Celebrating Success with Darja Istenič During the International Women’s Day

More than 50% of GWP CEE regional staff and council consists of successful women. We asked Assistant Professor Darja Istenič to share her story and world-changing projects she helps to develop.

Assistant Professor Darja Istenič works in the field of ecology at theUniversity of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Darja started her career in the private sector, researching and developing wetlands for wastewater treatment in small communities, nature-based solutions for stormwater treatment, and revitalization of water bodies. At the university, Darja focused her research on zero discharge wastewater treatment systems with willows and resource recovery from wastewater.  

As Darja described, zero-discharge willow systems are wastewater treatment plants that produce woody biomass and do not discharge to surface or groundwater bodies, providinthe highest level of protection. The system also allows for a high leveof nutrient recovery from wastewater.

Zero Discharge Willow System


As a continuation, Darja focused on researching resource recovery through nature-based solutions as part of national research projects and the Circular City COST action. Since she considers dissemination of research results among scientific networks as well as other stakeholders and the broader public to be extremely important, Darja is active in networks such as the International Water Association (IWA), the International Ecological Engineering Society (IEES), the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), and the Global Water Partnership Central and Eastern Europe (GWP CEE).  

Within GWP CEE, Darja chairs the Sustainable Sanitation Task Force - a working group that includes small-scale sanitation experts from the region. Since nature-based solutions are a common threat in her work, she is now actively participating in the establishment and development of a Community of Practise for nature-based solutions in water management, which is being launched as part of GWP's online platform Integrated Water Resources Management Action Hub. With the community, they plan to disseminate knowledge about nature-based solutions and empower practitioners for broader implementation.

Darja does not just excel in the professional field. She is a mother of two children, giving her work meaning and motivation to strive for a better environment that we will leave to our future generations. 


Discover more from Darja’s work 


Links to recent papers 

  • on willow systems: