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WateReuse Mourns the Loss of Bahman Sheikh

Date: July 30, 2020

The WateReuse community mourns the loss of Dr. Bahman Sheikh who passed away on July 28, 2020 at his home in San Francisco. Bahman was a true water reuse pioneer, who for half a century helped countless communities recycle their water, across the United States and around the world.

Born in Mashad, Iran, Bahman came to California in 1962 and received his MS and Ph.D. at UC Davis in Irrigation and Soil Physics. He joined Engineering-Science (now Parsons) in 1970 where his major effort was the demonstration project that became known as the Monterey Wastewater Reclamation Study for Agriculture. From its inception in 1976 through the publication of its final report in 1987, Bahman and his team evaluated the agricultural use of recycled water, tracking the fate and transport of pathogens and firmly establishing its safety for irrigation of California’s “salad bowl.”

Bahman also worked closely with local farmers and health authorities to communicate the significance of the study and garner acceptance for the concept of water reuse, and today recycled water is used to irrigate 12,000 acres in northern Monterey County.

During a brief stint with CH2M Hill (now Jacobs), Bahman evaluated opportunities for urban reuse in San Jose, Santa Rosa and Los Angeles. That work led to his appointment in 1989 as the first Executive Director of the Los Angeles Office of Water Reclamation, where he set water recycling goals, established funding mechanisms, ran pilot projects, and developed policy and legislative recommendations. 

His work in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and elsewhere became the technical basis for state gray water regulations, local rules limiting water softeners, and dual-plumbing requirements for new high-rise construction. More important, his skills at promoting cooperation between the agencies in the Los Angeles area set the stage for decades of fruitful recycled water achievements and ultimately laid the foundation for the City of Los Angeles’ strategy to reuse 100% of its wastewater.  

For the past 25 years, Bahman has worked as an independent consultant specializing in water reuse. In addition to clients throughout the United States (he recently helped Hawai’i write reuse regulations), he has developed recycled water programs in the Middle East (Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain), Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco), Asia (India), South America (Peru), and Australia. Not surprisingly, he also served on many missions for the United Nations, the World Bank, and the US Agency for International Development.

Bahman was also a gifted writer and contributed to numerous national and international studies, publishing many seminal papers on diverse topics including onsite reuse, the need for coordinated statewide regulations, and the economic value of water recycling. He was also an early advocate for community engagement in reuse planning.

Bahman was deeply committed to the success of the WateReuse Association since its inception. An honorary lifetime member, he regularly spoke at conferences, served on the Board of Directors, and at one time or another chaired almost every committee.  In recognition, WateReuse honored Bahman twice with its Outstanding Service Award, as well as the President’s Award of Appreciation.

Notwithstanding his countless accomplishments, Bahman will be most remembered by his friends and colleagues for his kindness, his courtesy, and his humility. He generously shared his time and expertise with all, acting over the years as a mentor to several generations of water professionals. We extend our condolences to his wife Charlotte and join his family and friends around the world in honoring his legacy even as we mourn his loss. A giant has left the room.

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