Getting to Know Our Experts: Jim Knight

Here, we interview Jim Knight, Business Development Manager at Veolia Water Technologies UK (VWT UK) on his area of specialism – water treatment chemicals (WTC).


First of all, can you tell us a bit about your career history?

After studying Applied Chemistry at the University of Salford, my first job was at Grace Dearborn Ltd. in 1995 as a WTC service engineer in its paper division. From there, I took other sales and account management roles in water treatment until 2011 when I joined Carter Environmental Engineers and later the Baltimore Aircoil Company. In both of these roles, I sold factory assembled cooling towers, mainly into the HVAC market. After this, I decided to return to the WTC sector as a Business Development Manager for VWT UK.

What does your current role entail?

My objective is to sell water treatment chemicals for cooling towers, boilers, effluent and water hygiene in non-wastewater applications, specifically to customers located in the south of England. More recently, I have taken on responsibility for the commercial management of two major municipal water clients to whom we provide large volumes of chemicals.

What is your main area of expertise?

Given my history of working for two large cooling tower manufacturers for a combined eight years, as well as my background in chemistry, I have an in-depth understanding of how cooling towers work and their application as well as a commercial knowledge of the market.

What sets VWT UK apart in terms of its water treatment chemicals offering?

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Our water treatment chemicals offering is complemented by our wide range of chemical solutions for the wastewater sector, as well as our technologies and services offering. When dealing with providers who only supply WTC products, clients will need to look elsewhere for other companies to support their wider wastewater needs, which can be time-consuming to manage.

However, we have the right combination of the wider portfolio with the specialist knowledge that clients need. For example, if we make changes to the process water used in operations, we understand the knock-on effect that this could potentially have on the site’s wastewater.

What are the key challenges currently faced in the south of England?

Water scarcity is a major issue.  Since 2013, the water companies in the South East are determined by the Environment Agency (EA) to be in “areas of serious water stress”.  The EA goes on to say that South East of England will not have enough water by 2050 unless there is a significant reduction in the wasting of it. Freshwater makes up a minuscule percentage of water worldwide, so with energy prices rising the cost to produce freshwater is also climbing, making it far more expensive. At VWT, we have the know-how and the technology in cooling water systems to drive water efficiency and optimise the use of costly freshwater. We champion water reuse that not only maximises site efficiency but also reduces costs.

During your time, what changes have you noticed within the wider water sector? How have water treatment chemicals developed as a result?

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In line with COP 26 and the international agreement on climate change, we challenge ourselves to be focused on helping our clients reduce their own carbon footprint. We are seeing more customers looking for programmes to achieve this. We do this at VWT UK by uncovering baseline energy consumption and establishing water treatment programmes that can demonstrate reductions in energy use. For example, fouled heat exchangers on cooling systems require more energy to achieve the cooling required. We will implement treatments to clean and keep clean heat exchanger surfaces thereby optimising energy consumption.

How do you see the water sector changing over the next few years?

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I believe that the market will further rely on online monitoring, combined with remote chemical system connectivity. Not only due to tightening consent limits, but also to give customers remote system access that will enable them to adopt a less hands-on approach in situations where it is difficult to attend sites in person – as necessitated by the constraints of the pandemic.

Fun fact?

I’m a keen cyclist and aim to ride 2,000 miles each year. I own 5 bikes at the moment and would love to earn more if only they could fit in the garage and if my wife would let me! I regularly take part in 100-mile sportives and I even once rode all the way from Brighton to Paris with a group of fellow cycling enthusiasts.

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Jim Knight

About the Author

Jim Knight

Jim has over 25 years experience in the water treatment and cooling tower industry. The first 17 years were spent working for Nalco and Akzo Nobel in senior roles, working in account management and sales roles. His customer focused approach and chemical background made going into Veolia Water Technologies as a Business Development Manager a good fit. He has spent the last 8 years working in sales in the evaporative cooling industry having gained wealth of knowledge from the role, proving to be a valuable asset.