March 24, 2022

The American Academy of Water Resources Engineers (AAWRE) proudly announce Tirusew Asefa, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, F.ASCE as the recipient of the AAWRE 2022 Outstanding Practitioner in Water Resources Engineering Award, for his outstanding contributions in bridging the gap between research and practice to produce innovative, actionable knowledge and tools that advance the resilience of urban water resources. Specifically, Dr. Asefa’s leadership and application of applied research in solving real-life problems are exemplary in the water industry.

Dr. Asefa is the lead for the modeling & decision support group at Tampa Bay Water, one of the largest water supply utilities in Southeast US that uses state-of-the practice resource optimization and simulation decision support tools for multi-time scale operation, management, and planning decision making. He has also a courtesy professor appointment with University of South Florida Patel College of Global Sustainability where he gives hands on practical seminars to students and researchers linking state-of-the science to field applications.
He is one of the pioneering researchers in application of Statistical Learning Theory (a.k.a., Support Vector Machines) in water resources management. His publications in Water Res. Research (2004), Groundwater (2005) and J. Hydrology (2006) are the first to introduce this innovative topic of machine learning to those journal audiences'. He has implemented some of these innovative tools for field applications.

Dr. Asefa has over two decades of experience in applied research and large-scale field application of decision making under deep uncertainty, risk and reliability, and climate change impact assessment and adaptations approaches. He is the author of more than 45 peer reviewed articles and more than 100 book chapters, manuals, and reports on various aspects of water resources operation, planning and management. Some of the tools that he developed were highlighted by the Whitehouse Initiative’s Climate Resilience Toolkit. Currently, as a chair of Florida Water and Climate Alliance he leads the group’s effort in continue building stakeholder-scientist partnership committed to increasing the relevance of climate science, data and tools to support decision making in water resources management, planning and operation in Florida. He is also one of the water chapter authors of the Fifth National Climate Assessment, a U.S. congress mandated quadrennial report.

Over the recent years, Dr. Asefa has lead implementation of large-scale computational approaches to a field scale translation of an active research area of Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU). His team uses advances in DMDU research for field scale application in regional Master Water Supply planning, infrastructure financial planning, as well as solving the problem of seasonal water resources allocation under variable supply/demand, among others. He was able to demonstrate the value of high-level applied research and computational capability and oversaw the design and implementation of Tampa Bay Water’s state-of-the practice vGrid private cloud computing system, changing the paradigm for water supply utilities across the US to build institutional capacity and conduct advanced applied DMDU research and its application in water resources management.

Dr. Asefa continues championing for a new paradigm of academic-professional relationship by sponsoring Ph.D. and Post-Doctoral students to work directly with Tampa Bay Water technical staff. Over the last decade, eleven Ph.D. and Post-Doctoral students directly participated in the program, jointly advised by him, his staff and respective institution’s academic advisors.

Currently, Dr. Asefa is also in a Fulbright Specialist Program roster, which is reserved for highly qualified U.S. academics and professionals which the U.S. government matches host institutions abroad and experts in the U.S. to create institutional linkages while building capacity at their overseas host institutions.

Dr. Asefa stated: "I am humbled and honored to be recognized by the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers as the 2022 Outstanding Practitioner in Water Resources Engineering. This means a lot to me. I recognize this is a lifetime achievement. Receiving this award at this point in my career is a powerful motivator for me to do even more in the future.

Translating and implementing complex science into practice has always been my fascination. Along the way, I got to work with many who has had influence on my work: from my classmates, mentors, university research partners, to my colleagues at Tampa Bay Water.

Who knew someone coming from a little town in Ethiopia could get here and be recognized at such a high level?  I hope I can inspire a student in some remote area in Ethiopia or Africa. I would like to dedicate this to my mom and dad who did so much for my education even when they didn’t graduate from a high school. Above all to my wife Idania and my son, who thinks I am a cool dad who knows it all, but he doesn’t know that he is the one who inspires me.

As a leader of the modeling and systems decision support staff at Tampa Bay Water, I am fortunate to have worked with great professionals where we get to translate state-of-the science to state-of-the practice. I appreciate our partnership with universities in advancing the science, shortening the time for implementing the state-of-the science. Our program that we put together to bring graduate students in our work has been a great success and considered a model for the country in large-scale computational implementation and decision making under uncertainty.

Thank you again for honoring me with this award."

>To send a congratulatory note to Tirusew