What Water Research Means to HDR
I would like to tell you that my path to becoming an engineer and environmental scientist at HDR began in the formative years of my childhood. That would be a great story. But the reality is my interest in the sciences did not begin until I attended a small liberal arts college in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. As a biology major, I was exposed to research in the laboratory and the field. My interest in research was galvanised when I became an operator and superintendent at a facility designed to treat clam processing wastewater, a true challenge given the high chemical oxygen demand and salt content of the wastewater.
I became fascinated in discovering ways to improve operations and plant performance through full-scale experimentation. That experience propelled me to complete a research masters degree focused on the biological treatment of phenolic compounds and a Ph.D. focused on the bioremediation of organic contaminants. Both of these were fundamental research endeavours where I helped inform scientific knowledge and advance scientific theories.
But getting involved in HDR’s Water Institute has taught me the importance and value of applied research. HDR’s research approach piggybacks on fundamental research principals and findings to help directly solve societal problems. What could be more important than providing safe, affordable drinking water?
Over the last four decades, through applied research and our projects with the Water Research Foundation, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. EPA, HDR has become one of the industry’s drinking water leaders. HDR’s applied research has contributed to Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory developments, including traditional disinfection and validation of UV systems. Our research has also focused on the removal of inorganic contaminants such as arsenic, selenium, manganese, and chromium. Recent efforts have targeted the treatment of contaminants of emerging concern through the application of technologies such as ozone, biofiltration, and granular activated carbon.
We have also led the industry in developing procedures to optimise the operation of water distribution systems through water quality and hydraulic modelling and identification of best operational practices. HDR’s asset management and corrosion research is meeting a critical need for our clients as they seek to do more with less. The establishment of Sustainable Return on Investment (SROI) principles is helping both our clients and the industry make sound, environmentally sustainable, and economically favourable decisions.
HDR’s applied research has allowed our staff to develop rewarding career paths and foster professional and personal relationships with key partners such as EPA, AWWA, WRF, WERF, and WRRF. We also collaborate with major universities (such as the University of Colorado, North Carolina State University, the University of Massachusetts, Dalhousie University, and others) to help solve drinking water and potable reuse challenges. It is these relationships that help identify the young recruits who will become future leaders at HDR.
HDR’s focus on applied research has enhanced our ability to work on complex water supply, treatment, and conveyance projects. At the end of the day, we at HDR know that water matters. Indeed, water must matter for our society to survive and thrive. The water challenges of today can seem daunting as we tackle the impacts of climate change and constraints on water availability, quality, and treatability. Our clients face increased pressure to maximise service levels at a reduced cost. An applied research focus is critical to HDR’s success and standing in the water profession and lends us the opportunity to play an important role in making the world a safer place for generations to come.