Former NMSU civil engineering professor Narendra Gunaji passes away

Narendra N. Gunaji, former professor of civil engineering at NMSU who served on the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, passed away on April 6, 2010. Services will be held Saturday, April 10, 10 am at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 518 North Alameda Boulevard.

Gunaji had a career in civil engineering that spanned several decades and included numerous accomplishments and accolades. A native of India, Gunaji received, with honors, a bachelor of civil engineering degree from the Government College of Engineering, University of Poona, India. Two years later, in 1955, he earned an MS in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by a UW-Madison PhD in hydrology and water resources in 1958.

In 1958, Gunaji joined Ohio Northern University as an assistant professor of civil engineering. He next joined the faculty of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where he directed two civil engineering projects: the Engineering Experiment Station and the Building Materials Research and Testing Institute.

During his directorship of these projects, engineering research at NMSU grew tremendously with research activities and dollar volume quadrupling in a 16-year period. While at NMSU, Gunaji initiated doctoral programs in water resources, hydrology, environmental control, and hydraulics.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan appointed Gunaji to the post of U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S.-Mexico, in El Paso, Texas. In his position as commissioner, he has developed innovative technical, managerial, and diplomatic approaches for international water quality improvement, water distribution, and flood control along the 2000 mile U.S.-Mexico border. He served on the commission until 1994.

Under his leadership, the commission made significant advances in its sanitation work, including:

  • Expansion of the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats sewage from the cities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora.  The $12 million project doubled the plant’s treatment capacity.
  • Agreement to construct the Nuevo Laredo International Wastewater Treatment Plant, the first treatment plant for Nuevo Laredo, as a binational project funded by both countries.
  • Agreement to construct the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant and Ocean Outfall in San Diego, California.  This project intercepts sewage from Tijuana to provide for its treatment in the United States, with discharge of the effluent offshore.
  • Agreement to conduct binational water quality studies, leading to important research of the quality of the waters of the Rio Grande.

Gunaji published extensively on the subjects of water resources management, waste treatment, and hydraulics, among others. He continued his education in civil engineering, water resource management and hydraulics with short courses at such institutions as MIT, the University of Washington, and the University of California-Davis.

As a member of numerous professional and honorary organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Water Resources Association, Gunaji received the Outstanding Service Award from the New Mexico Society of Professional Engineers in 1967. That organization named him Engineer of the Year in 1985.

Gunaji lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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