Hydrotechnical Engineering


Water plays a central role in irrigation, hydroelectric power production, water supply, navigation, flood control, erosion control, fisheries, drainage and land transport of pollutants. The utilization and management of water resources must be accomplished efficiently and economically, yet with assurance that there will be no detriment to the long-term potential of the resource itself or to the general well being and environmental quality of the surrounding region. Meeting these objectives requires great care in assessment, planning, design and management of water resources development. This, in turn, demands an understanding of many areas: the availability, distribution and quality of water, at rest and in motion, as it relates to the analysis and design of hydraulic components and structures; natural processes such as erosion, sedimentation, river mechanics, and coastal processes; and methods for planning and operating the resource system in an optimal way. Responsibility for these activities rests largely with civil engineers.

Professional Outlook

Graduate students select their main field of interest, and their individual programs are decided, in consultation with a faculty advisor.  Since hydrotechnical engineering is such a broad field for graduate study, students may specialize in one aspect, such as hydrology, hydraulics, environmental fluid mechanics; or alternatively, students may choose a broad program such as water resources management, which would include elements of hydrology, hydraulics, systems engineering and pollution control engineering.

Key Areas

  • Theoretical, numerical, laboratory and field investigations of the movement of nutrients and pollutants in lakes, inland and coastal waters;
  • Flow instabilities, turbulence, and mixing in density stratified flows;
  • Sediment transport in rivers and tailings ponds;
  • Hydrologic modelling for flood control planning and management studies;
  • River restoration;
  • Urban hydrology;
  • Application of optimization techniques and decision analysis to hydraulic design, the operation of multi-purpose reservoirs, lake water and river quality problems, fishery management and the design of water resource systems;
  • Development of basin planning methods;
  • Hydrologic data gathering network design;
  • Wave damping and diffraction and wave induced loading of structures.

Media Highlights

Specialization Requirements

Elective courses (min. credits) 29 17 29
Seminar course CIVL 597-102/202 CIVL 597-102/202 CIVL 597-102/202
Thesis course N/A CIVL 599 CIVL 699

Elective requirements

Electives may be taken from the list of Approved Electives below, or other electives may be taken with the approval of the Specialty Advisor / Supervisor.

Undergraduate students who are interested in Hydrotechnical Engineering are directed to the following courses:

  • CIVL 415
  • CIVL 416
  • CIVL 417
  • CIVL 418

Graduate Courses

Approved Graduate Elective CoursesNameCreditsTerm
CIVL 518Reliability and Structural Safety31
CIVL 523Project Management for Engineers32
CIVL 524Legal Aspects of Project & Construction Management31
1CIVL 540Advanced Coastal Engineering32
CIVL 541Environmental Fluid Mechanics3N/A2
CIVL 542Physical Limnology3N/A
CIVL 543Turbulent Fluid Dynamics3N/A
CIVL 546Fluvial Hydraulics3N/A
CIVL 547Estuary Hydraulics22
CIVL 555Opt. & Heuristic Approaches for Civil Eng Sys32
CIVL 556Modeling & Optimization of Civil Engineering Systems31
CIVL 558Water Resources Infrastructure2N/A
EOSC 511Num. Techniques for Ocean, Atmosphere & Earth Sci31
EOSC 532Field Laboratory in Groundwater Hydrology32
EOSC 533Advanced Groundwater Hydrology31
SOIL 515Integrated Watershed Management31
SOIL 516Urban Watershed Management31
SOIL 518Water in International Development32
Approved Undergraduate ElectivesNameCreditsTerm
CIVL 415Water Resource Engineering32
CIVL 416Environmental Hydraulics31
CIVL 417Coastal Engineering32
CIVL 418Engineering Hydrology31
EOSC 329Groundwater Hydrology31
EOSC 429Groundwater Contamination31

1Credit will only be granted for one of CIVL 417 / 540.

2N/A – not offered in 2020/21.


To learn more about Hydrotechnical Engineering at UBC, please email gradsupport@civil.ubc.ca.



We have two purpose-built laboratories for research in hydrotechnical engineering, including a 900 square metre modern hydraulics laboratory with a circulating capacity of 0.3 m3/s and eight pieces of apparatus, and a second graduate experimental space that houses two lasers and two other flumes. Learn more.