Panel engineers ensure that all high-risk reservoirs with a capacity over 25,000m3 are regularly monitored by catchment controllers, and as a minimum inspected annually by a Supervising Engineer (SupE) and decennially by an inspecting engineer (typically an All Reservoirs Panel Engineer (ARPE)). These qualified civil engineers advise the asset owners on the behaviour of reservoirs and recommend enforceable measures in the interests of safety, monitoring, and maintenance of the reservoirs.

The need for a mentoring scheme

The BDS has identified the need for a mentoring scheme, due to a steady decline over the last 25 years of ARPE and SupE, with the numbers approximately reducing to a third of the 1994 levels. Recent research undertaken, estimated that only 34 ARPE would remain by 2019 and only 21 would remain by 2022 if current trends continued (Peters et al., 2018). There are currently only 30 ARPE remaining, which is already below the projected numbers from the 2018 paper, this demonstrates the research assumptions were over-optimistic.

Also a recent change to legislation has brought high-risk small reservoirs with a capacity over 10,000m3 within the relevant legislation for Scotland and Wales. This means the total number of reservoirs requiring services by SupE and ARPE’s has increased by 23%. England and Northern Ireland have still to enact these requirements, however if this was enacted this would cause a further 12% increase in reservoirs requiring SupE and ARPE services (Peters et al., 2018).

In order to combat this declining trend and increased demand, the BDS has developed a new mentoring scheme to encourage the next generation of ARPE and SupE. The scheme is primarily aimed at young professionals within the BDS and has been developed and launched by the BDS young professionals (YP) committee.

How the scheme works

The scheme will work through regionally allocated groups coached by civil engineers who are registered on either the ARPE or SupE panel, depending on the candidate’s level of entry. The mentoring scheme will look to offer guidance and support to engineers looking to be appointed to one of the panels. Regular 1-2-1 workshops, information sessions and even mock interviews will be held to give the support needed to complete the professional application processes. The scheme will also provide opportunities to shadow SupE and ARPE as they carry out their duties, including statutory inspections of reservoirs.

What does it hope to achieve?

The BDS hopes that with the mentoring scheme the numbers of SupE and ARPE members will increase year on year. Also, the mentoring scheme aims to contribute to achieving the BDS overall vision to be “a growing, inclusive and vibrant society; sharing knowledge and improving reservoir safety”; as well as to advance the education of the public and the profession and encourage improvements in the planning, design, construction, maintenance, operation and safety of dams.

The importance of such schemes in the industry

The dams and reservoirs industry in the UK faces many challenges in the future, such as an aging asset base, cost challenges, climate change, population growth, and changes to legislation. To overcome these future challenges, it is essential that as an industry investment is made in our engineers to ensure that our professionals can continue to meet the demands of this high-risk industry. This is why initiatives such as the BDS mentoring scheme are not only vital for the BDS but also for the security of water supply nationally. The security of supply will be provided through not only the construction of new reservoirs but also in ensuring the safety and maintenance of our existing reservoirs. The scale of this maintenance challenge is great, bearing in mind that a lot of our current UK reservoir stock dates back to Victorian times.

How to apply

This scheme is available to BDS members who are based in the UK. To register for the scheme a simple registration form can be requested from and once received each applicant will be reviewed by the Young Professionals committee and assigned to a group of likeminded individuals in their geographic region. This group will comprise of mentors from the relevant panels as well as other developing engineers in the same region as the applicant.

A calendar of events will be available for developing engineers to attend, including the dates of any upcoming inspections with the mentors. Requests for presentations and workshops on specific topics can be sent to the YP Mentor Champion (currently Keith MacDonald), who will look to arrange these.



  • HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) (1975) Reservoirs Act 1975. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, UK.
  • Peters A, Goff C, Littlemore D and Williamson T (2018) Inspecting engineer succession planning – plain sailing or choppy waters? Dams and Reservoirs 28(2): 54–61