Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Green Job Series: Careers in Water Conservation [Second Installment]

Engineers work alongside scientists, engineering technicians, and others to apply technical solutions to water conservation. This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series profiles key engineering occupations in water conservation.

Engineering Occupations

Engineers’ role in water conservation is to apply strategies that reduce the use of water. They may develop new technologies that decrease the amount of water used for certain activities. They may also design water delivery and storage systems and water treatment facilities.

Engineers may design and test various types of machinery and water-efficient appliances. They ensure quality control and oversee compliance with standard operating procedures and federal, state, and local regulations. Engineering technicians work under the supervision of engineers to complete many engineering tasks.

Job Duties

Agricultural engineers find technological solutions to reduce water use on farms. They may design agricultural machinery and equipment or irrigation systems that use water more efficiently, and help determine how to deliver the most water for a given type of crop. Agricultural engineers may also be involved in pollution management, preventing runoff from fields that could pollute local water sources.

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects. They may be responsible for the design or upkeep of a city-wide water distribution system or sewer system. They are involved in significant construction projects and may design and supervise construction of a “green” building with water conservation in mind.

Environmental engineers develop ways to improve and protect the water supply. They may prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports and design projects leading to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities. Environmental engineers are also involved with cleaning up pollution or hazardous materials, where they evaluate the extent of the pollution or the significance of a hazard. They may also help with the design of municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems, and they research the environmental impact of proposed projects.

Industrial engineers are involved in improving industrial practices and increasing efficiency. They devise ways to use less water more efficiently. They may design systems that contain or cleanse water that has become contaminated through industrial processes.

Mining and geological engineers use their knowledge to evaluate sources of water, particularly underground sources. Groundwater is typically in aquifers, which may be made up of porous rock, sand, or gravel. Engineers may help identify the boundaries of an aquifer and determine which sites are best for drilling wells to bring water to the surface.


Engineers usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in an engineering field. Engineers in water conservation may specialize, as described above, and usually work solely in that specialty. Licensure as a professional engineer (PE) is recommended and often required, depending on an engineer’s specialty. Entry-level engineers work under the direction of senior or supervisory engineers and may assist senior engineers on sustainability projects.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently does not have wage data specific to the water conservation industry. The table that follows shows wages for selected engineering occupations in May 2012. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Agricultural engineers $74,000
Civil engineers $79,340
Environmental engineers $78,690
Industrial engineers, including health and safety $63,570
Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers $84,320

For more detailed information on engineering occupations in the water conservation industry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next week's water conservation industry series installment: Planning and Outreach Occupations.

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