Where would the Integrated Leaders Forum at Amsterdam International Water Week be without an inspirational moderator and host? This year, we have been so lucky to recruit Jessie-Lynn van Egmond for the role. Being a future water leader and an engineer-on-a-mission, we can’t think of a better candidate for AIWW2023. Let’s meet Jessie-Lynn.
How would you describe yourself – if you get only 15 seconds for it?
“I would introduce myself as a sustainability pioneer passionate about addressing the global challenges that surround water, one of our planet’s most precious resources. My main interests are water and food security. How can we feed the world while taking into account our depleting water resources? I am also actively involved in water management on islands, exploring and developing new water-saving methods in our oceans. You can view my resume on my Linkedin.”
How does that translate to your daily job as a Water & Sustainability Manager?
“During the day I work in international greenhouse horticulture on large projects for the high-tech cultivation of fruit and vegetables, mainly for water scarce regions, such as the Middle East and Australia. I think horticulture is such an interesting industry. It is a playground of technical possibilities and it is right on the cutting edge of water-energy-food. We are currently in a real global transition, in which sustainable greenhouses and water can play an important role.”
You grew up in the Netherlands, as the child of a Dutch father and American mother. But you also lived in New Zealand.
“During my time in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to apply my studies in Earth Sciences practically. I immersed myself in hands-on work, getting my hands dirty. New Zealanders have a deep respect for untouched nature and water, they appreciate its grandeur, beauty, strength, and wildness. I was also amazed by their comprehensive recycling practices, where there seemed to be a designated bin for everything. Not to mention the way most Kiwis grow their own food. It was an incredibly inspiring experience, and it motivated me to return to the Netherlands to continue my education with a master’s that celebrates a respectful approach to natural resources, but is also pragmatic and technical.”
Can you tell us something about your initiative Tewaii?
“For Tewaii I am involved in the water management of small island developing states. My love for islands was born when I lived in New Zealand, although it is quite a large island of course. Te Wai also means water in Maori. With Tewaii, I am currently focusing on the atolls of the Maldives. It sounds very idyllic, and to a certain extend it is, but small islands are very vulnerable, and their water resources are under attack from all sides.”
You take on more local challenges. For example, you worked on water systems in the Maldives. How was that? What do you take away from that project?
“What I take away from the work in the Maldives is the closed system approach. Because the islands are so isolated, you are forced to think in terms of recycling and reuse, as everything that is not there must come from somewhere else. Right now a staggering 95% of food is imported in the Maldives. The closed-system mindset is also very valuable when doing larger greenhouse projects. Here you also really see that sustainability and an impactful return on investment go well together. They are not mutually exclusive, but go hand in hand. ”
You mentioned leadership in your introduction. What do you think is a good leader in 2023?
“I don’t think you can standardize that. It depends. Of course, visionary leadership is needed. Someone who inspires groups and gets them moving. But leaders are also needed at the execution level, who ensure that the troops march together towards the dot on the horizon. You need people with ideas and people who know how to turn those ideas into action. There is room for all kinds of leadership, although I’d like to leave the whole completely authoritarian leadership as a thing of the past. I look forward to a world where no longer the one with the biggest mouth leads the way, but the one with the biggest heart.”
What do you think is the most important topic for AIWW2023?
“The themes that have been formulated for the AIWW actually already offer a very good starting point to go in depth: water quality, resilient water systems, circular solutions and transitions in water-food-energy. As a cutting edge, I would like to add psychology and technology. We can do so much, the ambition is there, but how can we create the togetherness that is needed to successfully work cross-sectorally and to arrive at inspired joint actions?”
What do you expect from AIWW2023?
“For me this is the first Amsterdam International Water Week. I expect action and movement, and hope it will bring the right people together at the right time. I hope we can inspire each other, in the relatively small group of leaders, to come up with great and scalable ideas. And then put them into action. If we don’t do it, who will? I hope we can set the tone and be an example.”
About Jessie-Lynn van Egmond
As a Water & Sustainability Manager at the R&D and Sustainability department of Van der Hoeven Horticulture Projects, Jessie-Lynn van Egmond is responsible for researching and optimization of water management practices for high-tech greenhouses in water-scarce regions. In addition, the client support on water-related aspects of horticultural projects and the development of new circular concepts are under her care.
Van Egmond is the founder of Tewaii Water Research. Fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce, especially in decentralized regions, such as islands. This is the very reason that Tewaii focuses on Small Island Developing States. Surrounded by the ocean, the islands’ groundwater is prone to saline intrusion. Add leaking sanitation systems, tourism, sea level rise and you can imagine how the balance of their natural water cycle is disrupted. Areas of expertise include: irrigation, groundwater and overall water management. Tewaii believes that with the right knowledge we can all contribute to a water resilient future.
Jessie-Lynn has also been writing and structuring scientific papers and reports on topics such as the removal of microplastics by wastewater treatment facilities for Stichting Toegepast Onderzoek Waterbeheer (STOWA): a knowledge center for Dutch waterboards. For example: https://www.stowa.nl/sites/default/files/assets/PUBLICATIES/Publicaties%202021/STOWA%202021-51%20microplastics%20rwzi.pdf