Jul 132010
Authors: Abel Oshevire

Longtime CSU professor Jose Salas was the recipient of this year’s American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE, Ven Te Chow award.

Salas, who hails from Lima in Peru, was given the award for his dedication and commitment to research in the field of hydrology.

“Coincidentally, the first person to receive the Ven Te Chow award was my graduate professor when I was at CSU. This definitely has got to be the highlight of my career,” he said.

Established in 1995, the award recognizes individuals whose lifetime achievements in the field of hydrologic engineering have been distinguished by significant contributions in research, education or practice.

Salas, who has been at CSU for 34 years, described the award as a dream come true, considering the big names that have received the award before him.

Salas dedicated the award to his co-workers and graduate students because, he said, he couldn’t have gotten the award without their efforts.

Luis Garcia, chair of the Civil Engineering Department, said the whole office was proud that Salas was recognized for his work.

“He has done a great deal to move the state of the science forward in stochastic hydrology and time series analysis, and he is greatly deserving of this award,” Garcia said.

Hydrology is the study of water (usually in the form of precipitation) movement throughout the earth. Sometimes the water goes into the soil or stays on top and evaporates back into the sky.

This process, Salas said, is known as a hydrologic cycle.

“Since most of these river basins are connected, the water tends to flow to different streams. Our job involves measuring and understanding these processes that occur in nature,” he said.

Salas, whose expertise is applying statistical probability for understanding major river basins and specializes in the prediction of floods or droughts, said that very intense precipitation could cause erosion.

He added that sediment and chemicals from soil fertilizers flowing to the streams could be hazardous, so it was essential to study both the natural system of river basins and human influences.

Salas said in the past, Colorado has faced water issues following a series of droughts, the latest in 2002 and 2003.

“One of the challenges for the state is having the right amount of water for itself and at the same time, giving the other states the right amount of water but not too much,” he said.

Some major rivers in Colorado include the Colorado River, which flows through Utah, Arizona and California, and the Rio Grande, which flows to New Mexico.

“Colorado has a compact with these states, which stipulates that Colorado must allow a certain amount of water to these states,” Salas said.

Salas received his Ph.D. in hydrology in 1972 at CSU and spent a year as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He arrived back at CSU as a professor in 1976 after working for the Peruvian government for three years.

Salas was initially interested in hydraulic modeling study of a spillway, but changed to hydrology during his Ph.D. studies.

“Thus my interest toward hydrology slowly evolved; perhaps it was also my interest in statistical/probabilistic subjects that pushed me further into the direction of hydrology,” he said.

Though being a hydrologist and professor could be very tedious, Salas said his passion for teaching and research is what keeps him going at it.

“I like discovering new things pertinent to how hydrological processes behave and evolve through time and space particularly under the current framework of climate variability and change,” he said. “So these are the things that motivate me in my profession.”

Garcia, who works closely with Salas, said that the department was very fortunate to have someone of Salas’s caliber in its fold.

“Dr. Salas is an exceptional individual both on a personal and professional level. He cares greatly about the students and is always willing to help,” Garcia said. “In addition he is a great colleague and well liked and respected in the Department. I am very glad that I have had the opportunity to work with him.”

Staff Writer Abel Oshevire can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:32 pm

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