How engineers see the water glass in California

Engineering a water glass at 50 percent. Source:

Engineering a water glass at 50 percent. Source:

How do engineers see the water glass in California? The same as they did two years ago when this blog was first posted, though with today’s drought the glass is perhaps down to a quarter full — or three-quarters empty. 

By Jay R. Lund

Depending on your outlook, the proverbial glass of water is either half full or half empty. Not so for engineers in California.

Civil engineer: The glass is too big.

Flood control engineer: The glass should be 50 percent bigger.

Army Corps levee engineer: The glass should be 50 percent thicker.

Mexicali Valley water engineer: If your glass leaks, don’t fix it.

Delta levee engineer: Why is water rising on the outside of my glass?

Dutch levee engineer: The water should be kept in a pitcher.

Southern California water engineer: Can we get another pitcher?

Northern California water engineer: Who took half my water?

Consulting engineer: How much water would you like?

Delta environmental engineer: Don’t drink the water.

Water reuse engineer: Someone else drank from this glass.

Academic engineer: I don’t have a glass or any water, but I’ll tell you what to do with yours.

Jay Lund is a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of  the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis.

Further reading

Munroe, Randall. Glass Half Empty.

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7 Responses to How engineers see the water glass in California

  1. Laura King Moon says:

    Too close to the truth to be funny! But still got a chuckle out of me…

  2. David McCabe says:

    Laura, you are the one that has always gotten a chuckle out of me!!

  3. Pingback: Blog round-up: How engineers see the the water glass in California, the ESA and the Commerce Clause, Feinstein drought bill, San Joaquin River restoration, water storage, and more … » MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK | MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK

  4. Neil Jordan says:

    Too accurate for comfort. That means that there was a mole (not the levee-burrowing kind) at the last hydrology and hydraulics technical group I attended, resulting in a leak (not the levee-piping kind) of sensitive information.

    I would suggest adding a hydrologist/statistician to the list, maybe something about Log Pearson III vs. Gumbel or Weibull.

    • jaylund says:

      Perhaps let’s add:
      An agricultural engineer during a drought – “We can almost fill the glass with groundwater.”
      A statistical hydrologist – “There is a 27.4% chance that it will spill tomorrow.”

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Barry Nelson says:

    The Environmentalist: OK. Who killed all the fish?
    Senior Water Users: My water rights guarantee me at least 75%.
    Las Vegas: Looks like a lot of water. Want to sell some?

  6. Lucas Patzek says:

    Oh my, you inspired me!
    Visiting Saudi engineer: I can turn oil into water.
    NASA engineer: Most of California’s water came from asteroids, not comets.
    Olympia Beer drinker: It’s the water.

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