This experience and roots she laid in South Australia have proved vital in Meena’s meteoric career rise.

Her recent achievements culminated in 2020 Australian Water Associations SA Young Water Professional of the Year. The award has made her reflect on her passion for the environment, particularly water, and how it was representative of collaboration throughout her career.

Meena Yadav’s recent achievement as Young Water Professional of the Year
Meena Yadav’s recent achievement as Young Water Professional of the Year.

It was an honour she felt extremely humbled and proud to receive, and saw it also as recognition of those who have contributed – professors, mentors, colleagues – so much support and encouragement to her experience as a researcher at UniSA, site engineer with Allwater, and Environmentalist with PSI in India.

Meena intimately understands how much this support and encouragement has impacted her throughout her career. It reiterated her own aspirations as an advocate for STEM education and encouraging women into the industry.

“I think we need to encourage interest from an early age and getting them excited about STEM subjects in school. We should be talking about engineering as an option for women,” Meena says.

“One should pursue her dreams. Once you decided to work hard to reach your goal – sky’s is the limit. Be selfless, self-motivated, believe in yourself because this is nothing called impossible. Research is a never-ending journey and the knowledge gained in this aspect is always little.”

“Women should strive and act impetuously to work hard so as to contribute something good for science. The acquisitiveness to gain knowledge and to do better in your field should not end at any stage of life. Always keep your spirit high and your goals highest.”

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