CEE - Water Resources Engineering Emphasis

Limited availability of fresh water, increasing water demands, and continuing development pressures in flood-prone areas all punctuate the need for well-educated, well-equipped water resources engineers.

A landscape with a flowing river

Water resources engineers fulfill a wide variety of roles in designing and managing water-based systems. These roles include designing major water distribution systems that transport water to water users and collection systems that convey waste and storm water, managing surface and ground water resources, metering and quantifying flows in rivers and streams, modeling and designing major water resources projects (e.g. canals, reservoirs, and hydroelectric works), and many other water-related engineering functions. Water resources engineering can be broadly divided into the three categories of groundwater, hydrology, and hydraulics. Groundwater engineering focuses on modeling and managing subsurface water and designing extraction systems; hydrology is primarily associated with watershed and river modeling and understanding interactions between atmospheric, surface, and subsurface water; and hydraulics (or hydromechanics) emphasizes the mechanics of water flow, including pressurized flow, open channel flow and flow-structure interactions. Each of these areas is taught in the Department of Civil Engineering, with specific graduate and undergraduate courses covering groundwater mechanics and remediation, hydrologic models and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) applications, water resources management, hydraulic systems such as water distribution systems, storm and sanitary sewers, pump configurations, and hydraulic design and modeling of flow in rivers and streams. Courses in water resources engineering prepare students for positions in the public and private sector that require the following skills:

  • Planning and designing water distribution systems, sanitary and storm water collection systems, and the pumping and storage infrastructure required by these systems
  • Designing highway drainage systems and conveyance structures such as culverts and bridges.
  • Managing floodplains and municipal streams and developing floodplain maps and management plans.
  • Managing rivers and reservoirs for recreation, flood control, irrigation, and other multi-use functions.
  • Developing groundwater resources and remediating polluted groundwater resources.
  • Designing the hydraulic features of new hydraulic structures such as dams, locks, hydroelectric stations, levees, erosion control measures, and many other applications.
An example of a water flow system

Students seeking a B.S. in civil engineering are required to complete three 300-level courses that are closely related to water resources engineering: Fluid Mechanics (CIVE 310), Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory (CIVE 319), and Introduction to Water Resources Engineering (CIVE 352). CIVE 352, in particular, provides a good overview of the many possible directions that a water resources engineer can pursue. In addition to the required courses, the Department of Civil Engineering offers two design electives in water resources: Flow Systems Design (CIVE 419) and Water Resources Development (CIVE 452).

The Department also provides technical electives within water resources, including: Hydraulic Engineering (CIVE 454), Surface Water Hydrology (CIVE 456), and Groundwater Engineering (CIVE 458). Undergraduate students interested in water resources engineering can take up to 25 credits of courses related to water resources as part of their major. Below is a list of undergraduate courses available through the Department of Civil Engineering that are specifically associated with water resources. In addition to these courses, there are many other courses at UNL that can help prepare students for a career in water resources, including environmental engineering courses and courses from other departments. Students should speak with their advisors for more information about these opportunities.

Core Intro-Level Courses:

  • CIVE 310 Fluid Mechanics (3 credits)
  • CIVE 319 Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory (1 credit)
  • CIVE 352 Introduction to Water Resources (3 credits)

Design Electives:

  • CIVE 419 Flow Systems Design (3 credits)
  • CIVE 452 Water Resources Development (3 credits)

Technical Electives and Professional Development Elective:

  • CIVE 430 Water Quality Modeling (3 credits)
  • CIVE 454 Hydraulic Engineering (3 credits)
  • CIVE 456 Surface Water Hydrology (3 credits)
  • CIVE 458 Groundwater Engineering (3 credits)
  • CIVE 498 Special Topic: River Hydraulics (3 credits)
  • CIVE 498 Special Topic: Introduction to Groundwater Remediation (3 credits)

View the Undergraduate Course Catalog