Last edited 07 May 2019

Water engineer

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The term ‘engineer’ is a very broad one, covering a wide range of disciplines that use the sciences and mathematics to develop solutions for technical applications.

Water engineers develop solutions in relation to water, its use, risks and infrastructure. Water engineers might work in the following areas:

They might undertake a range of specialist roles to enable water to be effectively managed, such as:

  • Hydraulic modelling – using computational software to model water flows in a river, coastal or glacial environment.
  • Water treatment – dealing in aerobic and anaerobic biological and chemical characteristics and determining the equipment required to purify water so it can be used for irrigation, human consumption and so on.
  • Network modelling - Analysing how water is collected and distributed.

Water engineers should have a passion for understanding where water comes from, what it does in its life cycle, what it can be used for, the constraints it poses and the benefits it can bring. They can help create designs which are:

  • Sustainable.
  • Appropriate to the location (safe, accessible, resilient).
  • Appropriate to current and likely future requirements.
  • Sensitive to anticipated shifts in climate.
  • Supportive of the local ecology.

The water engineer's role is to present opportunities and risks in a way which enables an informed decision to be made about the most appropriate solutions. This work spans the theoretical and the practical, preparing hypothetical calculations of multiple scenarios. Water engineers think in terms of probability and likelihood, assessing options in terms of their potential success, failure and necessary mitigation measures.

Water engineers may be qualified civil engineers. They may also have water-specific accreditations, such as those offered by the Institute of Water.

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