Water is becoming the world’s most valuable resource. And it is diminishing while the population is growing, not to mention threatened by devastating pollution. This is creating enormous need for engineers who are trained in the handling of water and its conservation.
The availability of water in natural forms – lakes, rivers and underground – forms only about .03% of our total water supply, but much of the water that could be used is inaccessible, being in remote areas or because of excessive pollution. Rainfall is erratic and climate change means that the supply is generally growing in instability.
As a result many areas in the world face water shortages—Southern Italy, Spain, Greece, most of the Arab states, India, Taiwan, Japan, western Australia, north-western and south-eastern Africa, Mexico, the Peruvian coast, and south-eastern United States. Polluted water is a major cause of communicative diseases, and developing nations suffer because of the lack of storage and distribution systems that would assist clean water to reach all the people.
Water Engineers focus on increasing the supply of water worldwide. They work on a range of solutions, including:
- dam building
- diverting water from excess areas to scarcity areas through link waterways
- artificially recharging ground water
- desalinating sea water
- controlling pollution and reclaiming polluted water through recycling
- controlling/reducing evaporation losses in irrigation
- controlling wastage.
Unfortunately, development is fraught with political and socio-economic problems, such as the displacement of people caused by building dams, ecological damage caused by diverting water, and all concomitant cost challenges. Water engineers are faced with: rising population growth; limiting growth of population in areas of water shortage; devising more efficient industrial processes with less use of water.
As a subset of civil engineering, water engineering focuses on several issues:
- the study of how water reacts in natural systems, such as coasts, estuaries and rivers, as well as manmade environments
- ensuring holistic, integrated management of water, balancing the needs of nature with those of users
- the provision of clean water, disposal of waste water and sewage, and the prevention of flood damage
- repairing, maintaining and building structures that control water resources — for example, sea defence walls, pumping stations and reservoirs
- ensuring the safe delivery of water for irrigation and human consumption, as well as the effective removal or recycling of wastewater
- devising flood defence strategies and monitoring flood levels at times of high risk
- ensuring citizens are provided with a continuous supply of clean, uncontaminated water for drinking, living, and recreational purposes
- designing water management systems – and the construction and maintenance of these systems
- keeping track of the progress of projects from beginning to end – from feasibility to design, through to construction and handover
- having knowledge of all water-related issues, including irrigation; canals; hydrological data; hydraulic engineering – the science of water in motion and the way it interacts with its environment; catchment hydrology and rainfall runoff
- preparing tender documents for construction and reviewing technical submissions
- liaising with various agencies and individuals, including local authorities, government agencies, clients, contractors, residents, suppliers, technical experts, and consultants.
Water control and management presents one of the most challenging and exciting spheres of engineering, truly a job for life! As a vital occupation, the study of water engineering will take you anywhere in the world – and into many affiliated choices. Like water, engineering will always be seen as the very stuff of life!
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