Sarah Gray

MIEAust

Water Network Engineer

Hunter Water

Sarah is a passionate Water Network Engineer employed by Hunter Water, Newcastle. Sarah joined Hunter Water on an Industry scholarship whilst completing her bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) at University of Newcastle. Sarah’s current role focuses on ensuring the reliable supply of safe drinking water to the community, operating assets, investigating issues and responding to incidents. Sarah is a keen advocate for promoting and encouraging school students to study STEM and to consider a STEM career.

Earlier this year, Sarah was also awarded Engineers Australia’s 2019 Young Professional Engineer of the Year – Newcastle.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I joined Engineers Australia as a student member in 2011 whilst studying at the University of Newcastle.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I wanted to help society and work towards making the planet a more sustainable place. I attended Engineers Australia Girl’s Talk and other student evenings where I realised that engineering was much broader than theoretical maths equations and that I could make a difference.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
Hunter Water provides safe drinking water, manages wastewater, recycled water and some stormwater services to a population approaching 600,000 people. Our work is essential in providing an everyday need to the homes and businesses across the lower Hunter. More generally, water engineers help and enable all communities, including developing regions, by providing access to water and sanitation.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
In 2019 I participated in the 8 month WaterAid Winnovators Challenge. This involves teams from across the world competing to solve real world challenges, develop new skills, showcase learnings, fundraise and raise awareness about the WaterAid message. Our solve component involved supporting the implementation of the new national rural WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) policy for the Indigenous Wayuu population in La Guajira, Colombia. Our team was called “Team Mareiwa”; Mareiwa is a Wayuu deity and goddess of water, creator of life and wisdom. Our solution was called “Water Wise” which is a holistic and robust intervention including creation of a sustainable market for water treatment and storage solutions. It included implementation toolkits for the various stakeholders, such as an educational cartoon booklet for the Wayuu schools. In October 2019, our team was named the Asia Pacific Regional winners and ultimately Global Winners. As Global Winners our team will visit Colombia to implement our solution!

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Water. It’s a finite resource and as the drought continues and population increases we need to continually adapt and plan for the future.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
The challenge of meeting the water and wastewater needs of an ever increasing world population.

Who is your engineering hero?
William Clark, an English Engineer who came to Newcastle Australia in 1877. He was tasked with devising a scheme to supply Newcastle and its townships with water. This work was called Hunter River District Water Supply, commonly known as the Walka Water Supply Scheme. The scheme included the first filtration plant built in Australia for the whole of the supply. Unlike most others at the time it was entirely piped with no open channels. The reservoirs were roofed, ensuring a clean supply which could not be contaminated along the route. The design and construction of the scheme is of national significance and achieved a number of “firsts” in the history of Australian water supply.