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ASU engineer earns international acclaim for water resources work

portrait of ASU professor Larry Mays
December 10, 2014

Arizona State University engineer Larry W. Mays is receiving international recognition for his wide-ranging achievements in water resources engineering and surface water hydrology.

Mays will be awarded the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water – Surface Water Prize in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, on Dec. 15.

The award citation emphasizes his contributions to development of optimization models in hydrology, including real-time optimal dam release during flood conditions and watershed development in urban areas.

It notes in particular, “One of his most unique contributions is to demonstrate how ancient water technologies can be applied today to manage water resources in concentrated urban areas and alleviate many present-day sustainability problems.”

Mays is a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The achievements that earned him the award include authoring three leading textbooks in his field – "Ancient Water Technologies" (2010), "Ground and Surface Water Hydrology" (2012), and "Integrated Urban Water Management: Arid and Semi-Arid Regions" (2008).

The books, according to the Surface Water Prize citation, have had an impact on “water resources engineering and the management of water resources throughout the world.”

The awards ceremony in Riyadh will be part of the 6th International Conference on Water Resources and Arid Environments. The award will be presented by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, HRH Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz. Mays will present a keynote address at the conference.

Mays’ academic career has spanned almost four decades – 13 years at the University of Texas at Austin, and the past 25 years at ASU. In that time, he has been the author, co-author or editor-in-chief of 23 books. His textbooks and reference books are used around the world.

He is a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the International Water Resources Association. He has been a representative to the Universities Council on Water Resources, and a member and president of the council’s board of directors.

Earlier this year, Mays received the ASCE Julian Hinds Award for his research on water resources and hydrosystems engineering “addressing optimization and risk/reliability analysis for their design, management and operation, and his authoritative text and reference books that have had worldwide impact.”

Among other honors, he received a distinguished alumnus award from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Mays is an avid photographer of ancient water systems around the world, and has published books and articles on the topic. His website, at, features some of his work in this area.