Water/Wastewater Engineers


Exploring this Job

Part-time or summer employment in a wastewater treatment plant is a good way to gain experience while learning more about this field. Conduct an informational interview with a water/wastewater engineer to find out what they do in their work and how they got started in this profession. Ask your school's career services office for help with the job search and setting up an interview with an engineer. See if it is possible to visit a water and/or wastewater treatment plant to observe its operations. Investigate courses and requirements of any programs in wastewater technology or environmental resources programs offered by a local technical school or college. Learning about water conservation and water quality in general is useful. Government agencies or citizen groups dedicated to improving water quality or conserving water can educate you about water quality and supply in your area. Visit https://www.wef.org and search for its publication Following the Flow: An Inside Look at Wastewater Treatment.

The Job

Water/wastewater engineers oversee projects that involve water supply systems or the disposal of wastewater and sewage. They make sure that water is safe to drink and that wastewater is disposed of and treated according to regulations. Wastewater from homes, public buildings, and industrial plants is transported through sewer pipes to treatment plants. The wastes include organic and inorganic substances, some of which may be highly toxic, such as lead and mercury. Engineers design various aspects of wastewater collection, including pumping stations and systems, pipelines, force mains, and sewers. They may also design water or wastewater treatment plants for domestic or industrial facilities. 

Water/wastewater engineers work closely with other engineers, technicians, and technology professionals, providing direction and supervision on various water and wastewater projects. They conduct studies on the feasibility of constructing facilities such as water and wastewater treatment plants, runoff collection networks, water supply systems, and wastewater collection systems. They analyze the drainage systems used for stormwater or floodplains, to control erosion, stabilize river banks, repair channel streams, or to design bridges. Engineers also collect data on water usage so that future water demand can be predicted and met.

Other tasks that water/wastewater engineers have include performing hydraulic analyses of water supply systems and distribution networks, testing for pressure losses and identifying potential risks and areas for improvement in operational efficiency. They analyze the chemical, biological, and wastewater treatment methods used for domestic or industrial use and make recommendations for improved methods. They conduct studies of water quality, identifying and characterizing the sources of water pollutants. The job also entails reviewing and critiquing water or wastewater treatment system proposals, plans, and designs. Engineers write and present technical reports on their findings related to water use efficiency and water resources development. They prepare environmental documentation in compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.

Water/wastewater engineers spend a good part of their workday on computers, reading and reviewing reports. They use a variety of software programs for the job, including analytical or scientific software such as KYPipe, Minitab, and NIWA Tideda; computer-aided design software like Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D and Bentley SewerCAD; map creation software such as ESRI ArcGIS software and MapInfo; as well as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Excel.