New Group Leader Veronika Zhiteneva

We are delighted that Dr. Veronika Zhiteneva was appointed at the beginning of the year to be our new group leader for the new "Water Treatment & Reuse" research group.  The group will continue the work of the "Treatment Processes" group while also sharpening the research profile. The previous group leader Ulf Miehe will shift his focus and concentrate on his roles as head of the "Process Innovation" department, authorised signatory, and on the further development of the "Groundwater" research group.

To get to know Veronika better, we asked her what brought her to KWB almost four years ago, what goals she is pursuing in her new position, and what she's particularly proud of at KWB.

Veronika, congratulations on your new position! What brought you to (waste)water treatment and reuse and eventually to KWB?

After finishing school I wanted to be a scientific journalist and write for popular science magazines. That was until I worked on a constructed wetland water recycling system while I was a bachelor’s student for WaterShed, a net-zero energy house which won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2011. The next few years I worked on and was amazed by the fact that energy could be produced via anaerobic digestion of wastewater. Afterwards, I wanted a change of perspective and decided to pursue my PhD in Germany, at the Technical University of Munich. There I focused on advanced treatment of wastewater for indirect potable reuse and found the concept of being able to treat pretty much any type of wastewater to drinking water quality fascinating. After working on and researching the different aspects of water treatment - nature-based, conventional, and advanced - I knew I wanted to continue pushing the boundaries of what we know to achieve what is possible, and KWB was the perfect location to do so.

You are the new group leader for Water Treatment & Reuse. Could you tell us more about your goals and responsibilities?  

First off I’m glad that we updated the name of the group to include the word ‘reuse.’ We’ve had so many projects around all aspects of reuse that it was time to show that it’s something we’re experts in. Second, the group name doesn’t specify drinking water or wastewater - because all water is water. This means that we address the treatment of the entire urban water cycle. Although many of our European partners with whom we’ve been working together for decades know this, I want to help increase the visibility of KWB in these topics within Germany - at the practical level (wastewater treatment plants, potential users of reclaimed water), at the private level (industries, companies), and at the legislative level - so we can more proactively adapt to the inevitable changes we’re already experiencing in the water sector. I’m looking forward to addressing all aspects of the urban water cycle with the other groups and colleagues at KWB.

You’ve been at KWB for some time, what does this change of position change and mean for you?

After 3.5 years at KWB I’m excited about the new opportunities that come with being a group lead. I’m curious to find out where opportunities to proactively tackle the issue of safeguarding our water supply in the face of the complicated effects of climate change can be created.

What are you particularly proud of at KWB?

Ich bin stolz darauf, mit Menschen zusammenzuarbeiten, die sich sehr für das Thema Wasser engagieren und bereit sind, mit anzupacken und ihre Ideen einzubringen. Das kollektive Wissen und der Qualitätsstandard des KWB sind inspirierend.

Outside of your professional life, what is your relationship with water? Is there one anecdote about water in your life that you would like to share?

My family members have often been sceptical of drinking tap water in various countries for various reasons. Although I could partially understand where they were coming from, their mistrust of tap water and insistence on purchasing bottled water was always puzzling. After finally experiencing smelly tap water myself, because the municipality switched to older water supply infrastructure and a different water source to save money, I learned that although it’s completely backwards and we all know it’s wrong, profit often takes precedence over public health. This realization influences my perspective as I’m working on proposals, reading the news about the latest water related impacts of climate change, or wondering why it’s so difficult to get a free glass of tap water in German restaurants whereas in other countries it’s legally required. There’s always room for improvement when it comes to water.

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