Job Description: Drainage engineer

What does a drainage engineer do? Find out about the typical responsibilities, hours, salary and career opportunities.

What does a drainage engineer do? Find out about the typical responsibilities, hours, salary and career opportunities.

Drainage engineers are skilled civil engineers who specialise in designing and implementing improvements for water drainage systems. The role offers excellent career prospects and in some cases international opportunities.

As a drainage engineer you could specialise in directing rainwater runoff from motorways and roads, controlling irrigation and flooding on farmlands, or diverting sewage and pollution away from water sources.

Job vacancies for drainage engineers exist within the public and private sectors, as well as not-for-profit environmental organisations.

The day-to-day

  • Visiting sites to decide what type of system is needed to control the water
  • Time in the office creating blueprints for water drainage designs
  • Inspecting the areas where your designs have been implemented
  • Getting involved with the on-site construction of some of your designs
  • Investigating problems to determine whether there is a blockage or leak
  • Surveying drainage systems
  • Repairing and unblocking pipelines

Key responsibilities

The core responsibilities will vary by organisation and may include a combination of:

  • Applying a risk-based approach to identify, design and implement drainage improvement programmes
  • Designing SUDS (soakways, swales and balancing / attenuation ponds)
  • Hydraulic modelling of surface water drainage networks along with online or offline storage solutions
  • Engineering appraisals of developable land
  • Maintenance and repair of drainage pipelines such as sewage and wastewater
  • Calculating costs for materials and labour
  • Estimating project timescales
  • Acquiring the funding and labour necessary to implement large-scale projects

Key skills

  • An understanding of the core principles of civil engineering
  • Hydraulic design
  • Civils 3D CAD
  • WinDES micro-drainage modelling
  • Good customer service skills
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Driving licence


A civil engineering degree of 2:1 or higher is often expected and many drainage engineers also have a master’s degree. In addition, a desire to work towards a professional qualification with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is often required.

Relevant experience

A minimum of two years experience of working on sewage and wastewater pipelines and systems is normally required. You may also need proven experience clearing drains and blockages, as well as in the use of jetting equipment and CCTV.


Basic working hours are 40 hours per week plus paid overtime, which most organisations require on some evenings and weekends. Many companies in this industry operate standard working hours of Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm. There are also some opportunities to work from home.


Salaries vary by location, sector and experience. A typical range is £20,000 - £25,000 plus overtime and benefits.

Career opportunities

A drainage engineer can progress onto a number of different roles including:

  • Senior drainage engineer
  • Senior civil service engineer
  • Principal drainage engineer

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