Online Course on Management of Irrigation and Drainage Systems

Throughout the world irrigation systems face similar challenges in terms of sustainable maintenance and operation, such as accountability and financial resources and management. Systems often get stuck in the so called build-neglect-rebuild cycle, for which there are no quick or easy solutions. This course looks into the socio-technical nature of these issues, and the underlying social, cultural and political processes.

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For whom?

Early or mid-career professionals, working at government agencies, research institutes, or consultancy companies, who are active in the fields of:

  • Irrigation design, management, operation, rehabilitation and/or modernization;
  • Hydraulic or civil engineering with an interest in the operational and management side of irrigation systems;
  • Agronomy and agricultural/rural development;
  • Hydrology, Water resources or environmental management with an interest in irrigation development and food security;
  • Other related fields such as forestry, landscape planning, etc.


BSc or equivalent in water resources, hydrology, civil engineering, agricultural engineering or closely related fields. Understanding of principles of irrigation system design, agronomy, crop water requirements, and irrigation methods.

Dates, Fee, ECTS

Start: 07 September 2020
End: 15 January 2021
Duration: 16 weeks
ECTS credit points: 5
Deadline IHE application: 05 September 2020 - 23.59 (CET)
Course fee: € 1035

Start: 06 September 2021
End: 14 January 2022
Deadline IHE application: 05 September 2021 - 23.59 (CET)
Course fee: € 1035

VAT is not included in the course fee

Learning objectives

Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
  1. Evaluate objectives, tasks and set-ups for irrigation management, operation and maintenance and its implications for irrigation performance
  2. Demonstrate the role of property creation for the development and sustainability of irrigation and drainage systems
  3. Discuss the importance of the social aspects that define the feasibility, implementation and continuation of land and water development projects
  4. Apply key concepts of irrigation performance assessment, including its role, types of assessment, criteria, indicators, benchmarking, targets, and interpretation of data in order to analyse and address problems related to irrigation performance
  5. Explain the theory, key concepts, conceptual framework and merits of water accounting in irrigation schemes

Course content

You will learn about different objectives, tasks, modalities and challenges in irrigation management. The course looks at different types of systems in different parts of world, including large-scale agency-managed, smallholder systems, public­private partnerships, and individual smallholder irrigators. Topics include:

  • Introduction to the course: common pool resources, objectives of irrigation management, and irrigation as socio-technical systems
  • Tasks of irrigation management for sustainable operation in maintenance. These include water use (acquisition, allocation, distribution), control structures (design, construction, operation and maintenance), and organisation (conflict resolution, communication, resource mobilisation and decision-making).
  • The implications of different arrangements of irrigation: agency/state manages schemes, farmer-managed schemes, public-private partnerships and individual, farmer-led and informal irrigation.
  • Interventions and property creation in irrigation systems, including Irrigation Management Transfer and Water Users Associations, the concept of hydraulic property, and the relevance of different water right regimes.
  • Irrigation performance assessment: systematic observation, documentation and interpretation of activities related to irrigated agriculture with the objective of continuous improvement. Overall concepts and theoretical framework of performance assessment with examples of field projects.
  • Irrigation water accounting: Introduction and discussion of the water accounting framework as developed by IWMI, including the theory, terminologies, conceptual framework and practical application of the tool based on case study materials.

In this interactive online course you are triggered to come up with own examples, challenges and think of possible solutions for sustainably managing irrigation systems for a food secure future.


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