Belfast Telegraph

NI Water boss up for challenge

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NI Water's boss, who is waging an ongoing battle to avert a drought crisis in Northern Ireland, is no stranger to overcoming challenges.

Sara Venning, the firm's chief executive, is overseeing our first hosepipe ban in more than two decades in what is NI Water's biggest test since the extreme cold snap of 2010.

Then, in the midst of Arctic temperatures, some 40,000 homes were left without water due to burst pipes.

Married to Martin, with whom she has three daughters, Caoimhe, Niamh and Cara, Ms Venning has been juggling the demands of family life with running one of Northern Ireland's top five companies since 2014.

Born in Cookstown, the chief executive was only one year into her role when she was confronted with what she said at the time was "undoubtedly" the toughest period of her career to date.

That centred on a pensions despute between staff and the company that resulted in water supplies being disrupted to around 10,000 homes following industrial action in early 2015.

Agreement was successfully reached between both parties, and during an in-depth interview with the Belfast Telegraph conducted a year later, the boss said she came out of the dispute "stronger" with the support of her team.

Now, the Queen's University graduate, who worked for 14 years at NIE before joining NI Water, is confronting her latest challenge, which is ensuring that her job of providing clean water to around 795,000 properties across the province, is not impacted by the current heatwave.

However, she has a strong record of getting results.

NI Water had a turnover of £370m and a capital programme of £140m as well as 1,300 employees, she revealed in 2016.

She also spoke two years ago of her long-term goal of improving our 26,000km of water mains infrastructure under a capital investment programme.

"I think as CEO you are the ultimate decision maker and ultimate person of accountability.

"You're right at the top and the buck completely stops with you," Ms Venning said of her role in 2016.

That sentiment will surely be at the forefront of her mind as hotter temperatures are forecast to return here following the weekend.

Belfast Telegraph

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