Water Engineering and Development Centre

12 Jul 2019

We welcome Andrew Longley to the WEDC team

Julie Fisher interviews Andrew Longley

JF: What is your background before you joined WEDC?

AL: I started my career as a geologist, I have a doctorate in geology and subsequently moved into water engineering. My first job was in the Environment Agency and then I moved into consultancy with Atkins and worked in the UK for 4 or 5 years before having the opportunity to work overseas. I thought I was going for a couple of years — and 15 years later I’ve finally moved back to the UK from Nicaragua. Initially I was working with an established organisation, but after they pulled out, I founded a new NGO – both a registered charity in the UK and in Nicaragua – and we worked on mostly rural development projects on infrastructure, especially water and sanitation and also agriculture and other aspects of engineering infrastructure for small rural communities, with a strong social focus in all of our work. The political situation in Nicaragua became quite difficult and in the middle of last year, around the time when I’d already started a handover process to national leadership, and we moved back to the UK.

JF: We’re really pleased to have you join us at WEDC. Are you excited by the prospect?

AL: I’ve been working for the last year with AECOM and I’m now very pleased to have this opportunity to move into academia; it’s the first time in 25 years that I’ve been in academia, so it‘s going to be a challenge I’m sure, but I’m very excited to be here and back in the development field again and I’m hoping that my experience in the developing world will be something I can draw on a lot more here in WEDC.

JF: What in particular do you think you can bring to WEDC?

AL: I feel like I’ve been teaching for a long time but have never actually been employed as a teacher, so doing it as a job will be an interesting challenge for me. It’s a subject I’m very passionate about and I think I’ll really enjoy communicating some of that, and hopefully some of my real work experience. I think I straddle both parts of the recently integrated parts of WEDC; I’ve worked in the UK water industry and for the EA, I’ve worked on flood-related projects, on big infrastructure projects, and lots of modelling work, so I do know the consultancy end, the UK industry side of the business. I also have a passion for the nuts and bolts implementation in the messy reality of the developing world. So I think there are many opportunities to integrate these, and I hope maybe I can become a bit of a catalyst in that. 

JF: What do you see as some of key issues facing us now?

AL: There are some emerging topics which do have huge potential. One of my particular areas of interest is climate change. I don’t have a strong research background in climate change but on one level I’ve been looking at the reality on the ground for a country that’s been significantly affected by climatic extremes and what that means for adaptation in reality for rural, remote and marginalised communities and how they’re pushed even further to the margins by some of these climatic events – So I think that’s one emerging theme that I will be bringing forward with me. Another area of interest too from my work in Nicaragua, is arsenic contamination, so there is plenty of work to do!