Skip to main content

Irrigation Engineering: MS, PhD

Irrigation Engineering

The irrigation engineering program at USU has long been recognized as the best program of its kind in the nation, and possibly the world. Many of the prominent irrigation engineers in the United States and around the world are graduates of the USU program, and the program’s faculty continues a tradition of leadership in international development projects in several dozen countries across the globe. Projects have been conducted in Latin America, the Caribbean region, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. At USU, irrigation engineering students are exposed to classroom instruction, laboratory work in hydraulics, remote-sensing, and more. They also have the opportunity to conduct field work.

Students may study in the following areas:

  • Integrated Water Management: In this area, students study a broad range of topics related to irrigation, including the use of treated wastewater in irrigation, conjunctive use of surface and ground water, water policy, training tools for improving water management, and many others.
  • Crop Water Requirements: Students studying crop water requirements focus on the evapotranspiration (ET) of agricultural crops and other vegetation based on weather station instrumentation and or lysimeter measurements or flux systems, such as eddy covariance and Bowen ratio. It is important to estimate ET to understand water requirements and to lead to improvements in water management. This sometimes also includes measurements and/or estimations of crop production.
  • Irrigation System Operation and Maintenance: This area focuses on the operation and maintenance of irrigation systems, which sometimes includes organizational development and institutional strengthening of water users' associations. Topics include specific procedures, operational plans, maintenance plans, and irrigation system administration.
  • Remote Sensing and Spatial Apps: This is the application of ground-based, airborne, and satellite remote-sensing technologies with Geographical Information Systems for evapotranspiration estimation, irrigation system mapping, crop identification, crop yield estimation, water balance and efficiency estimations, and many others.
  • On-farm Irrigation Methods: Students will learn to design and evaluate on-farm irrigation methods, including surface (furrows, borders, and basins) and pressurized (sprinkler and micro-irrigation) methods. This may also include other topics, such as pressure regulation, water application uniformity, water filtration, chemigation, and many others.

Graduates in irrigation engineering work primarily in the following careers:

  • Irrigation system design, construction, and installation
  • Consulting and technical advising
  • Teaching and training
  • Research

Irrigation engineers also perform various projects, including:

  • Design farm irrigation and drainage systems
  • Design irrigation conveyance, distribution, and drainage systems
  • Manage the operation and maintenance of irrigation systems
  • Develop manuals on operation, design, and evaluation
  • Evaluate and analyze the performance of irrigation systems
  • Build irrigation and drainage systems
  • Design and build center pivots, linear moves, and other pressurized systems
  • On-farm irrigation system sales
  • Develop and apply flow measurement methods and devices
  • Develop automation techniques, devices, and systems
  • Develop and apply mathematical models
  • Develop and apply remote sensing technologies
  • Management transfer of irrigation projects to farmer organizations
  • Train farmers, technicians, engineers, and others working with irrigation systems
  • Teach irrigation engineering courses
  • Perform research in irrigation engineering
  • Agricultural extension
  • Provide guidance to environmental preservation efforts and water sharing
  • Manage fresh-water resources
  • Help develop irrigation development policies
  • Work on agricultural development projects

Admissions Requirements

Students without civil and environmental engineering backgrounds may be required to complete select undergraduate courses prior to admission as a graduate student. This is determined by the committee on a case-to-case basis.

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Score at or above the 40th percentile on the GRE
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admissions Deadlines

The department has the following application deadlines:

  • Fall semester – March 15 for full financial consideration, final application deadline is May 15
  • Spring semester – October 15

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students can receive the MS or the ME by pursuing one of three options:

  • In the MS Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework, are involved in research, and must write a thesis.
  • The MS Plan B option, students complete graduate-level coursework, work on a project, and are required to produce a report.
  • A third option, ME Plan C, does not involve a thesis or a defense meeting and is comprised of coursework only.

Financial Assistance

A variety of funding opportunities are available, including fellowships, scholarships, assistantships, tuition awards, and travel support. Additionally, students may be eligible for subsidized health insurance through qualifying assistantships.

Steve Barfuss, PhD, Utah State University
Research Assistant Professor
Area: Hydraulics
Office: UWRL 207
Phone: (435) 797-3214

Paul Barr, PhD, University of Washington
Assistant Professor
Area: Structural engineering
Office: ENLAB 262
Phone: (435) 797-8249

Luis Bastidas, PhD, University of Arizona
Research Assistant Professor
Area: Water engineering
Office: ENGR 228
Phone: (435) 797-8228

James Bay, PhD, University of Texas
Associate Professor
Area: Geotechnical engineering
Office: ENLAB 266
Phone: (435) 797-2947

Bruce Bishop, PhD, Stanford University
Area: Engineering systems and planning
Office: UWRL 201
Phone: (435) 797-2777

David Bowles, PhD, Utah State University
Area: Risk assessment, hydrology, water resources engineering
Office: UWRL 233
Phone: (435) 797-4010

Joseph Caliendo, PhD, Utah State University
Associate Professor
Area: Geotechnical engineering
Office: ENLAB 274
Phone: (435) 797-2896

Sanjay Chauhan, PhD, Utah State University
Research Assistant Professor
Area: Risk assessment
Office: UWRL 246
Phone: (435) 797-3202

Anthony Chen, PhD, University of California – Irvine
Associate Professor
Area: Transportation engineering
Office: ENGR 231
Phone: (435) 797-7109

William Doucette, PhD, University of Wisconsin
Area: Environmental analytical chemistry
Office: ENGR 218
Phone: (435) 797-3178

Ryan Dupont, PhD, University of Kansas
Area: Biological waste treatment
Office: ENGR 216
Phone: (435) 797-3227

