Why Different Perspectives Help Manisha Kothari with Creative Water Solutions

As California experiences another dry year, Manisha Kothari’s job to innovate and problem solve continues to be urgent.

Kothari is an Alternative Water Supply Program Manager with the SFPUC’s Water Resources Division, where she leads planning efforts to identify new water supply sources to meet future needs. She focuses on water supply planning and project development in areas including recycled water, potable reuse and desalination. Kothari leverages local, regional, and statewide partnerships to advance technology solutions and prudent planning to ensure water supply resiliency in San Francisco and throughout the SFPUC’s service area.

“I get to be part of a creative and forward-thinking team when it comes to looking at innovative ways to meet critical water supply needs,” she shared. “It’s not just about looking for short-term solutions during a dry year. When it comes to water, we know our supplies are impacted across many years, especially with climate change.”

Kothari explained that with addressing complex issues, it is always helpful to have colleagues with different perspectives and experiences, because that’s where creativity and innovation come together. “Awareness of our differences is the first step in being able to move toward shared aspirations.”

In reflection of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Kothari explained that the term “Asian Pacific American” is very broad and encompasses a very wide range of histories of immigrants in the United States. “As an American of Indian (South Asian) heritage whose parents immigrated to the United States in the 1960’s, I am grateful for so many generations of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and so many other immigrant communities who came before and paved the way for my parents,” she shared. “I feel that this month serves as a reminder to celebrate our many histories and our rich diversity.”

Kothari shared that anti-Asian discrimination and violence is fueled by stereotypes and generalizations. “It’s important for people to get to know individuals and their experiences to break down fears of the ‘other,'” she said. “This is true not just for Asian-Americans, but all Americans because we have so many different cultures, races and religions represented here.” She explained that Asian American communities have worked very hard to assimilate and contribute in the United States in many ways. “It’s deeply troubling to see people of so many being typecast and attacked on the basis of their physical appearance.”

Kothari emphasized that supporting the APA community starts with each individual embracing other people’s differences and insights. “Share our stories, listen to our perspectives, and find common ground,” she encouraged. “This is not just about supporting the APA community, but all the communities that are different from our own, but still just as American. When we come together and embrace one another, we can start to find solutions to complex problems.”