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Our Queensland Young Water Professional of the Year: A Sustainability Change-Maker

Johanna (Jo) Johnson is the Sustainable Solutions Lead at Logan Water and is helping shape the future of the water sector by demonstrating ways to achieve carbon neutral operations, eliminate contaminants in wastewater, and transform biosolids into energy and useful biochar. Jo was recently recognised as the Queensland Young Water Professional of the Year at the AWA Queensland Water Awards and has shared her water story and how she came to develop her passion for sustainability.  

What drew you into the water industry?
Water was a big part of my life growing up. I loved visiting my grandmother in New Zealand whose name was Morewai which means calm waters in Māori. On these trips, I was surrounded by the rivers and the Pacific Ocean, but I also remember her amazing gardens with different types of fruit and vegetables. She would have buckets out to capture the rain when and where it fell, and this helped me understand the importance of conservation and instilled in me as a child the basics of not wasting things. 

Who or what do you draw inspiration from? 
I am lucky that my parents, including my scientist father, have passed on their great sense of curiosity about the world. I am inspired by them, my colleagues and mentors and my peers. 

What do you like to do in your spare time? 
My life is very full with work, study and family but I make time to travel and read. A favourite destination is New York. At the moment, I am part of a book club where we read and then discuss murder mysteries over a glass of wine. 

If you were a breed of dog, which would you be and why? 
I have two fur children that I adore – a chihuahua and a chug (a cross between a pug and a chihuahua). So, I think I’m already part of the chihuahua family. I get them, and they get me! 

What do you believe is currently the greatest challenge for your part of the water industry?
At Logan Water, we use innovation to address age-old problems like biosolids management and explore how we can convert of something that we once disposed of into a valuable product. Our biosolids gasification facility is the first of its kind in Australia and will help reduce our carbon emissions while converting biosolids into a sustainable product called biochar. The challenge for all water businesses is to convert all former waste streams into products and energy.

How do you consider your organisation benefits from most by being a corporate member of the Australian Water Association?
Logan Water and AWA have a long association. AWA provides our team with a place to learn, share information, test ideas and socialise. Our team members also get a lot out of volunteering for committees and panels. As a young water professional, the support from AWA has been invaluable – networking, mentoring, and learning. So, I personally, will encourage all YWP’s to get involved with AWA and for corporate members to see this as a way of developing the future water leaders. 

What messages would you like to give to your colleagues in the Queensland water sector?
I would like to commend my colleagues for being some of the most forward thinking in the Australian water industry. I tend to think that our big, diverse state and periods of little rainfall and too much rainfall encourage us to think strategically about our water future. We can continue to demonstrate leadership in the industry.