Research of the Water Resources Management Group

The Water Resources Management Group plays a major role in international research on irrigation and water management set in the context of rural transformation. Its staff and PhD candidates participate in collaborative research and training programmes in a number of countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, through work with NGO's, Universities and Research Institutes in the South and with national research programmes of CGIAR-centres such as IWMI. The Group participates in the graduate school WASS (Wageningen School of Social Sciences).

The objective of WRM’s research programme is to promote knowledge of appropriate design, development and use of irrigation and other water engineering technologies and the relationships between these technologies and rural development. Through our research we aim to contribute to water and land management that promotes emancipation of the rural population, while also being environmentally sound, socially sustainable and appropriate to contemporary water resource conditions.

Over the years our work has shown that irrigation and water management systems can be designed and managed to be effective, equitable and sustainable – although often they are not. Current design and operation of irrigation systems all too frequently still fail to address agro-ecological and social dynamics effectively, both in large public systems and in interventions into farmer-managed systems. Also, past irrigation and water related interventions have generally not resulted in equitable or sustainable development.



Research Themes

Irrigation technology and agro-ecology (sustainability)

Research under this theme takes up the following questions:

What are the social dimensions of irrigation design, and how do infrastructure and management interact?
Through what mechanisms does irrigation enhance or undermine ecological sustainability?
What indigenous irrigation knowledge and technology exists and how does it perform?
How is irrigation science and practice shaped over time and in different parts of the world?

Irrigation policy and politics (democracy)

Research under this theme focuses on the following questions:

How are the arenas shaped in which water-use and management are contested by different groups of users?
Which forms of organisation of water users exist or have emerged in response to government policy, water scarcity or other external factors?
What are the concepts and discourses of ‘development’ that underlie international policy discourses on water resources?

Water rights, irrigation and livelihoods (equity)

Research under this theme takes up the following questions:

How is the access of different user-categories to irrigation water shaped?
How do government sanctioned and customary water rights and management systems conflict and interact with each other?
How can equitable access to water be achieved?
How does social differentiation translate in a physical irrigation design?
How does irrigation play a role in alleviating poverty and vulnerability, and what role does and can irrigation play in agrarian change and development?
How does irrigation play a role in alleviating poverty and vulnerability, and what role does and can irrigation play in agrarian change and development?