Jonny – Hydrogeologist and Director

Water, water, everywhere – even beneath your feet! Not many people think about groundwater when they turn on their tap at home to brush their teeth, but where is your water coming from, what’s it gone through and how did it get there? Jonny Dalton – Hydrogeologist and Director at water engineering company Dales Water Services tells us more….

What attracted you to this job?

Water is in my family, right back from my ancestors being referred to as ‘Plumb’ Bob’s (Roberts) – it’s in my blood so to speak. I’ve known since I was about 14 that water was going to be my life – I was going to be involved in water in some form. As I learnt more at school about geography, science and the hydrological cycle it just confirmed what I already knew.

What does your typical day involve?

Anywhere that uses water I might be there – that means that I might be on a large scale factory or a water bottling business in the morning and at a rural domestic house in the afternoon discussing their water, how to manage and improve it. Some days are office based giving me time to write up information, work our calculations, write reports for clients or catch up on paperwork. No day is ever the same and I get to see some amazing sites and projects but do have to keep the office in check too.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Protecting and using a valuable water resource! Informing people about their water and seeing the difference it makes to people’s lives when originally they only had a poor quality water supply that might make them ill and they turn the tap on and see something that is crystal clear, tastes just as good and there is plenty of it.

What do your friends and family think about your job?

I’m a lucky chap, I work with my father (remember it’s in my family) so we both think about, and talk about, water all day and night. My new wife is a bit less sure and I think she thinks I’m a bit of water ‘geek’ but a loveable one none the less. My friends have got used to me; they are always curious and interested to hear where I’ve been when we talk about work and I think some are envious when they are sat behind a desk all day, every day looking at figures.

Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance

Most of the time my work life balance is fine. I go to work at a reasonable time and go home at a reasonable time too. However, water doesn’t understand holidays and the time of day. That means we are on call pretty much 24/7 including Christmas day – so far I haven’t been out on Christmas day but I recall that my Dad has, when a farm with 300 head of dairy cows had no water something had to be done. Weekend work can, and does, happen.

How did you get to where you are today? (i.e. qualifications and career route)

Firstly by being enthusiastic. No matter what you do this is important as it will motivate you and those around you will recognise it; that helps your career. Getting a mix of qualifications, science, maths and geography, and work experience is also important as it gives you a grounding in the theoretical side of how water, rocks and soil interfaces but also the practical side actually carrying the work out – things are always different when you get out and do them – things never quite work like they do in a text book.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following your path?/ What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field?

Work hard and enjoy what you do. Without hard work both at school, university and in any experience you can get you just won’t get there. If you don’t enjoy your studies, learning about the environment and working with wet stuff you just won’t get there either. The other word of wisdom is always be polite and help your clients as best you can.

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field, and how much can this be expected to rise?

You have to start at the bottom, following university, at 22; I started in a temporary contract for 6 months on approximately £16,000/year, not much considering I had a GCSEs, A-levels, an undergraduate degree, a post graduate degree and work experience but you have to do this. Most employers are not going to employ you on £30,000/year in science and engineering to begin with, you have to accept it and move forward. I bypassed a graduate course at another employer due to being too experienced; however this can be a good route into consulting engineering. However, if you work hard and apply yourself reward comes. I know that senior and very experienced hydrogeologists and consulting engineers at some companies can earn in excess of £70,000/year (if only I did!).

What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

My new wife is the love of my life she makes me laugh every day, she is very good at giving me jobs to keep me occupied as well! In the rest of my spare time I’m a keen gym goer, cyclist and swimmer. I’ve found that these all allow me to de-stress and are the best way to switch back onto home life after being at work. They are also great for keeping you fit if you have to go up a hillside to look at a spring water supply.

Have there been any embarrassing moments?

So far I think I’m embarrassment free! However, standing in cow and pig muck is a constant hazard on farms and some of my colleagues have been known to fall over in the stuff in posh shoes!


To find out more about the team working at dales Water Services please click here.