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Water engineer: Job description

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Water engineer is a generic title given to engineers who specialise in water-based projects; many have a civil engineering or environmental background. They may work with a variety of different liquids but generally deal with the provision of clean water, disposal of waste water and sewage and prevention of flood damage.

Asset management plays a major part in a water engineer's job. This involves repairing, maintaining and building structures that control water resources, e.g. sea defence walls, pumping stations and reservoirs.

Engineers have to constantly address new challenges and problems, which are caused by global warming, ageing infrastructure, population growth and higher quality living standards.

Typical work activities

A water engineer can expect to undertake a range of activities, including both technical and non-technical tasks. The exact mix depends on the location (office or site-based) and seniority of the post and the employment sector.

There are, for example, differences between working in water supply or treatment and working in flood prevention, although many general engineering functions apply across the board.

Responsibilities often involve:

  • designing overall schemes, such as sewer improvement schemes or flood defence programmes, and associated structures, such as pumping stations, pipework and earthworks (the scale of the design may range from an initial outline to a full, detailed design);
  • preparing tender documents as a basis for construction;
  • reviewing technical submissions;
  • liaising with various bodies and individuals, including local authorities, government agencies, clients, contractors, residents, suppliers, technical experts and other consultants;
  • working collaboratively with other businesses;
  • supporting other project managers and directors within the business and across the wider market;
  • keeping up to date with environmental matters, and being aware of policy and developments in this area;
  • presenting technical data or project results to both technical and non-technical clients and colleagues;
  • monitoring the progress of projects from beginning to end - from the feasibility stage, to design through to construction and handover - or supervising one section of a large project;
  • controlling budgets at project level;
  • administering contracts and ensuring that work is completed to deadline;
  • supervising the operation and maintenance of water and sewerage infrastructure;
  • using computer simulations to analyse, for example, potential dam failure;
  • devising flood defence strategies, perhaps including river and flood plain modelling, economic studies and consultation with affected people;
  • monitoring flood levels at times of high risk;
  • managing staff, including other engineers, technicians and site workers;
  • maintaining and expanding the portfolio of clients, by developing professional relationships that lead to secure repeat business.

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Written by AGCAS editors
December 2014

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