Open and close mobile menu


Insights What does a water engineer do and why do we need them?

Water engineering is a division of civil engineering, focusing specifically on water-based projects and may include water treatment, wastewater, or infrastructure development. Water projects are considerably significant because water sustains all life; it is a precondition for human existence and the sustainability of the planet. Water is a complex, and ever-changing resource as it is linked to almost everything in the world, and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for the survival of humans and nature.

The world is in a transformative stage, with growing and aging populations and climate change to consider, therefore projects require expertise and innovations to overcome growing challenges. The industry needs astute water engineers like Pierce to prepare for and mitigate these changes. Water industry jobs are therefore in demand, and there are a variety of exciting and fulfilling projects to consider which will make a real impact on the future of the planet, but what does it actually involve?

image of a water engineering facility

What do water engineers do?

Those who work in water engineering jobs generally have competency in conventional engineering and construction methods and have knowledge of the water industry and environmental issues. There are many career choices with plenty of opportunities in this arena and typically, responsibilities vary from project to project. Water engineers study a broad range of subjects, such as water and wastewater treatment, water infrastructure and water processing and distribution systems. They will understand the environmental, commercial, economic, and social implications of decision-making in the water industry.

A Water Resources Engineer, for example, contributes to infrastructure projects with technical and innovative expertise. Tasks can include reviewing flood insurance revisions and evaluating engineering hydrologic and hydraulic (H&H) analyses to ensure that they are technically accurate and comply with regulations. Other responsibilities may involve designing multiple miles of roadway drainage, like Sydney, Engineer I, who helped design alternative routes for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) using the latest software.

Collaboration is key in water engineering, and Senior Project Managers like Jonathan have found that good quality designs are only established with communication and input from all members of the team to ensure project success. He also says that mentorship has had the greatest impact on his career development at every stage. ”As a young engineer the technical lessons learned from more senior staff were invaluable to my career development—not just what to do but more importantly how to think about technical problems, issues and evaluation of potential solutions”.

Why do we need water engineers?

Water engineers are critical to the sustainability of the planet. According to the UN, water engineers are facing challenges because of rising temperatures. The more extreme, unpredictable weather conditions are expected to affect the availability and distribution of rainfall, melting snow, river flows and groundwater, and further deteriorate water quality. It is estimated that by 2050, the number of people at risk of floods will increase from its current level of 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion, and we will see water supply diminishing leading to droughts. Yet with challenge comes opportunity. Innovative and skilled water engineers are needed to design and deliver sustainable systems that will decelerate climate change and the effect it will have on all living species.

Water is the main means through which we will experience the effects of the changing climate and ensuring everyone has access to sustainable water and sanitation services is crucial for the years ahead. Water engineers must therefore consider a holistic approach to ensure water services are environmentally responsible. That’s why at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, we’re always pushing research and innovation boundaries to find better solutions while providing development opportunities for engineers seeking career advancement. Our deep and broad expertise in the water sector allows us to respond to the most technically challenging and time-critical infrastructure projects that will help us shift towards a low-carbon economy.

Make a real impact towards the future of our planet

At AtkinsRéalis , we’re working to make the world a better place by restoring vital ecosystems, incorporating environmentally responsible processes, and promoting sustainability. With our wide-ranging expertise, our clients in the water supply and quality industry rely on us because we’ve got over a century’s experience designing and building water infrastructure around the world.

If you want to work in a team that uses the latest environmental research and methods to make a real impact on the future of our planet, browse our water jobs today.

If you can’t find something that quite suits you, sign up for our job alerts so you’ll never miss an opportunity.