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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

Admission 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.

Admission 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

Program Requirements

PhD Qualifying Exams:

PhD qualifying exams are written exams on subject areas related to the student's dissertation research topic, usually administered by the student's graduate committee members. Qualifying exams are usually taken after the student has completed most or all of the coursework in their program of study. If the student has a sufficiently high GPA, the committee can recommend an oral exam at a committee meeting in lieu of a written exam, or the committee may require the exam in both oral and written formats. If the student is the main author of a significant research grant proposal, or has published at least one refereed journal article on his or her research topic while at USU, the qualifying exams may be waived by the committee.

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 on the graduate school website.

Niel Allen, PhD, University of Idaho
Associate Professor
Area: Irrigation
Office: ENGR 227
Phone: (435) 797-3926

Steve Barfuss, PhD, Utah State University
Research Professor
Area: Hydraulic/physical model studies
Office: UWRL 207
Phone: (435) 797-3214

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

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

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

William Doucette, PhD, University of Wisconsin
Area: Environmental analytical chemistry
Office: UWRL 305
Phone: (435) 797-3178

Ryan Dupont, PhD, University of Kansas
Area: Biological waste treatment
Office: UWRL 319
Phone: (435) 797-3227

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

Jeffery Horsburgh, PhD, Utah State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Watershed, Water Quality, Hydrologic Modeling and Training, Environmental Data Management and Geographic Information Systems,
Office: ENGR 223
Phone: (435) 797-2946

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

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

Belize Lane, PhD, University of California at Davis
Assistant Professor
Area: Hydrology and water resources management
Office: ENGR 234

Marc Maguire, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Structural engineering
Office: ENLAB 268
Phone: (435) 797-1139

Randal Martin, PhD, Washington State University
Research Associate Professor
Area: Environmental air pollution control
Office: ENGR 220
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 248
Phone: (435) 797-3188

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

Laurie McNeill, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Area: Drinking water treatment
Office: ENGR 216
Phone: (435) 797-1522

Bethany Neilson, PhD, Utah State University
Associate Professor
Area: Geotechnical engineering
Office: ENGR 223
Phone: (435) 797-7369

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

William Rahmeyer, PhD, Colorado State University
Area: Hydraulics, hydraulic structures, scour and erosion
Office: ENGR 229
Phone: (435) 797-3180

John Rice, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Associate Professor
Area: Geotechnical engineering
Office: ENLAB 272
Phone: (435) 797-8611

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

Patrick Singleton, PhD, Portland State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Travel behavior analysis, transportation planning, and travel demand modeling
Office: ENGR 231
Phone: (435) 797-7109

Ziqi Song, PhD, University of Florida
Assistant Professor
Area: Transportation engineering
Office: ENGR 234
Phone: (435) 797-9083

Andrew Sorensen, ,
Assistant Professor
Area: Analysis of historical and distressed structures
Office: ENLAB 276
Phone: (435) 797-6377

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

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

Alfonso Torres-Rua, PhD, Utah State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Precision Agriculture, Spatial Evapotranspiration at Farm and Irrigation System Scales, Numerical Modeling, Spatial Data Mining, Sensor Networks and ground Data Collection, Remote Sensing Applications, Teaching/Technical Training
Phone: (435) 797-0397

Blake Tullis, PhD, University of Michigan
Professor, Water Division Head
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

Tianfang Xu, PhD, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Research Assistant Professor
Area: Numerical simulation of groundwater flow and solute transport; Water resources sustainability; Uncertainty quantification; Machine Learning; Spatiotemporal data analysis.
Office: UWRL 242

Ruijie Zeng, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Assistant Professor
Area: Hydrologic modelling; Remote-sensing; Hydroclimatology; Water resources system analysis; Data mining; Drought management.
Office: UWRL 221
Phone: (435) 797-4147

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.



Academic Advising

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

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