The water group

Beginnings (- 1980)

The Water Group began with the arrival of Tom McMahon in1968. With commendable energy, Tom quickly established undergraduate courses in water resources and hydrology and a postgraduate research. Successive appointments - Russell Mein in 1971 and Eric Laurenson (to a Chair position) in 1973 - served to establish a group that has had a measurable impact on water engineering practice in Australia.

Water Engineering Workshops

The particular strengths of the three academics - Tom specialising in yield hydrology, Russell in modelling of hydrologic processes, and Eric in flood estimation - were brought together in the very successful series of Water Engineering Workshops that begun in 1975. These workshops, initially of 6 days duration and targeted at practicing engineers, contained an equal share of lectures (with comprehensive notes) and half hands-on practice. The objective - to have participants ready to apply the new methods, with their own data sets, as soon as they returned to their offices - was a key factor in attracting participants Australia wide.

Masters by Coursework

In 1976, the Group commenced offering a Masters-by-Coursework program in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, triggered by the need to produce engineers equipped with the skills to comply with new legislation on catchment drainage. The course ran part-time to suit participant working hours, with 3-hour classes starting at 4.15 pm. [This course ran for some 20 years, and demonstrably helped lift the skill base of water engineering in Victoria].

Flood Estimation, RORB Model

Major contributions to improve the methodologies for flood estimation have come from the Monash Group. These have been included in successive editions of 'Australian Rainfall and Runoff' (the de facto standard for flood estimation in Australia).

The RORB model (Laurenson, Mein, and later Wong) had its beginnings in a consultancy in the early 1970s when it was clear that no other tool was available for the task in hand. A "pilot" version used in a water engineering workshop on flood-estimation was the forerunner to a number of increasingly sophisticated versions developed through the late 1970s to the mid 1990s. In this time it became the dominant method of flood estimation in Australia, with several copies also sold overseas. [Note: RORB has endured. The fifth version, developed in conjunction with Rory Nathan, SKM, was released in 2005.]

Yield Hydrology

The success of the first water engineering workshop on storage capacity and yield was the springboard for the publication of a world-first textbook on yield hydrology ('Reservoir Capacity and Yield', McMahon and Mein, 1978). This book, and its successor 'River and Reservoir Yield', Water Resources Publications, 1986, have been the basic references in this field for over twenty years.

Staff changes (1980 - )

Subsequent appointments (after Tom left to take up a Chair at the University of Melbourne in 1980) of Bob Keller and Gary Codner established new strengths for the Water Group in the areas of hydraulics and environmental engineering respectively. Roger Hadgraft's appointment in 1986 brought a champion of problem-based learning to the department, leading to the current emphasis on this style of teaching in the undergraduate program. Erwin Weinmann joined the group in 1993, when Russell moved full-time to the CRC for Catchment Hydrology (head-quartered within the Department).


Bob Keller rapidly established strong links with industry representatives and harnessed their financial support for the establishment of a dedicated Hydraulics Laboratory in 1986. Under his direction, this lab soon became a major facility for experimental hydraulics in Australia. Key contributions have been in the area of river engineering, with many workshops, publications, and computer software developed for practitioners.

Environmental Engineering

Gary Codner brought many skills to the department with his work in water quality and public health. He was the main proponent for, and key developer of, the faculty's Environmental Engineering degree program which began in 1992. This field of study has also attracted some outstanding graduate students.

The CRC for Catchment Hydrology (1992 - )

The Water Group was a major participant in the successful bid for the establishment of the CRC for Catchment Hydrology in 1992. This CRC brought together a number of Government agencies and research organisations, with research and adoption programs targeted to meet national needs, and training to increase the skill base of people in the water industry. All staff in the Water Group have participated in the Centre's research, and it attracted many outstanding graduate students and research staff to the Department.

With the full-time secondment of Russell Mein to the Centre (he was its Director/CEO from 1995-2002), the Department appointed Erwin Weinmann to the Water Group. Erwin brought a wealth of experience in flood hydrology and water resource allocation to the Group, and has been a major contributor to the Centre; his work on extreme flood estimation (CRC-FORGE) has been adopted Australia wide. The amalgamation of the Clayton and Caulfield campuses brought the skills of Tony Wong into the Urban Hydrology Program, and the new area of water sensitive urban design; his success in that area has established a world-wide reputation (and the MUSIC software package) for both the CRC and Department.

[The above has been a one sided account, not mentioning the vital contributions of visiting professionals, laboratory and secretarial staff over the years. Above all, the students (undergraduate and postgraduate) are as important as all the rest in the quality of achievement.]