Water engineer: job description

Water engineers supply, manage and maintain clean water and sewerage/waste water services and prevent flood damage.

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It's important to have a knowledge of and genuine interest in the water industry and environmental issues.

What does a water engineer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Water engineers work on projects such as flood defence schemes and sewer improvement programmes at all stages, from conception and planning to completion and handover. Typical responsibilities include:

  • producing designs, both initial outlines and full plans, of sewerage, water treatment and flood defence structures such as pump systems and pipe networks
  • managing and maintaining water and sewerage infrastructure operations
  • presenting project details and technical information to colleagues and clients
  • writing reports
  • managing project budgets
  • keeping up to date with changes in regulatory legislation and guidelines
  • writing and advertising tender documents and managing contracts
  • liaising with clients, contractors, government agencies, local authorities and suppliers
  • monitoring flood levels
  • supervising staff and site workers
  • using a variety of specialist computer applications/simulation software
  • ensuring that projects keep to budgets and timescales
  • maintaining an awareness of current environmental issues.

Typical employers of water engineers

  • Privately owned water companies
  • Regulatory bodies
  • The Environment Agency
  • The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Local authority environmental health departments
  • British Waterways
  • Private consultants or contractors
  • Charities such as WaterAid

Job vacancies are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers and in publications such as TARGETjobs Engineering , New Scientist , ICE Recruit and New Civil Engineer , as well as their online equivalents.

Qualifications and training required

You can only become a water engineer if you have a degree in a relevant subject such as chemical, civil, mechanical or environmental engineering, environmental science, geology or physical geography. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2 degree. Take a look at our list of engineering employers that accept 2.2 degrees .

A postgraduate qualification may be required for some positions, and can be beneficial for graduates without relevant first degrees. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website and you can read our article on engineering postgraduate study to explore your options.

If you are aiming to work in a technician role, it is possible to enter the profession with a higher national diploma (HND) in an appropriate subject such as mechanical or civil engineering. To find out more about getting into engineering via a school leaver route, visit the engineering section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM). You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.

Key skills for water engineers

  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Teamworking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Good time management
  • IT skills
  • Communication skills
  • The ability to demonstrate a genuine knowledge and interest of the water industry and environmental issues.

Read our article on the skills engineering employers look for for more information and then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres .

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