Marvin Halling, PhD, California Institute of Technology
Associate Professor
Area: Structural dynamics, earthquake engineering
Office: ENLAB 264
Phone: (435) 797-3179

Thomas Hardy, PhD, Utah State University
Research Professor
Area: Ecological system modeling, statistical analysis
Office: UWRL 125
Phone: (435) 797-2824

Kevin Heaslip, PhD, University of Massachusetts – Amherst
Assistant Professor
Area: Transportation operations
Office: ENGR 233
Phone: (435) 797-8289

Michael Johnson, PhD, Utah State University
Research Assistant Professor
Area: Hydraulics
Office: UWRL 221
Phone: (435) 797-3176

Jagath Kaluarachchi, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Area: Groundwater, multiphase transport
Office: UWRL 248
Phone: (435) 797-3918

Randal Martin, PhD, Washington State University
Research Associate Professor
Area: Environmental air pollution control
Office: ENGR 219
Phone: (435) 797-1585

Michael McFarland, PhD, Cornell University
Associate Professor
Area: Environmental Engineering
Office: ENGR 221
Phone: (435) 797-3196

Mac McKee, PhD, Utah State University
Area: Water resources and hydrology
Office: UWRL 103
Phone: (435) 797-3188

Joan McLean, MS, University of California - Davis
Research Associate Professor
Area: Fate and behavior of chemical pollutants
Office: UWRL 315
Phone: (435) 797-3199

Laurie McNeill, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Associate Professor
Area: Drinking water treatment
Office: ENGR 220
Phone: (435) 797-1522

Gary Merkley, PhD, Utah State University
Area: Conveyance systems
Office: ENGR 230
Phone: (435) 797-1139

Christopher Neale, PhD, Colorado State University
Area: Remote sensing
Office: ENGR 229
Phone: (435) 797-3689

Bethany Neilson, PhD, Utah State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Geotechnical engineering
Office: UWRL 242
Phone: (435) 797-7369

Robert Pack, PhD, Utah State University
Associate Professor
Area: Geomatics
Office: ENLAB 241 F
Phone: (435) 797-7049

Richard Peralta, PhD, Oklahoma State University
Area: Groundwater
Office: ENGR 228
Phone: (435) 97-2786

William Rahmeyer, PhD, Colorado State University
Professor, Department Head
Area: Hydraulics, hydraulic structures, scour and erosion
Office: ENLAB 211
Phone: (435) 797-3180

John Rice, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Geotechnical engineering
Office: ENLAB 268
Phone: (435) 797-8611

David Rosenberg, PhD, University of California – Davis
Assistant Professor
Area: Water resources
Office: ENGR 205
Phone: (435) 797-8689

Darwin Sorensen, PhD, Colorado State University
Research Professor
Area: Microbial ecology of biodegradation and remediation, aquatic microbiology
Office: UWRL 303
Phone: (435) 797-3207

David Stevens, PhD, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Area: Hydrology and water resources
Office: UWRL 305 C
Phone: (435) 797-3229

David Tarboton, ScD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Area: Hydrology and water resources
Office: ENGR 230
Phone: (435) 797-3172

Blake Tullis, PhD, University of Michigan
Assistant Professor
Area: Hydraulics, hydraulic structures, hydromachinery
Office: UWRL 217
Phone: (435) 797-3194

Gilberto Urroz, PhD, University of Iowa
Associate Professor
Area: Hydraulics, hydraulic structures
Office: ENGR 223
Phone: (435) 797-3379

Kevin Womack, PhD, Oregon State University
Area: Structural mechanics
Office: ENLAB 276
Phone: (435) 797-1144

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers: Thisis a professional society of people interested in the engineering approach to food, agriculture, and biological concerns. ASABE seeks methods for the development of producing food and renewable resources.

American Society of Civil Engineers: ASCE is a professional organization representing members of the civil engineering profession worldwide. It is the oldest national engineering society in the United States. ASCE's vision is to have engineers positioned as global leaders who strive toward building a better quality of life. ASCE features many engineering journals, including the Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering.

American Water Works Association: AWWA is the authoritative resource on safe water, with more than 60,000 members worldwide sharing knowledge on water resource development, water and wastewater treatment technology, water storage and distribution, and utility management and operations.

United States Committee on Irrigation and Drainage: The mission of USCID is to foster sustainable, socially acceptable, and environmentally responsible irrigation, drainage, and flood control systems and practices for providing food, clothing, and shelter to the people of the United States and the world. USCID has two national conferences each year in the United States, and the parent organization, the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, has an annual international conference each year in a different member country.

Labs, Centers, Research

International Irrigation Center: The IIC was established in a response to an increasing need for providing training and research to enhance the capabilities of professionals and scientists outside the United States for improving irrigated agriculture in their countries.

Utah Center for Water Resources Research: The UCWRR facilitates water research, outreach, design, and testing elements within a university environment that supports student education and citizen training.

Utah Water Research Laboratory: The UWRL works on nearly 250 water-related projects a year and has projects in all of Utah’s 29 counties and more than 40 countries. The lab is one of the go-to places that addresses the technical and societal aspects of water-related issues, including quality, quantity, and distribution of water.

Water Initiative: Utah State University supports a broad community of students and faculty engaged in water education, research, and outreach. The USU Water Initiative provides an overarching umbrella for the activities of this community aimed at fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and collegial sharing of ideas related to water across the departments and colleges of USU.


Marlo Bailey
Office: ENLAB 211 F
Phone: (435) 797-2783

- Civil and Environmental Engineering Department

- College of Engineering

Submit Edits/Updates for this degree