Binnie, William James Eames (1867–1949), civil engineer, was born 10 October 1867 in Derry city, elder son among two sons and three daughters of Sir Alexander Richardson Binnie (1839–1917), a prominent British engineer, and his wife Mary, daughter of William Eames, a well known Derry physician. He was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained first-class honours in natural science (1888); he completed his third-level education at the Karlsruhe Polytechnic in Baden. Binnie's father was a renowned water engineer who had worked in Britain and Ireland and in cities as far away as Ottawa and St Petersburg; he was also chief engineer to the London county council, so William was fortunate enough to serve part of his apprenticeship under one of the most knowledgeable and qualified engineers in the UK. None the less, Binnie was a competent and industrious engineer in his own right and worked on many projects independent of Sir Alexander: he was assistant engineer in the extension of a railway line eastward from Chesterfield (1892) and on Birmingham's Elan Valley water scheme (1893–5), and he served as resident engineer on the Shepherd's Bush–Marble Arch section of the underground Central London Railway (1896–1900) and on the construction of the Khedivial graving dock, Alexandria (1900–02).
Binnie eventually returned to England in 1902 to take up private practice with his father, and as his reputation as a first-rate water engineer grew, so too did the demand for his professional services. He travelled extensively because of his expertise, and by the time he had retired (1948) he had worked on water-supply projects in Birkenhead, Merthyr Tydfil, Durham, Oxford, Coventry, Nigeria, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Rangoon. His technical knowledge was also in demand, and he was employed by the ministry of munitions during the first world war, served on several governmental commissions (1924–6), worked as promoting engineer for two Scottish water-power bills (1921, 1929), and was advisor to the British government on the central Rhine commission (1922). When construction on Belfast's Silent Valley reservoir was halted in 1926 due to technical difficulties, Binnie sat as arbitrator in the debate over its continuation (15–16 December 1926) and was chairman of the committee that spent a year investigating the feasibility of its completion (1927); the reservoir was finally completed in 1933 thanks in part to Binnie's intervention. As a recognised authority on flooding and water conservation, he was chairman of both the Institution of Civil Engineers’ committee on flooding (1933) and the British committee of the International Commission on Large Dams (1933–46). Outside the UK and Ireland, he was one of three commissioners in charge of raising the level of the Aswan dam (1928), was a commissioner in the development of electrical power from the Nile (1937), and was responsible for the design and completion of Hong Kong's Gorge dam (1930s), perhaps his most notable work.
Throughout his career, Binnie held many distinguished positions and was awarded several international honours. He was a full member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (elected 19 December 1900) and served as its vice-president (1936) and president (1938), was president of the institutions of Sanitary Engineers (1917) and of Water Engineers (1921), and was an honorary member of the New England Waterworks Association (1934) and of the American Society of Civil Engineers (1939). He was past-president of the British section of the Société des Ingénieurs Civils de France, for which he was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur (1948). Binnie died at his home at Tilehurst, near Reading, on 4 October 1949. He was remembered as a kind-hearted, warm, and generous individual who had a large circle of friends, and as a competent and skilled engineer who always relied on experience and discretion.
He married (1900) Ethel (d. 1947), daughter of Remy Morse of Suffolk; they had three sons, only one of whom survived him. A portrait of Binnie hangs in the Institution of Civil Engineers in England.