New IWA Young Water Professionals Chapter in Colombia
As part of IWA’s mission to empower Young Water Professionals to contribute to sustainable water management, a new IWA Young Water Professionals (IWA YWP) chapter was established in Colombia in September 2022.
This IWA YWP chapter will be the country’s go-to network boosting connections for YWPs and a platform to support equal opportunities and quality career development. As a voluntary network, the Colombia chapter is open to all water professionals aged 35 or below who are enthusiastic, dedicated, and passionate about water-related issues. Here, Diana Catalina Rodriguez Loaiza, Sanitary Engineer based in Antioquia and Chair of the YWP Colombia chapter, presents some key points about the chapter.
Q: What was the motivation for setting up an IWA YWP Chapter in Colombia?
Diana: Colombia is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of water output. There are however severe issues and water challenges in the country. The newly created YWP group in Colombia seeks to improve water management and efficiency by identifying the most pressing issues and proposing concrete solutions.
The amount of water lost in distribution networks in Colombia is extremely high: 48% of what is captured at the source is lost, which is an enormous waste. Advanced asset management solutions could solve the problem. We believe that one of the best ways to improve wellbeing and reduce poverty is to increase access to clean water and sanitation. In Colombia, even though poverty and extreme poverty gradually decreased from 2009 to 2015, access to clean and potable water remains a challenge, and smarter wastewater interventions are much needed to achieve public health benefits, protect the environment, and improve quality of life.
According to the Super-intendency of Public Domestic Services (SSPD) (2014), in Colombia, only 44% of municipalities have wastewater treatment systems, highlighting a serious problem in sanitation, handling of discharges, and water quality. These issues represent critical opportunities for intervention in the field of wastewater, environmental protection and circular economy.
Finally, the chapter is determined to achieve adequate resource management and generate changes in policies and awareness in Colombia, while at the same time contributing to the SDGs. The chapter intends to motivate young people who are in higher education institutions, schools, or environmental corporations to work on joint solutions to solve water issues in Colombia.
Q: How will the chapter contribute to the empowerment of YWPs to contribute to the national water agenda of Colombia?
Diana: Young people who want to work on water-related topics in Colombia need a platform to advance their knowledge, expand their network, collaborate with universities or promote cooperation in order to better integrate projects and public policies in the water sector.
To raise the importance of young professionals in the water sector, the YWP Colombia Chapter will promote IWA and its Young Water Professionals (YWPs) community agenda among their members, and will participate through Specialist Groups (SGs) as well as through conferences, workshops, regional, national and international events and monthly meetings that allow for the interaction and discussion among members in search of water-wise solutions. Additionally, the group will disseminate new solutions and water sector news through newsletters, emails and social media.
The chapter will also contribute to the cooperation between young water professionals in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and will share its knowledge about the water sector, through universities and government institutions in Colombia.
Q: What are your aims and objectives for your chapter, and what activities do you plan to do?
Diana: YWP Colombia aims to support young professionals in the water sector by attracting the best students and empowering them to become national and global leaders in their fields. In addition, YWP Colombia will promote gender equality, widening the participation of women in the group, through strategies of visibility, empowerment and talks focused on the importance of gender equality in the water sector.
YWP Colombia will carry out activities such as talks, discussions and scientific events in higher education institutions, schools and environmental organisations. Moreover, through monthly meetings and attendance at congresses supported by IWA, the group will develop networking opportunities for its members and attract new participants.
The goals of YWP Colombia will be:
- Promoting the active participation of women in the water sector to close the gender gap
- Encouraging the participation of young water professionals in IWA activities in Colombia, Latin America and worldwide.
- Increasing the number of Colombian emerging leaders in the water sector (and in the Association) by supporting their professional development and recognising their achievements.
- Establishing channels of communication and providing networking opportunities for young as well as senior water professionals, thus facilitating intergenerational dialogue.
