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Tom Walski, Ph.D, P.E, Senior Product Manager, Water

A cluttered bookshelf filled with books of various sizes.
A cluttered bookshelf filled with books of various sizes.


When I would walk into an engineering office (before the pandemic), I would be concerned by the lack of books on the shelves. I’m told that everything you need these days is on the internet.

Yes, I’ve found useful material on the internet but, it’s hard to find, and you need to wade through a lot of junk to find it. When I really want to find something, I go to a book.

Maybe I’m too old-school (or just old), but I love books and find them essential. Sure, I may only open a certain book only once a year but having it there on the shelf gives me a feeling of security. Some books I may never look at again, but it’s not hurting anyone.

Here is a picture of just one corner of my office. (Note how the books are color-coded.) I have several other bookshelves and filing cabinets in my office and another set of bookshelves with journals in the basement. (I’m concerned that if I put any more books in my second-floor office, my house will collapse.)

OpenFlows Blog Books

I’ve heard that libraries don’t even accept book donations anymore. When I die, my kids will probably just back a dumpster up to the house and toss my priceless books into it. With the books, a lot of knowledge will be lost. Just think if some young Egyptians threw the Rosetta Stone into an early Egyptian version of a dumpster.

I won’t bore you with a complete list of my holdings. I’ll just focus on some important handbooks. See if you have any of these:

  • Sanks, R. et al., Pump Station Design (1989 first edition) with a personal autographed note from Bob Sanks. Since Bob passed away, others are now the authors of later editions. This is a very practical book. The original working title was “Pump Station Design for the Practicing Engineer”.
  • Maidment, D., Handbook of Hydrology (1992, firs edition).
  • Chow,V.T. Handbook of Applied Hydrology (1964). Classic. Maidment was one of Chow’s proteges.
  • Davis, C. and Sorensen, K. Handbook of Applied Hydraulics (1952, I have 1969 edition). Shows how much civil hydraulics has changed. Most of the book was about building dams.
  • Mays, L. Water Resources Handbook, (1996). I wrote the chapter on water distribution. Mays was great for getting people to write chapter in his books for free.
  • Mays, L., Water Distribution Handbook (2000). I wrote, or contributed to the chapters on water quality, storage tanks, rehab/replacement, and reliability analysis.
  • Mays, L. Stormwater Collection Systems Design Handbook, (2001). Are you seeing a pattern here?
  • French, R. Open Channel Hydraulics, (1985). He was one of my professors.

That’s just a sampling of the classics I have on my shelf.

Manuals, published by professional societies like ASCE, AWWA, and WEF, are the most commonly used publications by practicing engineers. They take all those journal papers and try to apply the knowledge to practical problems. I’ve written chapters for many of them. For water distribution modeling, the go-to manual is Computer Modeling of Water Distribution Systems AWWA M-32. I’ve worked on every edition of that one. The one I look at most is Gravity Sanitary Sewer Design and Construction (2007) which is ASCE Manual of Practice No. 60 and WEF MOP FD-6.

With regard to journal papers, keeping old journals is not that important. Most major journals will sell you a copy of any paper (at a fairly steep price). I still have all my old journals (going back to about 1980 for Journal AWWA). But if you know the authors, they’ll usually send you a PDF.

Conference papers are even harder to come by. Through the 1990s, conference papers would be collected and bound into Proceedings. I can still go back decades and find the papers I need. Later, papers were put out on CDs which sounded great. However, more and more, when I try to search a CD I get “format error”, or “corrupted file” message. Later, USB flash drives were the rage, and they still work pretty well even though they are easy to misplace. Nowadays, conference papers are supposed to be available somewhere on the cloud, but just try to find one.

I plan to give a few of the books I wrote to my kids. They’ll hopefully put them in a place of honor on their bookshelves (if they have such things) and say, “My father/grandfather/great-grandfather wrote that book. I don’t understand anything in it, but he wrote it.”

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