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Back to Student ZoneCareers in Dams & Reservoirs Engineering

A timeline showing the various stages in the life of a dam and reservoir are shown below. The key people involved at each stage are shown. Click on an image to see a job description and a typical short CV of someone working in this key role.

Consultant Engineer
Initial Studies
and Design

Consultant Engineer
Construction Engineer Contractor

Engineering Contractor
Owner / Operator

Water Company

Environment agency

Consultant EngineerResponsible for undertaking/directing the necessary studies (ground investigation, environmental impact assessment, topographical surveys, etc.) during the planning phase and then undertakes the design of all structures and produces construction drawings and specification documents for the Contractor to work to. Many different disciplines are involved at the design phase, these can include hydraulic engineers, hydraulic modellers, structural design engineers, geotechnical engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, and environmentalists.

Consultant Engineer Typical CV - Claire Smith

Claire graduated from university two years ago and joined an engineering consultancy firm as a graduate water engineer. She has worked on hydraulic modelling studies in the UK and overseas and has carried out the geotechnical design of small flood embankments and the hydraulic design of a concrete spillway structure for a 30m high dam. Recently she has been attending reservoir safety inspections under Section 10 of the Reservoirs Act 1975 and assisting her senior colleagues. Soon she will be based on site for six months to supervise construction of some 2m high flood embankment dams, and in the next couple of years she is planning to become a Chartered Civil Engineer and apply for appointment to the Supervising Engineers Panel.

Engineering ContractorResponsible for physically constructing the dam in accordance with the design provided by the Consultant. The contractors staff are usually from a general civil engineering background. At the end of construction, the Contractor carries out commissioning tests of all moving parts and hands over the dam and reservoir to the Owner to operate and maintain.

Engineering Contractor Typical CV - Peter Brown

Peter joined an engineering contractor firm after A-levels and has worked on construction sites for many different projects over the last 10 years. These included building several small dams, refurbishing various canal locks, carrying out river training works and constructing flood defence schemes all over the UK. Peter became an Incorporated Civil Engineer two years ago and is currently the Site Agent in charge of construction of a new 20m high embankment dam for an ornamental lake.

Owner/OperatorOperates the reservoir on a daily basis and is responsible for the safety of the dam and reservoir. Owners of large reservoirs are mainly Water Companies, but some are also owned by the Environment Agency and private owners. Water companies tend to employ Civil Engineers or Water/Wastewater Engineers in roles related to reservoir safety/operation. If the reservoir is large enough, it will be subject to the surveillance requirements of the Reservoirs Act 1975, and the Owner (known as the 'Undertaker' under the Reservoirs Act 1975) is responsible for employing specialist Panel Engineers to carry out annual and 10-yearly safety inspections.

Typical Water Company/Owner CV - John Taylor

John joined a large water company three years ago, having worked previously for 10 years as a wastewater engineer for a consultancy firm in the UK and overseas. John is a Chartered Civil Engineer and also a Supervising Engineer under the Reservoirs Act 1975. As the Supervising Engineer, John is responsible for providing constant supervision of his company's reservoirs (under Section 12 of the Reservoirs Act) to ensure they are safe. He also directs the operations staff with regard to the maintenance of the dams and ensures that any civil works are undertaken quickly and safely.

Panel EngineerAppointed to specialist 'Panels' under the Reservoirs Act 1975 and responsible for constant supervision of a reservoir (Supervising Engineer) or for periodic safety inspections (Inspecting Engineer). Duties of these specialist engineers are explained further here Recommendations in the interests of safety made by an Inspecting Engineer are legally enforceable. Most Inspecting Engineers have a civil/geotechnical engineering background in consultancy, and Supervising Engineers come from both consultancy and owners organisations.

Typical Panel Engineer CV - Tony White

Tony is a Chartered Civil Engineer and an Inspecting Engineer on the 'All Reservoirs Panel' under the Reservoirs Act 1975. He works for an engineering consultancy firm and has over 30 years experience in the design, supervision and inspection of dams and hydraulic structures. He has worked in more than 20 countries, lead teams in the design of major structures, and is a world expert in concrete arch dam design. Tony regularly undertakes major safety inspections of large dams in the UK under Section 10 of the Reservoirs Act.

Enforcement AuthorityResponsible for maintaining a register of all reservoirs subject to the Reservoirs Act 1975 and for enforcing provisions for reservoir safety, such as the appointment of Supervising/Inspecting Engineers and the carrying out of recommendations in the interests of safety made by an Inspecting Engineer. In England and Wales, the Enforcement Authority role is carried out by the Environment Agency, and their staff come from a variety of backgrounds that include Civil Engineering, Geography, Ecology and Law.

Typical Enforcement Officer CV - Sarah Jones

Sarah is a geography graduate with a postgraduate degree in law. Since graduating, she has worked in the Environment Agency's Reservoirs Safety team which is responsible for enforcing the Reservoirs Act 1975. Sarah works closely with civil engineers and Panel Engineers to maintain the register of reservoirs subject to the Act and to ensure that reservoir owners keep their dams and reservoirs in a safe condition. In rare cases of non-compliance with the reservoirs Act, the Environment Agency may bring a prosecution against the owner.