The Swiss Army Knife of Engineering

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I am often asked what educational background and skills are required to become a successful water supply engineer. Does one need to be a civil, environmental, mechanical or chemical engineer? Well, if you look at what is required to provide high-quality, safe drinking water to the public, you can see that an engineer in this field must be a jack of all trades. Actually, a water supply engineer must be part hydrogeologist/hydrologist to assess water sources; part environmental/chemical engineer to evaluate water quality; part treatment and part civil/mechanical engineer to design the pumping and piping infrastructure to deliver the water; and part structural engineer/architect in order to lay out building components to house water supply and treatment equipment. You can also sprinkle in elements of electrical engineering to power and control the pumps and related systems used to convey potable water. Being part construction engineer is also important for successful management of a water project in the construction phase. Having solid communication skills is also vital. Being able to effectively communicate is essential to interacting with the project team and the client. Writing skills are also vital to preparing effective engineering studies and preparing project specifications. So a command of the three Rs—Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic—is essential for the creation of a well-rounded water supply engineer. So, if you want to experience the full spectrum of engineering, perhaps you should consider a career as a water supply engineer! Paul Granger, P.E., is Vice President of H2M Water. He can be reached at