Archive for April, 2012

End of an era

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

A week ago yesterday, JAWRA World Editorial Headquarters, high above downtown Reston, was a viewpoint for watching the last transport flight of the space shuttle, Discovery. I joined some friends (w/champagne!) on a rooftop down the street to witness the fly-overs and landing Dulles Airport.

With the retirement of the shuttles, Americans going to the International Space Station have to hitch a ride with the Russians. Its final fly-over passed near the grave of John F. Kennedy. What would JFK have thought?

What’s to become of American science? The race to the moon, and the shuttle program which followed it, cost a king’s ransom. But we were willing to pay the price, any price, to establish U.S. primacy in science and engineering. And, not only in space: our Clean Water Act of 1972 set the world standard for cleaning up polluted streams, with the Federal Government paying up to 75 percent of construction costs. Many of my generation got our educations and our first jobs thanks to such grand endeavors. And now? Put simply, there is no way our current politicians are going to initiate any program more than a shadow of our past glory.

But we will persevere, working on limited budgets and learning to draw upon the talent of our colleagues around the world. The science is too important to neglect, to let lie stagnant. Someday, we will need it again, to deal with a changing world and to clean up our mistakes.

Advice for reviewers

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Kevin D. Haggerty just published a great article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “How to Write an Anonymous Peer Review.” I could not have said it better myself! Thanks to Associate Editor Matt Heberling for pointing this one out.

Some key points:

  • “If your situation changes and you have to cancel or delay your review, let the editor know immediately in case a replacement must be found.” Indeed! I’ve posted on this point before.
  • “Remember that editors are primarily concerned about whether a paper makes a contribution to the field.” Excellent insight.
  • “It is imperative that you remain civil and provide constructive comments.” Most reviewers do, but a good reminder anyway.

Robust design — avoiding titanic disasters

Friday, April 13th, 2012

One hundred years ago, late in the evening of April 14th, lookouts on the RMS Titanic were scanning the sea ahead. Had the lookouts been asleep, the ship might have crashed head-on into the iceberg … and survived. Alerted, she turned enough to tear open her side. It is the accident you don’t think of that gets you.

Robust design, often mentioned in JAWRA articles, is not just an abstract concept. Engineers are taught, from their first days in engineering school, to built in a “safety factor.” It’s not because we can’t calculate pressures or stress, or the amount of runoff from a given rain event. It’s because there are just so many things we can’t anticipate in dealing with people and nature. Our recent Featured Collection on Nonstationarity brought some of the issues to light.

With budgets tight, we face a constant battle to whittle away at margins of safety and reliability to save a few bucks. The short term is not always the best term. It’s what you don’t think of that gets you.

April 2012 Cover Photo

Monday, April 9th, 2012

The April cover photo comes out of my archives. It’s from a business trip I took to Ireland in May, 2000. Dirty job, but someone had to do it! ;-) Turned out to be the warmest and most beautiful May weather in memory. At least, that’s what they’d like you to believe. I teased my colleagues at the Irish Geological Survey: All those stories about the cold, wet Irish weather were just a plot to keep the Irish Americans from coming back and spoiling the place.

The scene is along the Grand Canal, which runs just south of downtown Dublin. Completed in 1804, the last commercial barge sailed in 1960. Today, the Grand Canal remains operational for a few recreational boats, but mostly it’s just a delightful place to stroll.

AE, Surface Water Hydrology

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

JAWRA Associate Editors (AE’s) serve as primary advisors to the JAWRA Editor. Responsibilities fall into two areas: reviews and subject development. Each AE in the Surface Water Hydrology position handles between 15 and 20 papers per year. All manuscripts are handled through our ScholarOne Manuscripts™system, with the AE selecting reviewers and, when reviews return, making a recommendation to the Editor. AE’s are encouraged to seek out qualified authors in their subject areas and encourage them to submit papers to JAWRA. These could be individual submittals or as featured collections of related papers organized around an introduction.

Associate editorship is a volunteer position earning our heartfelt thanks and an invitation to our annual AE luncheon. It also offers the opportunity to make a difference on the cutting edge of multidisciplinary water resources. The term of an AE is three years, but may be extended by mutual agreement.

Interested individuals should email their CV to the Editor at We are happy to answer any questions. We will hold this position open at a minimum until May 15, but early application is encouraged.

What we talk about

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Here’s a graph sent to me by Steve Bourne. He did an analysis of the abstracts and papers at the recent AWRA Specialty Conference on GIS and Water Resources VII.

Note, even though the conference was in New Orleans, the words, “food,” “oysters,” etc. did NOT appear. Such dedication!

Billy Johnson is leaving.

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Associate Editor for Surface Water Hydrology Billy Johnson is leaving after 5 years of outstanding service to JAWRA. His responsibilities at the Corps of Engineers are growing, so he needs more time for his “day job.” Please join me in wishing Billy the best as he moves on. We will miss him!

I will have announcement out shortly for the position of Associate Editor for Surface Water Hydrology.