Flood and Water Management – A Day in the Life

Flood and Water Management – A Day in the Life

Wrapping up our showcase of our Flood and Water Management team, find out what a day in the life of one of our engineers looks like! We spoke to Civil Engineer Stefan Hoefer who had this to say:

Why do you think Flood and Water management is important?

“With an increase in urban sealed area and climate change, flooding events are becoming more frequent. Therefore, the design of urban drainage is crucial to protect everyone’s home and other infrastructure. With modern green infrastructure, not only flooding issues can be addressed, at the same time new natural habitats within urban areas can be created and biodiversity can be increased. If a flooding scheme relates to a watercourse, the flood protection measures can often be combined with renaturation measures. So many measures do not just benefit our society, they benefit nature too.”

What do you do?

“Since joining Project Centre, I have been working on a huge variety of projects:

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) schemes usually relate to urban areas with flooding issues and exceeded sewer capacities. Incorporating green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, tree pits, swale, detention basins, can help reducing flood issues by reducing the maximum flood discharge rate. They also provide new habitats and help increasing the water quality.

For those types of project, we need to assess the expected flooding volumes and peak flow rates, where there is enough space to implement SuDS and which type matches the circumstances best. We also need to check local constraints like existing utilities and where we can connect our outflow to.

I also work on drainage schemes. If there is a carriageway resurfaced or redesigned or newly built, then underlying drainage will be analysed as well. This can include the incorporation of SuDS, but other items need to be designed as well such as gullies, carrier drains, detention features (e.g. geocellular storage tanks), soakaways and more.

For those projects, the level design of the carriageway needs to be assessed, in order to space gullies or SuDS in a way that their capacity can cope with the design rainfall event. Considering similar constraints as mentioned above (mainly existing utilities and levels), a solution needs to be found on how to store and convey the water to the next feasible point of discharge.

I have been involved with integrated catchment modelling where a hydraulic model is developed for a whole drainage catchment including the surface shape and existing drainage infrastructure. Then we can analyse with different rainfall events where there will be flooding and how severe it will be. Then we can calculate expected damages to properties or propose measures in locations where they are most effective.

We have modelled the dams of two reservoirs for a client to investigate the damage which could arise should a dam breach ever occur. We modelled the flood wave for different breach events to point out properties at risk and expected warning times.

We sometimes do river modelling projects where we create a hydraulic model of a longer section of a river, to show where there are the highest risks of flooding affecting urban areas and what measures could be implemented to protect existing infrastructure. Those measures can be soft or hard measures, anything from adjustments to the cross section of the river (and a chance to make it more natural) to hard engineered measures like flood protection walls. We also do a lot of flood risk assessments.”

How did you get into the industry?

“At school, I always preferred technical subjects and science (maths, physics, biology, chemistry). But rather than very theoretical things, I wanted to study something more tangible, so I ended up choosing civil engineering. During my study, I had the chance for different work experiences to help me decide which major I should choose. I was working as a construction worker on a building site as a summer job to see the other side of it, how it is to actually construct the design. I also had the chance to work for a Non-Governmental Organisation during my studies. My fellow students and I could design a wooden footbridge and then fly to Kenya to supervise the construction. I always had a passion for nature, hence I ended up choosing my second major apart from structural design to be “Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management”. While working on my Master Thesis, I got offered a position in an engineering company to work on hydraulic design of rivers and renaturation schemes. I got the chance to actually do something good for nature, to give back some natural habitat which humanity stole years ago by culverting rivers. So, I did not need to think too much before I took this offer.”

What would you say to someone who wants to become a Flood and Water Engineer?

“This is definitely worth it. Working as a Flood Engineer is very diverse, everything to do with natural rivers and watercourses. Also retrofitting SuDS features is a different challenge every time. In general, our team has a wide spectrum of work to do, so it is never boring.

There are also different ways into working for our Flood and Water Management Team. Depending on the area of expertise, the most common career path is either to study as Civil Engineer for Drainage Design or a study in Geography/Environmental studies for Flood modelling or Flood risk assessments and Flood risk strategies.”

What makes flood and water management your passion?

“Every day we help to create a better place! Every day is different, so this never gets boring!”