2016 Distinguished Member Helps California Use Water More Responsibly


California has had more than its fair share of water crises in recent years, but fortunately, it can tap Jay Lund’s abilities to help solve the problem.

Acclaimed in the Golden State as a leader in reservoir management and operation, water demand management, and incorporation of water markets into water resources systems, Lund, Ph.D., F.EWRI, Dist.M.ASCE, has had a significant influence on state and federal policy for California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. His efforts have made him a deserving addition to the class of 2016 ASCE Distinguished Members.

“A lot of what I do now is try to communicate these engineering ideas to policymakers and economists,” Lund said. “I was very lucky. The mathematics and optimization I was using in engineering fits very well with the concepts of economics. It is pretty easy to join those two kinds of models.”

Lund is chair of the Delta Independent Science Board, a permanent panel of prominent experts who evaluate programs that support adaptive management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. His pioneering work includes development of an economic optimization model for California’s water resources system.

“I basically consider myself a theoretician, and I just kind of fell in with a bad crowd who gets it applied,” laughed Lund.

Often these applications have helped change public policy regarding regional water management, groundwater quality and quantity, water rights, water storage planning, and drought management. The key, Lund said, is learning how to view the problems from stakeholders’ and politicians’ points of view.

“Typically water agencies and politicians are not all that interested in what an academic has to say,” Lund said. “But there are really tough problems, and sometimes the political process gets bogged down. They look for someone who has some technical expertise who looks at it from a nonstakeholder perspective.”

As director of the Center for Watershed Sciences and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis, Lund finds many of his students are eager to help solve California’s water challenges.

“It’s wonderful,” Lund said. “We have these big computer models of the state of California. The students work on them and make them better, and they’re learning about water management.

“It’s been great for the students, and, I think, for the agencies and me and the university. Everybody benefits when we find ways for university professors to engage in practical problems.”

Lund has served as editor and associate editor of ASCE’s Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. Among his many awards, he received the ASCE Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize and the Julian Hinds Award.

Distinguished Membership is the highest honor ASCE can bestow. It is reserved for civil engineers who have attained eminence in some branch of engineering or in related arts and sciences, including the fields of engineering education and construction.

The 2016 class of Distinguished Members will receive their honors at the ASCE 2016 Convention, Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, in Portland, OR.

Read about each of the 2016 Distinguished Members.

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