David C. Curtis, Ph.D., F.EWRI

Special Recognition Award

The following is the text found on the Special Recognition Award presented to David C. Curtis, Ph.D., F.EWRI, Vice President of WEST Consultants, at the 2021 California Extreme Precipitation Symposium on June 22, 2021.

Special Recognition Award

Presented To

David C. Curtis, Ph.D., F.EWRI

Contributions spanning more than 45 years distinguishes the professional journey of Dave Curtis. Completing his Master's degree in 1975, he joined the National Weather Service in New England and while working received his Ph.D. in 1982. Dave started as the NWS launched the ALERT automated flash flood warning system program in partnership with local communities. He developed ALERT systems for several New England communities and supported development and implementation in other eastern states until he left in 1983.

Over his career, Dave has been involved in the design, development, and implementation of award winning innovations in more than 50 automated environmental and flood monitoring systems across the U.S. and in 18 other countries. His efforts resulted in the first statewide flood warning system in the U.S. in Connecticut.

In 1999 Dave and his wife formed NEXRAIN Corporation because he saw value in archiving the new (system installed 1991-1998) National Weather Service NEXRAD Doppler radar precipitation data and merging it with rain gage data to more accurately estimate actual rainfall. Dave pioneered and advanced the use of gage-adjusted radar rainfall estimation for use in hydrologic analysis and modeling which resulted in new hydrologic design standards for communities across the nation.

Dave values learning and has consistently focused on training and mentoring the next generation of professional problem-solvers. He served on industrial advisory boards for the civil/environmental engineering departments at University of Maryland and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Dave actively supports and advances the broader professional community by volunteering at the national and state level as shown by his engagement with:

  • National Hydrologic Warning Council, President, 2011-2015; Director, 2011-2019
  • American Meteorological Society, Committee on Integrated Water Resources
  • American Society of Civil Engineers, Environment and Water Resources Institute
  • CA Dept. of Water Resources, Climate Change Technical Advisory Team and Central Valley Flood Protection Plan Climate Change Team
  • CA Extreme Precipitation Symposium, speaker 6 times and supporter since 1995

Having authored over 70 technical articles and reports, he is noted for the quality and clarity of his papers and presentations and for making technical information understandable to a broad audience.

Dave's visionary and cutting-edge thinking has advanced the public safety connections between hydrometeorology, flood risk management, and water resources management in California, nationally, and internationally resulting in a legacy of saved lives and reduced property damage realized at the community level.

With extreme admiration and respect for your many outstanding contributions, your colleagues recognize and honor you with this award presented on the 22nd of June 2021.

California Extreme Precipitation Symposium

July 22, 2021

Biographical Sketch

Dave Curtis
Dave Curtis

For the past 48 years, Dr. Curtis has been on the leading edge of hydro-meteorological and flood risk management services. He has supported the design, development, and implementation of award-winning innovations in automated environmental and flood monitoring systems across the U.S., South and Central America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. Fault-tolerant designs, dual redundant computer configurations, and integrated networks are among the concepts advanced by Dr. Curtis. In addition, Dr. Curtis has contributed to the economic analysis of flood warning systems, quantified the communication capacities of ALERT flood warning systems, and developed procedures for designing gage networks. His efforts led to the Connecticut Statewide Flood Warning System, the nation's first statewide system.

Since 1993, Dr. Curtis has been applying new weather information technologies such as radar-rainfall estimates to hydrologic analysis and modeling. He developed and maintained a national database of rainfall estimates derived from both civilian and defense Doppler radars in the U.S. He helped develop Florida's statewide program of gage-adjusted radar rainfall estimates that encompasses all five water management districts in the state. With data starting from the mid 1990's, Florida now enjoys the nation's largest and longest archive of high-resolution radar rainfall estimates. The data set is now used in a wide variety of water resources engineering applications including, hydrologic modeling, transportation infrastructure drainage analysis, agriculture, and many others.

He is pioneering methodologies to determine the geometric properties of storms using large-calibrated radar-rainfall data sets. Examples include the development of a design storm for wastewater collection for the Phoenix, AZ, Sub-Regional Operating Group, and the development of depth-area-reduction factors for Colorado Springs, CO. The Mile-High Flood District in Denver, CO, adapted the Colorado Springs results for use in the Denver Metropolitan Area. These results are leading to the development of new hydrologic design procedures across the U.S. and an improved understanding of the effect of microclimates on local ecosystems. He is currently involved in two statewide analyses to update and refine approaches to depth area reduction curves, a critical element of hydrologic engineering design.

From 2012-15, Dr. Curtis served on the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Climate Change Technical Advisory Group. Previously, he served on the California DWR Central Valley Flood Protection Plan Climate Change Team. The team evaluated California's Central Valley flood system performance, system resiliency, flood forecasting, and levee stability challenges in the face of climate change.

In 1977, Dr. Curtis represented the Department of Commerce/NOAA on the White House interdisciplinary task force to assess the extent, severity and impact of the 1977 drought in the western US during the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

Following a career as a research hydrologist, river forecaster, and flash flood hydrologist for the National Weather Service, Dr. Curtis co-founded a hydrologic software company specializing in flood warning, which later merged with a manufacturer of hydro-meteorological instrumentation.

Internationally recognized as an expert on hydrology, Dr. Curtis has authored more than seventy technical articles and reports. In June 1989, Dr. Curtis accepted the Computerworld/Smithsonian Award for Innovative Uses of Information Technology in the "Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment" category. Dr. Curtis also received the U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for superior service for the development and implementation of the Norwich, CT, flood warning system. Dr. Curtis was named a 2012 Outstanding Alumnus and named to the Henry P. Armsby Honor Society in 2013 by the College of Agricultural Sciences at Pennsylvania State University and received a Climate Services Award in 2014 from the California DWR for his contributions to the DWR Climate Change Technical Advisory Group. In 2013 and 2015 he received Special Service Awards from the National Hydrologic Warning Council for serving as president and board member. In 2017, Dr. Curtis was named Fellow by the Environment and Water Resources Institute.

Curtis has engineering degrees from the Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland, and earned his PhD in water resources from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Professional Background

For a complete list of Dave's professional history, activities, and publications up to the date of this award, see his full CV [PDF, .4 MB].

At the Event

Dave Curtis was presented the Special Recognition Award by Rob Hartman.