Environmental Engineering Roots

Environmental engineering is a relatively new profession with a long and honorable history. The title of “Environmental engineer” interestingly was not used until 1960s in US, when academic programs in engineering and public health schools broadened their scope and wanted to have special and accurate title to describe their material and courses. Thus, the differentiation between environmental engineer and public health or other engineering part hopefully become more clear.

However, environmental engineering can not be separated from its root history, when actually these roots are involving several major disciplines, including civil engineering, public health, ecology, chemistry, although in some extents, biology, geology and mechanical engineering may be included as well. In US, meteorology has been known to be one of the root for environmental engineering, while in other countries, this clearly does not even give its “outside part” for environmental engineering. Civil and chemical engineering have been extensively known as major disciplines for environmental engineering.

We may notice in some countries, say US, European countries, often, environmental engineering is combined with civil engineering, when the courses are integrated in environmental-civil related material categories. Japan, Taiwan or Malaysia, environmental engineering is part of chemical engineering department. This is due to some aspects of environmental engineering indeed are part of chemical reactions, structure and processes.

In Indonesia, let’s take Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology, Department of Environmental Engineering was belong under Faculty of Civil Engineering and Planning. Although it covers chemical and civil parts, but environmental-civil related terms has been extensively taugh to the students. The department itself before 1982 was named Public Health Department. But due to its clear picture between these two subjects, and the human resources they have, it was clear that the path was towards environmental engineering. Besides, there was already a special department of public health covered that substance in other university within the same city.

From each foundation of those roots, the environmental engineering profession draws knowledge, skill, loyalty, dedication and professionalism. From ethics, the environmental engineer draws concern for the greater good.


Environmental engineering is the application of science and engineering principles to improve the environment: air, water, and/or land resources. Science, when this subject is aimed to discover the basic truth, the reason behind the reason of all environmental issues and subjects. Its an engineering, when all the application are dedicated to be implemented and related in benefiting society in a particular area.

The purpose of environmental engineering is clear. It is to provide healhful water, air and land for any living things, human, animals, etc. Polluted and deteriorated sites are able to be remediated by applying environmental engineering techniques.

Scope of Environmental Engineering

Pollutants may be chemical, biological, thermal, radioactive, or even mechanical. Almost the same with its roots, environmental engineering emphasizes several areas: process engineering, environmental chemistry, water and wastewater treatment (sanitary engineering), waste reduction/management, and pollution prevention/cleanup.

WEINER, Ruth F., and Robin A. MATTHEWS (2003):Environmental Engineering (4th ed.).Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann. An imprint of Elsevier Science.

1 thought on “Environmental Engineering Roots

Leave a Comment