Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering

Irrigation and Drainage – Research

Irrigation and Drainage



There are several areas of research interests related to diverse aspects of soil and water management for agriculture and environmental protection. They include traditional research areas such as the determination of water use by plants using remote sensing, and to develop improved irrigation scheduling techniques. The development of devices and control systems to automate irrigation has led to microcomputer control of center-pivot sprinkler systems and to automation of surface irrigation systems including surge irrigation.

The contemporary research areas relate more to the growing concern that irrigated agriculture use large quantities of water, and as a result there is not enough water for other societal needs. Competing water needs in growing cities and industry, and environmental concerns about maintaining healthy river habitats for fish and wildlife have important implications for the future of irrigated agriculture. To be a “good citizen”, irrigated agriculture must become more efficient and effective in its use of scarce water resources, and this will require a high quality and groundbreaking research.

A major research emphasis throughout the history of Bio-resource and Agricultural Engineering has been the management of salinity related to irrigation agriculture. Currently, soil salinity is a significant problem in Colorado. Department faculty is addressing the issue through research projects in both the Arkansas River and South Platte River basins. Knowledge gained from the research an extension projects can be applied around the world. Another current major research initiative is to improve efficiency of irrigation water use, so that the systems can reduce their diversions from rivers. These efforts are expected to result in better river habitats for fish and other wildlife. Decision-Support Systems, using GIS and several computer models, are being researched towards these objectives. Precision Farming is another contemporary research area, which involves the application of GIS and GPS for management of water and other inputs in order to achieve maximum economic returns while protecting the environment.