Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, by his Scottish immigrant parents, Dracup earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington in 1956. After graduation, he spent two years in Europe with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before returning to the U.S. and earned a master’s degree in 1960 from MIT in civil engineering. He then taught at Oregon State University for a couple of years, but was inspired to further his academic career at UC Berkeley where he earned a Ph.D. in civil engineering in 1966.
While working on finishing his doctorate, Dracup joined the UCLA engineering faculty in 1965 as an assistant professor. He taught undergraduate courses on water resources engineering and the design of water resource structures, as well as graduate courses on surface water hydrology and on engineering economics of water and environmental systems. He was promoted to associate professor in 1971 and full professor in 1978. In 2000, Dracup left for a faculty position at UC Berkeley’s civil and environmental engineering department, where he continued his research and teaching.
Throughout his decades-long career, Dracup led research that analyzed floods and droughts, impacts of climate variability and climate change on hydrologic processes. He also explored simulated and optimized groundwater systems and large-scale river basin systems. Dracup conducted his work in California, throughout the U.S. and in several countries. In the later part of his career, he focused his energy on building sustainable clean water systems funded by Rotary International in remote regions of developing countries.
Dracup was particularly fond of globetrotting, having visited a total of 88 countries during his lifetime.
Dracup is survived by his wife of 49 years Kathleen; sister Grace Rafert and brother-in-law Paul Rafert; his five children and their spouses, Jeffrey Dracup (Katie Molloy), Jonathan Dracup (Jane Graves), Joy Dracup Stanley, Jan Stejskal (Matthew Stejskal) and Brian Dracup (Nicki Prokop); his 11 grandchildren — Sean, Alex, Brittany, Amelia, Natalie, Lisa, Marcella, Grant, Ben, Nathan and Evelyn; and his great-granddaughter Ava.
An obituary on Dracup was carried in the Los Angeles Times in January.