Bethan Young is hydraulic modeller for Waterco Consultants where she is involved with helping clients anticipate and mitigate flood events.
Describe your job
I build hydraulic models of rivers and coastal areas to simulate flooding in areas of concern or where development is proposed. A large part of my job involves reviewing the catchment and working out the shape and peak of the inflow hydrographs for the hydraulic model.
Why does your job matter so much?
My job forms the basis for the design of a building or flood defence and can be detrimental if not done correctly. It can also be the deciding factor as to whether a scheme can go ahead. If it is shown to flood we can design and model flood compensatory storage schemes to alleviate the risk.
What stands out as the most interesting project you’ve worked on?
We worked on an existing National Trust property in South Wales. It was flooding at least twice a year from fluvial and surface water flooding. There were two main watercourses joining within the site and culverted through the site which caused
major problems during peak rainfall events. The culvert was too small and often blocked. A separate surface water problem affected a building which required a thorough review of the catchment and flow paths to confirm the source of the water. We modelled mitigation measures such as upsizing the culvert, flood meadows, enlarging existing flood alleviation ponds, flood alleviation channels and slot drains for the surface water issues.
How does your role impact on the built environment?
The hydraulic model will show the water level during a flood at the development site which in turn will determine whether development is feasible and if flood compensatory storage is required.
How did you get into the job? What was your career route?
I finished my degree in Environmental Earth Sciences in Aberystwyth in June 2012 and asked Waterco for work experience with the intention of trying out a few jobs before I knew which direction I would like to head in. However, after a month, I realised that I loved the job and wanted to learn more.
How do you explain what you do to your friends and family?
I say that I model rivers on a computer using survey data, catchment descriptors and light detection and ranging data (LiDAR) to determine the flood risk to development sites.
How do you see it changing in next five years?
With each year comes more flow and rainfall data for catchments all over the UK, and with better gauged data come more reliable results. Surveying equipment and modelling software are also improving all of the time. The next advancements will be in real time modelling to help predict flash floods, and increasing accuracy of urban models as we aim to mitigate all sources of flooding.
What is the logical career progression for you?
I would like to become chartered over the next couple of years and work my way up to oversee my own hydrology department.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming an engineer?
Go for it! The people are great and if you like numbers, geography and deadlines you can’t go wrong.