Meet the founding committee of the IWA YWP Colombia Chapter
Diana Catalina Rodriguez Loaiza, Chair of the YWP Colombia Chapter
Diana Catalina is a Sanitary Engineer with a Ph.D and Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. She is currently the Head of the Environmental School of the Faculty of Engineering and Associate Professor at the Universidad de Antioquia. Her research interests cover the areas of nutrient removal, biological processes, anaerobic digestion, wastewater treatment, emerging pollutants, antibiotic degradation and resistance, wastewater epidemiology and greenhouse gases. She has authored several publications in international scientific journals. She has participated in the organising and scientific committee of the XIII Latin American Workshop and Symposium on Anaerobic Digestion (DAAL XIII) and in the 2nd. Latin American & Caribbean Young Water Professionals Conference. She has been a member of the IWA since 2017 and is currently part of the IWA Specialist Group on Sludge Management and as an editor in the IWA Water Science & Technology journal.
Juan Sebastián Arcila, Vice-Chair
Juan Sebastian is a Chemical Engineer with an M.sc in Automation & Control from the Colombia National University and a Ph.D in Environmental Engineering from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Dr. Arcila is an expert in wastewater treatment and solid waste management using biological systems. In the research field, his contributions have been published in several international journals. He also has professional experience in academic and environmental consulting projects.
Liliana del Pilar Castro Molano, Secretary
Liliana is a Chemical Engineer with Ph.D in Chemical Engineering. Currently, she works as an Associate Research Professor at the School of Chemical Engineering of the Universidad Industrial de Santander-Colombia. As a Researcher, she has been working for 12 years on anaerobic digestion processes, focusing on co-digestion, design, and monitoring of rural digesters in cold climates, characterisation, and post-treatment of digestates. Dr Castro has supervised doctoral and master theses, and degree projects in the area of Chemical Engineering. Dr Castro has authored several publications in international scientific journals. She has presented the results of her research to biodigesters users and since 2012, she has participated with oral presentation and posters at the World Conference on Anaerobic Digestion organised by IWA.
Carolina González Morales, Technical Training Coordinator
Carolina is a Sanitary Engineer with a Ph.D. and a Master´s degree in Environmental Engineering from Universidad de Antioquia (Medellin, Colombia), where she is currently Academic Coordinator of the specialisation course in water management. Dr González teaches courses related to Water and Wastewater Engineering. Her research interest spans hydrologic modeling, climate change studies, water quality, and water and wastewater treatment methods. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on nutrient recovery from wastewater treatment plants. She has a keen interest in resource recovery from wastewater, contributing to the development of the water sector and the application of a circular economy model in the country.
Yudy Andrea Londoño Cañas, Communications Officer
Andrea is a Sanitary Engineer and Professor at the University of Antioquia. She graduated in Sanitation Engineering from the University of Antioquia with a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering. She completed postdoctoral research in hydrogeology (groundwater management) at Ryerson University, currently known as Toronto Metropolitan University. She has working experience as R&D Engineer and professor in the field of biological and physicochemical processes for water treatment, environmental biotechnology, and water quality. She was involved in R&D projects focused on the study of water treatment systems for improving the quality of the final effluent of industrial and urban wastewater, and the installation, optimisation and start-up of control and treatment systems for environmental pollution. She has also a background knowledge of physicochemical variables analysis for water quality, and their results interpretation related to the environmental degradation and health risks.
Erika Juliana Aldana Arcila, Innovation Coordinator
Environmental Engineer from Catholic University of Manizales, with a M.Sc in Geosciences and Environment form the Universidade Estadual Paulista. Her interests are focused on wastewater management and hydrogeology. Ms Aldana is a member of the comprehensive water resource management research group, and she has contributed to international research and academic publications.
María Alejandra Caicedo Londoño, External Relations Coordinator
Ph.D nominee in Water and Environmental Engineering; MSc in Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering with an emphasis on urban water management. Civil Engineer by profession. In her current role as Assistant Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering, Ms. Caicedo teaches courses related to Water Supply, Wastewater, Design and Modeling of hydraulic systems under pressure. Her research interest lie in the development of support tools for the management of water supply and sanitation, both for urban and rural environments. Ms. Caicedo has authored several publications in international journals and book chapters. She was a member of the YWP Steering Committee in 2014, and she has been an IWA member since 2012.