| AWWA Member Spotlight – Indra Maharjan, Brampton, Ontario, Canada
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AWWA Member Spotlight – Indra Maharjan, Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Indra MaharjanJob title and employer: Director of Innovation, Technology and Alternative Delivery, Ontario Clean Water Agency

AWWA and water sector involvement: Trustee of AWWA’s Small Systems Division; Ontario Water Works Association member and chair of the water, energy efficiency and reuse committee; recipient of the 2021 Water’s Next Award for a government leader at the Canadian Water Summit

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Kathmandu University; Master’s degree, Business Studies, Tribhuvan University; Master’s degree, Electrical Power Engineering, Kathmandu University

Job duties: Foster innovative solutions in the water and wastewater sector by working with technology providers, municipalities and key stakeholders. Transform existing water Maharjan in Nepaltreatment plants and wastewater treatment plants into net zero resource recovery facilities through co-digestion, waste diversion, clean fuel generation, and alternative delivery models.

How and why did you get involved in the water sector? I come from Nepal, a country with abundant water resources but little access to potable water, sanitation and electricity, particularly in most rural areas. Growing up without reliable access to safe drinking water and sanitation made me determined to work in this sector. (Pictured right, Maharjan in Nepal)

What are some challenges to advancing innovation in the water sector? The sector has been built by professionals with multiple decades of knowledge. Innovation can be fostered within an organization and throughout the sector by addressing existing barriers. This requires breaking through silos, overcoming a lack of collaboration or funding, and enabling procurement. Adoption of a “One Water” approach is key to fostering innovation in Maharjan and co-workers at net zero event.our sector.

Describe one of your projects in which innovation was key to its success. Transforming water and wastewater systems into net zero resource recovery facilities – those that generate biogas with potential to produce renewable energy -- has been of key interest to many of our municipal clients in Ontario. The Ontario Clean Water Agency works with multiple stakeholders and has developed at least five projects exploring co-digestion in existing wastewater plants to produce clean fuel and significantly reduce greenhouse gases. We were the first to obtain co-digestion environmental approval from municipal regulators to proceed with one of the net zero projects. (Pictured left, Maharjan, second from right, with colleagues at a net zero event)

How have you benefited from AWWA involvement? AWWA has offered a great opportunity to connect with water professionals, share information, and learn from others. During my two years as a trustee, I’ve been able to communicate challenges faced by Canadian small systems and be a liaison between OWWA’s small system committee and AWWA divisions. I’ve also promoted participation and use of AWWA’s resources and events to Ontario system owners/operators.

How has relocating from Nepal and being selected a “Top 25 Canadian Immigrants in 2021” impacted your beliefs about workplace diversity and inclusion? My early years as an immigrant were difficult, as they are for anyone who goes through it. Fortunately, I’ve had the support of lots of mentors through my amazing journey in the water sector. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a top priority for any employer. The Ontario water sector has experienced and been strengthened by a huge increase in the diversity of its workforce and the inclusion of internationally-educated graduates joining the workforce. I’ve been involved with multiple initiatives through my employer and various industry associations to increase awareness of and access to water sector opportunities. I will continue to promote increasing access to water events, Maharjan with wife and daughternetworks and employments to diverse professionals.

Please describe your family and/or hobbies and interests. My wife is an early childhood educator. We have a 12-year-old daughter who likes to make fun of my accent. We all love to explore nature and the outdoors, especially water bodies and participate in community events involving bike repair shops, arts and craft, tree planting, river walks, beach clean out etc. (Pictured right, Maharjan with daughter and wife)
What is something that people would be surprised to know about you? Back in Nepal, I used to teach engineering and management courses to graduate students at multiple universities.

Anything else you’d like to add? I feel blessed to be working in water and contributing to the water family.