A day in the life of a Senior Environmental Hydrologist

Helena Du Roe MCIWEM tells us about a typical day as a Senior Environmental Hydrologist at Enzygo Ltd

Helena has worked in the sector for 7 years after completing a BSc (Hons) in Geography and Natural Hazard Management and an MSc in Flood Risk Assessment, Modelling and Engineering.

What does a typical day look like?

Each day brings something new and unique. Whether I am in the office, working from home, or out on-site, my tasks vary. A typical workday might involve:

  • undertaking a Site walkover to ascertain Site conditions, onward connectivity of a watercourse or validating the location of cross-sections and structures shown on a channel survey,
  • preparing flood risk scoping reports and conducting Flood Risk Assessments following regulator guidelines,
  • creating Hydrology Environmental Statements,
  • performing Sequential and Exception Tests,
  • conducting Water Quality Assessments,
  • assessing Coastal Erosion Vulnerability,
  • working with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) databases for high-level and detailed flood risk analysis,
  • building 1D, 2D, and combined 1D2D flood models using industry-standard software like HEC-RAS, ESTRY-TUFLOW, and Flood Modeller.

It is a dynamic mix of tasks that keeps my workday interesting.

Tell us about your team

Our team is comprised of diverse staff members with varying backgrounds and degrees. Many team members have prior experience in both smaller and larger consultancies. The unique skills brought by each team member create a rich pool of knowledge. Whether the request relates to flood risk, project management, drainage design, or hydraulic modelling, there is always someone available to help.

What is the purpose of your role?

In my role, I finalise hydrological assessments and construct/run hydraulic models. Additionally, I take on a project management aspect, overseeing interactions with clients and contractors.

I also contribute to training team members in the use of technical software essential for our projects. Some of the software tools I work with include HEC-RAS, ESTRY-TUFLOW Flood Modeller, BricsCAD, and QGIS. This role allows for effective project and knowledge sharing.

Tell us about a recent project

Recently, the Environment Agency accepted my Flood Map Challenge for Moor Stream in Swanmore. The process involved deriving hydrology for the watercourse catchment, commissioning a surveyor to collect channel cross-section and structure information, constructing a hydraulic model based on the survey, and producing a comprehensive baseline modelling report. The model underwent three rounds of rigorous review by the Environment Agency to meet their stringent standards. As a result, the updated flood outlines for Moor Stream were incorporated into the online flood maps in November 2023.

What do you love about your role?

The varying complexity and breadth of projects mean that no two are the same. The work varies from looking at commercial and residential developments to site suitability for essential energy infrastructure and building, running, calibrating and validating hydraulic models to looking at flood risk or checking flood defence schemes. Also, being able to teach others technical skills to enhance their skills is a rewarding part of the job.

What challenges do you face?

Two main challenges come to mind. The first is dealing with a range of clients, whose projects and personalities vary greatly. Having the ability to adapt to the needs of the situation being presented is a core skill but also the most challenging part of the job.

The second challenge is keeping on top of policy changes released by national agencies. As these are used to guide the project that is being completed, it is important to note key changes that may affect the submission of a planning application.

What skills do you need for your role?

The main skills I use daily are a basic understanding of mathematical principles, interpersonal skills for client interactions, time management, financing and resourcing, and a willingness to learn from my peers.

You also must be able to learn from regulator responses, as it is very rare for there to be no revisions required to reports and models that have been submitted to the relevant authorities. Though you can learn from the regulator's responses for the next submission, allowing you to grow as a consultant.

What would you say to someone wanting to do your role?

Be on the lookout for work placements during your time at university to gain contacts. Alternatively, get involved with research projects or volunteer opportunities with organizations involved in water/environmental management.

Work experience will improve your understanding of hydrology, data collection, fieldwork and the environmental section, which may just give you the edge when someone is looking at your CV to consider you for a position.

This article was first published on Thursday 27 June 2024.

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