Wendy Kemp

Groundwater remains an important source of drinking water for the Region and my role as Program Manager of Water Resources is to take actions to ensure that our water resources remain available and safe for future generations. These actions are centred on protecting and monitoring our groundwater, meeting compliance commitments, building and communicating science knowledge. My role is unique in the Region as involves vision to a very multi disciplinary and faceted portfolio. Unlike consulting where projects have a beginning and end, program management requires continuous improvement and evolution. Working as Program Manager requires an ability to make the connections across the entire water resources 'puzzle' and I think that is likely the single challenge that I find most rewarding.

Throughout my career this 'big picture' approach has been a consistent style in my development as an Earth Scientist. As a coop student at University of Waterloo, I wanted to experience the spectrum of Earth Sciences. I taught outdoor education, undertook research with the Geological Survey of Canada on glacial deposits in New Brunswick, conducted geophysical surveys for acid mine drainage studies in Sudbury and Port Colborne for Inco Canada and conducted wetlands research at the University of Waterloo. When I finished my undergrad, I decided to continue wetlands research and completed a Masters of Science studying the transfer of nitrogen along the hydrological flow pathways during storm events. Prior to joining the Region in my current role, I worked in manufacturing, assisting a corporation in reducing their land and water contamination issues at their facilities thorough operational controls and installation of management programs. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience that contamination is not always the result of failure by Corporations. Working with people from a variety of approaches is a unique opportunity to enhance our actions to protect this valuable resource but still balance the need to provide drinking water to thousands of residents across the Region.

Q: What is the title of your job and what do you do?

A: Program Manager, Water Resources
As the Program Manager, my main responsibility is to develop the water resources sustainability strategy for the Region, which directs the actions the Region undertakes to ensure that our water resources remain safe and available for future generations. I supervise seven staff who are responsible for three key business areas:

  • Water Supply - the protection and monitoring of hydrogeological conditions to ensure there is a balance between sustainable yields and meet community drinking water needs;
  • Compliance - to respond and meet compliance commitments and provide policy direction;
  • Science - to build and communicate our science knowledge.
Specifically my role is to develop the strategy with input from a variety of departments; identify the annual goals; guide staff to ensure they have the appropriate tools to meet our goals; identify potential issues that may impede our ability to meet our goals and review outcomes to ensure they meet the technical standards. In some studies, we hire consultants to conduct detailed technical studies, which I assist staff with the terms of reference for the studies. Another significant component is responding to real time issues, which are highly public in nature, generally very technical and require considerable communications to a level that is appropriate for the general public.

Q: Who do you work for, and where are you based?

A: Regional Municipality of York, Newmarket, Ontario

Q: What is your typical work routine?

A: My days vary between attending meetings, review and comment on technical reports, field site visits to production and monitoring well locations and drilling projects, public relations and/or presentations to our stakeholders on hydrogeological issues.

Q: Where do you work?

A: In an office

Q: What equipment/machinery do you use?

A: I work on a computer

Q: What education or training is required for your job?

A: Degree in hydrogeology, environmental science, Professional Geoscientists designation

Q: What kind of personal traits do you recommend for this profession?

A: Flexibility to react to situations (political and scientific), personal accountability and integrity, systems thinker (often beyond the scope of the original project but inter-related), able to handle multiple tasks at one time

Q: What is the salary range of your job?

A: $72000 - $95000

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: Exposure to a variety of related issues and making the connections to the sustainability of water supplies. Working with a variety of disciplines (planning, science, engineering, biologists, etc)

Q: What are the advantages?

A: My job provides a good balance between work and family life. The Regional of Municipality of York is specifically supportive of professional development. I think this single factor fosters a very supportive and integrated team environment.

Q: What are the advancement opportunities for this career?

A: Further advancement would likely result is less detailed hydrogeological work and more global/political issues at a senior level.

Q: How physically demanding is your job?

A: Not demanding at all.

Q: Why did you choose this career?

A: Link to nature and how itís a tangible science. Public sector allows for two stream approach, the practical operational side of drinking water and the scientific/research side of hydrogeology.

Q: What is your most memorable moment/event/place related to your experience as an Earth scientist?

A: Conducting geophysical surveys on frozen tailings ponds north of Sudbury to evaluate groundwater contamination.

Q: What is your advice to newcomers?

A: Get as much exposure in the field as possible.

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