Irrigation and Water Engineering

Research of the Water Resources Management Group

Mission and objectives

Our overall mission is to improve water and food securities, by paying particular attention to water-based forms of social vulnerability. This is shown in the choice of our research approaches; in our questions on how technologies, policies and realities about water are constructed and contested; in embedding our research in collaborative networks of multiple water actors at different scales; and in actively linking our research to capacity building and policy initiatives that aim to generate societal impact. The group is committed to make explicit the position of vulnerable groups that lack power and voice to secure their water needs.

We distinguish ourselves on the basis of our choice and formulation of research questions, which always reflect a combination of the following principles:

1) our commitment to contribute to equity, democracy and sustainability of water management;

2) our socio-technical approach to study how water management practices, policies and discourses are shaped by the interplay of multiple-perspectives: socio-political, technological and physical processes;

3) our spatial, temporal and organizational scales of analysis to study how water issues are shaped and linked across multiple scales in order to better understand tensions that occur.


Contributions to society

WRM Contributions to policy processes

The WRM group plays a key role in various major policy support programs and action research networks with society. The preparation and formulation of the Mekong Delta Plan is an example of this as well as the bilateral policy support program between the Government of the Netherlands and Vietnam, together with the Dutch Delta Commission.

The intercontinental research alliance Justicia Hídrica / Water Justice is a research and action network setup and coordinated by WRM that brings together research and civil society institutions, and comprises of numerous scholars, professionals, students and grass-root leaders.  The alliance combines theoretical with comparative empirical research, with societal products in training and policy advocacy – chiefly in Latin America, but expanding towards Africa, Asia, North-America and Europe.

The WRM group attaches high importance to accessibility of its research among water professionals, researchers, and civil society organizations in developing countries. Thus it has published books in local languages and reports and proceedings on-line. Staff and students also communicate in multiple media including films, policy briefs and web fora.

Multi-language books, websites and audio visuals on water justice were adopted by NGOs and water users movements in Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Colombia, as important tools in their struggles against discrimination and unequal water allocation. They play an important role in the policy and legal change process (redistribution of water; water as a human right; etc).

WRM Capacity building

The WRM group offers several BSc and MSc courses and PhD Programmes within Wageningen University. We are one of three groups that carry the Bachelor and Master programmes in International Land and Water Management. Our students specialize in irrigation and water management in the Master International Land and Water Management.

The two-year Master International Land and Water Management programme focuses on the scientific analysis of land and water management issues at different scales. An integration of physical, technical, socio-economic and political dimensions in various approaches is sought in order to critically analyse, understand and tackle land and water management problems. Students develop a comparative insight into the development of land and water management, take an academic approach to various research paradigms, and acquire a problem-oriented, interdisciplinary attitude towards land and water management and rural development issues.

In the Global South the group assists a number of higher educational institutes in setting-up and/or improving their educational programmes around topics like integrated water resources management, agricultural water management and political ecology.

WRM Research in three themes:

1. Water and Technology

We study the effects of technologies (techniques, design approaches, assessment methods and knowledges) on water users, water use efficiencies and productivities for various spatiotemporal scales of analysis.

2. Water in Global Food Trade

We study local water implications and conflicts of global food and biofuels trade, foreign direct investments and corporate farming. Such developments may compete for water and land with local communities, degenerate local ecosystems, worsen local and national food sovereignty, and deeply alter existing modes of production and income distribution.

3. The Politics of Water Expert Knowledges

We study class, ethnic and gender inequalities embedded in and reproduced by water governance forms, water policies, water development and allocative interventions and water knowledge production. Work under this theme focuses on how power and politics influence water control, use and knowledge regimes and includes the critical examination of hydropower and mining developments, water use and drainage techniques, modernist water efficiency and productivity paradigms, valuation schemes, and technological and institutional innovations for small-holder farmers.