Agriculture and Water

Module aims

  • To be able to understand topics including the different reasons why farmers irrigate in the developed world and in developing countries, how irrigation can be a powerful tool for poverty alleviation and food security, the technologies for getting water from a source to crops, methods of water application on-farm (surface, sprinkler, drip and irrigation), irrigation management including irrigation scheduling methods on-farm and on irrigation schemes, the current trends toward irrigation management transfer from government to farmers and the growth of water user groups that encourage farmers to take responsibility for water management.
  • To understand the concept of efficiency, and the question of, “does efficiency really matter will also be raised in situations where water is in short supply?”
  • The role of drainage in irrigation design and management will be discussed together with techniques of drainage design. Problems of salinization are reviewed and methods for management and remediation of salinity problems.
  • To appreciate how agriculture impacts on water resources and water management and how new methods and techniques are keeping to reduce these impacts.
  • To be informed on new areas of research in agricultural water management and groundwater 

Learning outcomes

3.1         Knowledge and Understanding Skills

 On successfully completing this core module, students will be able to: 

  • Calculate irrigation volume and scheduling requirements of different types of crops in different climates.
  • Comment on the relative merits of different methods of irrigation.
  • Discuss the role of irrigation in poverty alleviation and food security, and how irrigators can contribute to responsible water management.
  • Understand the criteria affecting drainage design and hence design simple drainage systems.
  • Understand the problem of salinization and potential solutions.
  • Appreciate the impact of agriculture on water quality.
3.2         Practical and Transferable Skills   

 On successfully completing this core module, students will be able to: 

  • Design simple irrigation, drainage and salinity management schemes.
  • See the links between irrigation and farm drainage problems and other related aspects of the MSc (e.g. fluid mechanics, hydrological processes, environmental management in developing countries).

Module syllabus

The syllabus is designed to include the following topics: 

  • Introduction to irrigation planning, design and management.
  • Getting water from source to crops.
  • Methods of irrigation on-farm.
  • Irrigation management on-farm and in the main systems.
  • Design of a sprinkler system.
  • Drainage Design.
  • Salinity Control and Remediation.
  • Impacts of agricultural practice on water quality, especially nutrients.
  • Examples of irrigation impacts on groundwater depletion.





Agricultural and water  

Professor S. R. Smith  


Irrigation – drainage & salinity 

Paul Johnston 


Irrigation - principles 

Melvyn Kay 


Irrigation – design exercise 

Melvyn Kay 


Agriculture and groundwater 

Professor Adrian Butler 

Dr Jimmy O’Keeffe 

Teaching methods

This module will be taught through a series of lectures.


Information will be provided separately.

Module leaders

Professor Adrian Butler