The Power of Water and Nature

By: Jennifer Hundl, P.E., CFM, ENV SP, LEED© AP
Senior Project Manager – Hydrology & Hydraulics

I like visiting beautiful places in nature that humble me. As a 5’2” woman, it isn’t hard to feel tiny in this world, but the majestic and grandeur of how nature replenishes itself re-energizes me. I think this ignited during my Girl Scout tenure, which included camping, building fires, and going on hikes. To advance in Girl Scouts, we were required to memorize the Girl Scout Law which included statements of “using resources wisely and making the world a better place.”

When I was earning my Girl Scout Gold Award (the highest achievement within the organization, earned by only 5.4% of eligible members), what I did not realize was my project focus would end up being my passion and career- conservation, mitigation and creating sustainable community environments through the management of water with nature. My Gold Award project, coincidently, was to rehabilitate a building that had been damaged by flood waters from the Colorado River. Knowing further flooding was inevitable below 4’, the lower section of the walls were covered with plywood that could be folded up for easy dry out and functioning table space. This kept the structure functional for scout use while alleviating the need to gut and replace drywall each time the waters rose.

I entered Texas A&M University with the goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering, little did I know that it was going to take some time to figure out how to match my career with my personal intrinsic motivation. While earning my undergraduate degree in Agricultural Engineering, I discovered exciting, tangible paths to make an actual difference in the world. I learned methods such as sizing agricultural ditches on farmland to ensure proper irrigation, my first real-life exposure to the mechanics of drainage.  Consequently, I began to realize how much of our lives is connected through water.

My career started in stormwater quality learning about the MS4 regulations and best management practices and completing permit renewals for wastewater treatment plant discharge limits through TCEQ.  I have gained experience in estimating water demands for subdivisions, locating leaks in the water system, and simulating water pressure in case of fire. From my time in Girl Scouts, I learned the intrinsic value I felt helping communities and volunteered to assist with flood damage assessments after Hurricane Ike. After this experience, I transitioned into stormwater management/hydraulics and hydrology and worked on large-scale watershed flood damage reduction planning studies to help communities impacted by flooded.

Additionally, I served as the East Reach Chair of the Green’s Bayou Coalition for seven years. During my tenure, my focus was on the benefits provided through the reduction of flooding such as recreation opportunities, economic development, and enhanced quality of life. I worked on developing Nature Preserves/Outdoor Classrooms located in the flood-prone areas to provide outdoor opportunities to expose children to nature when it is not serving its primary purpose as conveyance and storage during flooding events.

My fascination with majestic qualities of water has its place in my personal life as well. When my husband and I travel, the galleries of our phones are full of photos of waterways, interesting drainage methods and stormwater management techniques we have seen all over the world. You could say we’re pretty serious about conservation of water.

Living and working in a place like Houston where there have been major flooding incidents as well as a sprawling and exploding population brings regular challenges. I want to make the region a better place to live while protecting our natural resources and provide opportunities for our residents to explore nature. “In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir