Irrigation and Water Management

Our Research


For 25 years, the centre has been working with industry to develop more sustainable and efficient ways of using water to grow crops and support the environment. Irrigation research is conducted across a wide variety of agricultural industries nationally and internationally.

The centre is a national leader in precision irrigation and water management research. Modernisation and automation of both surface and pressurized irrigation systems is a key focus area, where we work closely with the cotton, sugar, dairy and other industries as well as commercial companies. Benefits achieved include reduced reliance on farm labour for irrigation management, improved crop production, improved irrigation efficiency, reduced pumping energy costs and reduced environmental impact.

Technical support and training is delivered to local industry and international organisations and a key focus is development of decision support tools and knowledge management systems to improve irrigation management.

We are also working internationally to provide small scale farmers with knowledge and skills to adopt new irrigation and water management technologies and approaches to improve their productivity and sustainability.

Our People


Dr Joseph Foley

Dr Joseph Foley

Research Program Team Lead

Dr Malcolm Gillies
Dr Malcolm Gillies

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Alison McCarthy
Dr Alison McCarthy

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Jochen Eberhard
Dr Jochen Eberhard

Research Scientist/Engineer

Mr Michael Scobie
Mr Michael Scobie

Senior Research Engineer

Jo Owens
Jo Owens

Research Fellow

Mr Simon Kelderman
Mr Simon Kelderman

Research Technician

Key Projects


Improving water use for dry season agriculture by marginal and tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains

This research is crucial to the long term sustainability of small scale agriculture in the Eastern Gangetic Plains. The region must alleviate poverty and achieve food security in part through a program of improved water management and irrigation using efficient systems, which are less reliant on expensive or unreliable electricity and diesel, and appropriate to the needs of the marginal (owning <0.5ha) and tenant farmer majority. The project aims to improve the livelihood of women, marginal and tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, through improved water use and increased dry season agricultural production.

Precision automated furrow irrigation for the Australian sugar industry

This project aims to extend work on a previous project, which developed automation systems within the Burdekin region. The project will continue monitoring of three demonstration sites in the Burdekin, and, extend, adapt and implement this technology at a site(s) in the Southern Queensland growing area. The project is closely aligned with the principles of smarter irrigation, namely the use of data collected by the automation system to improve the performance of individual events and the scheduling of irrigation events to supply the correct amount of water at the correct time.

Integrating soil and water management in vegetable production in Lao PDR and Cambodia

This four year project focuses on the management of soil and water, as these have been identified as major constraints to production and sustainability of vegetable production in Lao PDR and Cambodia. This will be achieved by assessing the operation and effectiveness of input supply chains, developing improved soil management and irrigation strategies and practices and foster adoption of improved practices through the understanding of smallholder livelihoods and expectations that underpin farmer decisions on practice change. The overall aim of the project is to improve soil and irrigation water management to achieve sustainably improved vegetable yields and household economies.

Smarter Irrigation for Profit : Phase 2

This project delivers precise real-time automated cotton irrigation for improved water productivity. Outcomes will address remaining challenges for the widespread adoption of automated irrigation in the cotton industry, including the components for a ‘market ready’ precise automated irrigation system for Australian cotton farms; a capacity building program to increase irrigation engineering capability available to assist growers in the design improvement of pumped pipeline and surface irrigation systems, and demonstration and extension of precise autonomous irrigation systems.