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Tia Clemens discovered a passion for water and water infrastructure during her 12-year tenure in the United States Army Reserves. From 2014 to 2015, she was stationed at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan working as a military police soldier. Tia became interested in the logistics of procuring water for the base and decided to shadow the soldiers and local nationals carrying out that duty. “I was always really interested in what it takes to get clean water into a combat zone,” said Clemens. “So, I followed them around base asking questions.”
That led to an understanding and appreciation of the difficulty of obtaining potable water in impoverished countries. “It’s utterly amazing that here in the United States we can just turn on a tap and don’t have to walk for a full day to find potable water, and then drag it back home,” she said. “It’s an absolutely incredible thing that we take for granted. You don’t really think about how it all happens and how important it is until you don’t have it.”
Clemens experienced this insecurity firsthand during training exercises in the field. “Even during training here in the United States, sometimes the training bases would run out of water so you’re just sitting there waiting until it is delivered. You can’t go in your tent and turn on the faucet.”
This led to a deeper desire to understand the infrastructure of water usage systems. Clemens decided to take a class in water and wastewater treatment, studying under Dr. Brewer, who was then head of the Blackman Water Treatment plant in Springfield. Clemens asked if her adviser at Missouri State University could point her toward a firm in town that specialized in this area of engineering. Clemens contacted Nathan Meyer and Jerry Jesky with Olsson and asked if she could take them to lunch to pick their brains, and the rest is history. That lunch turned into an internship in 2018. Clemens became a full-time assistant engineer in January 2019.
Now, alongside the rest of the team at Olsson, Clemens designs water and wastewater infrastructure projects. “We design anything from wells, pump stations, large-diameter water mains, small-diameter water mains, lift stations, force mains, sewer lines, and water/wastewater treatment plant designs and expansions.” Clemens uses hydraulic modeling software to analyze water distribution systems and make recommendations for improvements to accommodate growth. These water master plan studies typically include population and usage projections, water quality analyses, fire flow analyses, and an evaluation of storage capacity. Clemens also uses the hydraulic models to troubleshoot issues in distribution systems for several cities and reviews their capacities to accept the increased water demands from new residential and commercial developments.
In addition to all things water and wastewater, Clemens is co-coordinator for the local chapter of the MATHCOUNTS foundation, which hosts a mathematics competition every February for local students in grades 6-8. “We can always use more volunteers,” Clemens said, adding that it’s a fun and meaningful way to give back to the community.
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