What is Environmental Engineering?

Tue, 2011-11-15 00:27 -- adminssee


Environmental engineering is the integration of science and engineering principles to improve the natural environment (air, water, and/or land resources), to provide healthy water, air, and land for human habitation and other organisms, and to remediate pollution sites.

Environmental engineers are also involved in removing problems caused by past activity, such as cleaning contaminated industrial land so it can be used for housing. They predict what problems may be caused by environmental accidents (such as oil spills) and determine any issues that may cause long term environmental issues.

They also plan and design equipment and processes for the treatment and safe disposal of waste material and direct the conservation and wise use of natural resources. They are involved in research and development of alternative energy sources, water reclamation, waste treatment and recycling.


Environmental engineers may work in a diverse range of sectors including;

Government: regulation, monitoring and compliance which includes, developing environmental policy, infrastructure planning, delivering environmental impact assessments and sustainability reports.

Industry: planning and developing corporate environmental management systems and programs and; managing environmental aspects of manufacturing and production processes and sustainability.

Consulting: providing specialist services to both public and private sector organisations on environmental and sustainability issues.

Academia: teaching or researching environmental engineering or environmental management.

Public interest groups: advocating for environmental protection.

International agencies: transferring knowledge and technology to the developing world.

Professionals from the fields of natural and applied sciences, architecture, town planning, law, economics and civil, mechanical and chemical engineers may also be involved in specialist fields such as environmental law, hydrology, traffic planning, acoustics and pollutant dispersion to name a few.

Principal areas of practice may include:

  • Water and waste water treatment
  • Surface and groundwater system environmental management
  • Waste management
  • Contaminated land assessment and remediation
  • Environmental protection, management and pollution control
  • Environmental  modelling
  • Environmental  management system design
  • Environmental impact  assessment  and environmental management planning
  • Environmental information systems
  • Natural resource management
  • Natural system accounting, including economic evaluation
  • Social impact analysis, community consultation, dispute resolution etc
  • Sustainable energy planning  and design
  • Sustainability policy and planning
  • Green purchasing
  • Socially responsible investment
  • Environmental risk assessment  and management
  • Environmental policy formulation


If you are a student or graduate and are looking to connect with an employer visit the Engineers Australia Connect Web page.


Over the last three years, the Environmental College of Engineers Australia has been involved with the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) (now the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT)), funded project entitled: Defining your Discipline (DYD) to Facilitate Curriculum Renewal in Undergraduate Programs.

The aims of this project were to:

  1. Identify and develop an efficient, effective and inclusive consultation process that can be used by discipline stakeholders to define graduate outcomes for a discipline
  2. To use the consultative process to deliver nationally agreed graduate outcomes for environmental engineering

This has now been completed and the two reports from this project have now been published.

The outcomes of this project are titled: The DYD Stakeholder Consultation Process, A User Guide” and “A Graduate Capability Framework for Environmental Engineering Degree Programs:  A Guide for Australian Universities”

The Environmental College will use the results of this process to update the existing  guidelines for accrediting environmental engineering courses across Australia (Stage 1 competencies) and to develop  guidelines for assessing and auditing applications for NPER (Environmental), which requires Stage 2 competencies to be assessed. It is envisaged that universities will use this graduate capability framework to develop and review their environmental engineering courses.