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Water Distribution Modeling History – How Did We Get Here?

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

Water droplet


While other people have hobbies like fishing and golf, one of my hobbies is learning about the history of hydraulics and modeling. As part of that interest, I’m on the ASCE Water Distribution System Analysis (WDSA) History Committee along with a few other similar folks. Recently, I was the lead author for a paper “The History of Water Distribution Modeling”, Journal AWWA, 112:9, 10-16.

Oral history of water distribution modeling

One of the WDSA History Committee projects was to collect the oral history of water distribution modeling. The committee collected 62 interviews of individuals who played some part in the development of water distribution modeling.

The interviews are posted on YouTube.

Check out a few of these interviews. Depending on your interest, they’re a lot better than television.

You can hear interviews with people like:

  • Uri Shamir – one of the pioneers in modeling
  • Don Wood – author of KYPIPE
  • Walter Grayman – a pioneer in water quality modeling
  • Jeff Cruickshank – one of the earliest users of modeling
  • Dave Binning – ran the plumbing system at the White House in the 1980s
  • Bob Clark – retired director of EPA’s water research
  • Bob Mankowski – Bentley’s senior VP over modeling

And the list isn’t just Americans. We have Marco Franchini and Orazio Giustolisi from Italy, Angus Simpson from Australia, Avi Ostfeld from Israel, Juan Saldirriaga from Columbia, and Dragan Savic, Joby Boxall, and Zoran Kapelan from the UK (and other places).

You can even find an interview with me.


Two people notable for their absence are Lew Rossman, who wrote EPANET, and John Haestad, who founded Haestad Methods. We’re still after those guys.

The interviewees tend to be heavily weighted toward the research side of modeling, but there are enough real-world modelers to cover pretty much every aspect of modeling. It’s interesting to see the differences between researchers and practicing engineers.

If you know a modeling pioneer that we missed, let us know how to get in touch with them. I think we need more utility and consulting fields.

With GIS, SCADA data import, digital terrain model and other improvements, building and using models is so much easier today than it was in the old days. It’s fun to go back and look at the path we took to get here and listen to the stories of the people who made it possible.

If you want to look up past blogs, go to https://blog.bentley.com/category/hydraulics-and-hydrology/.

If you want to contact me (Tom), you can email tom.walski@bentley.com

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