Training water resources systems engineers to communicate: Acting on observations from on-the-job practitioners

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


Engineers face the ongoing challenge to effectively communicate for diverse purposes and audiences across multiple settings. The authors interviewed 10 practicing water resources systems engineers to collect their lived experiences of the use of water resources systems analysis in their workplaces. Thematic analysis was used to identify three key communications hurdles practitioners face: stakeholder influence over the communication process, engineers as central to communication and decision making, and communication as an opportunity to educate stakeholders and engineers. Practitioners recommended classroom activities to overcome these hurdles and better integrate communications training into curricula. Recommendations include (1) expanding the use of case studies, (2) adding opportunities for role plays and team activities, (3) providing students with more practice on how to hold effective discussions, facilitate teamwork, and resolve conflicts, and (4) providing students with the broader contexts for class problems, including how political/institutional constraints, bureaucracies, and social issues may constrain communication and technical solutions. This study shares 22 example activities as online educational resources in a free, open, searchable repository and shows how activities can serve as a bottom-up approach to integrate communications training into the engineering curriculum.

Publisher's Statement

©2019 American Society of Civil Engineers. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice