Women in Water: Dr. Kumudini Dharmawardana, City of Livermore

Members in the News, Wastewater Life, Women in Water

Dr. Kumudini Dharmawardana, City of LivermoreName: Dr. Kumudini Dharmawardana
Title/Agency: Public Works Supervisor – Laboratory
Certifications: CWEA Laboratory Analyst Grade IV

Dr. Kumudini Dharmawardana always knew she wanted to pursue a scientific career that would make a positive impact in the world. After receiving her master’s degree in Analytical Chemistry and PhD in Biochemistry, Dharmawardana began working in medical research studying blood coagulation proteins. However, she found that the 12 to 16-hour workdays needed to run her experiments made it difficult to balance home life.

“At the time I had two small children and even though I loved research, I started looking for a job where I could balance family life and my career. The City of Livermore seemed like a perfect fit because I already lived here, so I would be serving my own community.”

Dharmawardana became a Water Resources Coordinator at the Livermore Water Reclamation Plant in 1998 and was promoted to Laboratory Supervisor in 2006. Today she oversees thousands of wastewater tests per year. These tests ensure that the Livermore Water Reclamation Plant is operating as it should and that its treated wastewater meets permit requirements. After ten years in the field, she received statewide recognition for her work, winning the California Water Environment Association (CWEA) Laboratory Person of the Year Award and Water Environment Federation (WEF) Laboratory Analyst Excellence Award.

Along with her work in the lab, she also enjoys educating the public about drinking water quality and wastewater treatment. “A lot of people do not know how much is involved with treating wastewater, and some people don’t know that wastewater is treated at all!” she exclaims.  Dharmawardana educates Livermore residents through tours of the Livermore Water Reclamation Plant, working with interns, and assisting students with their science fair projects. Additionally, for the past 13 years she has co-led a week-long Sewer Science Laboratory program at Livermore High School where students learn about the wastewater treatment process through hands-on experiments.

Dharmawardana believes the water and wastewater industries are still years away from achieving gender balance in the field. However, she is encouraged by how many women are involved in CWEA and hold leadership roles within the field. “When I came into this industry, I did not know that it would be my long-term future because it was a completely different focus than my previous work. However, I have found it to be so rewarding to know that my work is helping protect the environment. Even though my children are now grown, I’ve never thought of working anywhere else.”