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What are the Different Types of Water Resources Engineer Jobs?

Carey Reeve
Carey Reeve

Several branches of civil engineering include activities that would fall under the description of water resources engineer jobs. There are positions within the fields of agricultural engineering, hydraulic engineering, municipal engineering and environmental engineering. Projects such as hydroelectric power plants, irrigation systems, wastewater management systems and the supply of drinking water require water resource engineers to evaluate situations, plan solutions and oversee implementation of plans. Employers providing water resource engineer jobs include local, regional or national governments; branches of military; private companies; and even individual citizens.

In agricultural engineering, a water resource engineer might plan irrigation projects, examine what areas will be affected by runoff from a farm that may contain pesticides or fertilizers and analyze the risk that a potential farmland will flood. Water resources engineer jobs in hydraulic engineering include aiding in the design of new bridges to minimize the blockage of water during a flood stage event, determining the optimal design of culverts in various settings, designing projects to protect the banks of streams from erosion and designing drainage systems to prevent flooding of roadways and bridges. Planning sewage systems, water treatment plants, fresh water supply and assessing the location of landfill sites with regard to the safety of the water supply and storm drainage are water resources engineering projects that fall under municipal engineering. Some areas in environmental engineering that are related to water resources engineering overlap with areas of agricultural and municipal engineering: wastewater engineering, examining runoff from farms and analyzing the risk that landfills pose to the water supply. The emphasis in environmental engineering, however, is on the effects that contamination, pollution and the diversion of water have on the health of the ecosystem.

Some water resources engineers work on hydroelectric dams.
Some water resources engineers work on hydroelectric dams.

Training and education required for water resources engineer jobs include four-year degrees that provide a strong foundation in mathematics and the physical sciences including physics, chemistry, geology and biology in addition to courses in engineering. Hydrology, the study of water as it behaves naturally in the water cycle; hydraulics, the study of the physics of the movement of fluids; and hydrochemistry, the chemical interactions of water, are all important areas of study within the water resources engineer major. This field of work is innovative and technologically driven, and it requires ongoing professional development through workshops and training courses. These training sessions might cover how to use new computer programs, new study strategies and new analysis guidelines. Sources of the most current information regarding water resources engineer jobs include colleges, universities and trade associations.

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Discussion Comments


My uncle is a water resource engineer and he specializes in working with desert areas to maximize food production with little water.

A lot of people don't know this, but they do a ton of farming in Israel despite its desert location. It is easier to grow what they can since they have a lot of neighbors who don't exactly welcome cargo traffic headed that way to fly over or pass through on a train. Imports have to come through a few small corridors, so they prefer local produce.

Basically they use very sophisticated irrigation equipment that delivers a remarkable percentage of the water where it needs to be, even in the extreme heat. It has allowed a barren desert area to become some of the world's most lush farmland. This technology could be used in lots of other places to help increase the food supply, but it is very expensive.


@Umbra21 - We have had the luxury of being lazy for a long time, due to abundant resources and technology. You are right, there are all kinds of places, particularly urban areas, that are built where they are not going to be able to sustain their populations on the amount of available water if something doesn't change.

Phoenix, Arizona comes to mind. It has grown so quickly, and it is in the middle of a desert. I am amazed that it has lasted this long.

I like your idea of harvesting rainwater. There are also a bunch of other cool things that can be done, like using "gray" water (that comes from sinks and showers) to water lawns or flush toilets, instead of the millions of gallons of fresh water we use now. There are also things that can be done with desalinating salt water, but that is expensive and uses a lot of energy.

One way or the other, we are going to have to do something, and engineers will have a leading part in the process. If you're good at math this would probably be a good career choice.


@browncoat - The developing world is going to be a huge market for water engineers in the coming years. Especially in areas where the population is exploding, water is a serious problem, and so is sanitation.

If you think about it, even in the United States, which has very few water problems compared to other places, we pay more for water than for gasoline sometimes (bottled water). Everyone needs water every day to survive. This is, unfortunately, a real growth area.


Water management is really crucial for urban areas, and it should really be made much more efficient. There are so many places that are starting to run out of water, because they have been drawing on ancient supplies that don't have the time to replenish themselves.

This is made worse by the concrete that prevents water from being absorbed back into the earth in so many cities.

If water was properly harvested from rain though, it would make this much less likely.

Water resource engineers need to start taking this into consideration when they go about their planning.


When I was an aid worker in Africa there were quite a few water resource engineers around. They had a lot of different jobs to choose from.

The obvious thing, of course, is providing fresh and clean water with pumps and wells.

But they also had to consider things like sewage, and irrigation and river management.

Often water is linked to disease. Not only from drinking contaminated water, but also from water that is left to stand on the streets and provides habitation for mosquitoes and so forth.

So, anyway, there is always going to be a demand for water resource engineers in developing nations. If you have the skills to share, it is a great way to spend your time.

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    • Some water resources engineers work on hydroelectric dams.
      By: blackcurrent
      Some water resources engineers work on hydroelectric dams.
    • Some engineers design projects intended to decrease stream side erosion.
      By: andrewburgess
      Some engineers design projects intended to decrease stream side erosion.
    • Water resource engineers might focus on drinking water supplies.
      By: Andrey Kuzmin
      Water resource engineers might focus on drinking water supplies.
    • A water resource engineer may plan irrigation projects.
      By: Phillip Minnis
      A water resource engineer may plan irrigation projects.