In addition to the annual Gerald Lacey Lecture, our technical meetings are typically held twice a year in February and November.
Details of past technical meetings and, where available, recordings are provided on this page.
Irrigation: Making it Work for the Poor
Date: 22nd February 2019
Irrigation can contribute significantly to poverty alleviation, food security, and improving the quality of life for rural populations. However, irrigation often does not live up to expectations and can also be highly inefficient and have negative environmental and socio-economic effects, such as water logging and salinization, water and vector borne diseases, and inequitable access to water. In turn, these negative social and economic impacts can be compensated through improved planning, implementation and management of irrigation systems.
This meeting explored the linkage between irrigation and drainage, and hunger and poverty alleviation, in which the poor benefit through higher yields, lower risk of crop failure, adoption of diversified cropping patterns, increased high‐value and market‐oriented crop production, and fixed employment. Experts shared lessons from various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Read the meeting notes here (recording coming soon)
Speaker and Topics
“Key and Smart Actions to Alleviate Hunger and Poverty through Irrigation and Drainage” Peter Lee (FAO)
“Lessons in Sustainable Agricultural Groundwater Management” Timothy Foster (University of Manchester)
“Irrigation, Food Security and Poverty: Lessons from Three Large Dams in West Africa” Jamie Skinner (International Institute for Environment and Development)
“Farmers/Irrigations in Semi-Arid Lands: What Future?” Peter Newborne (ODI)
The Nile Basin
Date: 09th November 2018
The Nile River, with its estimated length of over 6,800 km the world’s longest river, covers an area of around 3 million km2. The Nile flows through ten countries, four of which are already water scarce. The Nile basin is currently home to approximately 160 million people, but it is estimated that in 25 years, the population in the basin will be 600 million.
Adding to the potential water stress, many large dams for hydropower and irrigation are being built or considered in countries upstream with consequences for countries downstream that are highly dependent on the Nile for their water supply. These competing demands, combined with the potential impacts of climate change leading to changes in timing and availability of water and sea level rise, could send the region’s water resources into crisis.
This meeting explored the threats, challenges and opportunities facing the management of this major transboundary basin. We heard from a range of experts working at a national and multi-country level on the current state of the basin, its future development and the crucial need for cooperation among the riparian states.
Read the meeting notes here (recording coming soon)
Speakers and Topics
“Transboundary Water Management in the Nile Basin” Eelco van Beek (Deltares)
Prof. Van Beek is a water resources specialist who graduated in 1972 from Delft University of Technology in Civil Engineering in the Netherlands. He first worked in Iran as hydrologist for the United Nations. After joining Delft Hydraulics in 1976 (now Deltares), he became involved in projects on integrated water resources management (IWRM). He has carried out projects in the Netherlands but also in many countries all over the world in particular in Asia. His primary focus is on the use of quantitative tools (models) in IWRM about which he has written a book together with prof. Pete Loucks of Cornell University. In Egypt he has been involved in the preparation of the National Water Resources Plan of Egypt and carried out several studies on Lake Nasser and the Nile. He combined his work at Deltares with teaching positions at the Delft University of Technology, the University of Twente and IHE Delft. Prof. Van Beek was also for 6 years a member of the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership (GWP).
“Lake Victoria – Water Levels and Release Policies” Helen Houghton-Car (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)
The significant drop in Lake Victoria water levels, beginning in 2000 and reaching the lowest recorded level since the 1940s six years later, inconvenienced those who depend on the lake for their livelihoods and generated a regional debate regarding the cause of the decline. The basin, in the headwaters of the Nile in East Africa, is home to over 40M people who depend on the water of the lake, its tributaries and its outflow for domestic and industrial supply, irrigation, hydropower, transportation and fisheries. The Lake Victoria region is characterised by high intra- and inter annual climatic variability, the consequence of which is significant uncertainty in future rainfall on, and inflows to, the lake. The East African climate paradox, in which the East African long rains are observed to be decreasing, whilst climate models predict an increase, illustrates the current lack of capacity to predict the impacts of climate variability and change on water resources.
Helen Houghton-Carr is a Senior Hydrologist and Project Manager at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and current Chair of the Irrigation & Water Forum. She works primarily on overseas water resources projects, in sub-Saharan Africa, in India and across Europe. She has particular interests in regional approaches to problem-solving and in expanding technical capabilities in the water sector to monitor, plan and manage resources more effectively and sustainably.
“Sudan – Evolving Approaches to Water Policy and Projects, and the Impact on Conflict in Rural Sudan” Brendan Bromwich (King’s College London) & Eiman Karar
The massive humanitarian response to Darfur put considerable pressure on the region’s water resources. A new effort to adapt and implement IWRM approaches grew out of this need and fed into a national policy agenda to manage Sudan’s non Nile water resources. The response included practical initiatives and a policy discourse based around an exchange programme between Sudan and South Africa. In both countries IWRM, although by no means a silver bullet for the water sector, has had a convening power in the aftermath of social upheaval. We review the impact of a UKAID and EU funded initiative on IWRM over a 10-year period within the context of policy and political change in Sudan. We also consider the critique of IWRM and the role of adaptive management for water security.
Brendan Bromwich coordinated the UN’s environmental response to the Darfur conflict. The work included practical initiatives to explore how environmental governance could be restored in the aftermath of widespread social upheaval. He currently works with food and water group at King’s College London and is co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Food water and society.
“Blue Nile – Ethiopia and The Grand Renaissance Dam” Kevin Wheeler (University of Oxford)
Dr. Kevin Wheeler is a research associate with the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, principal of Water Balance Consulting, and recent Research Fellow in Sustainability Science at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. His work focuses on trans-boundary rivers and increasing water security through cooperation, specifically through collaborative risk-based modelling within negotiation contexts. His work supports the development process of coordinated management strategies for multi-objective reservoir systems. With over 15 years of consulting experience, Dr. Wheeler has worked on a variety of water-related issues ranging from community-based development projects to international trans boundary disputes, including the successful negotiations between the USA and Mexico over the Colorado River. For the last 6 years, he has focused on the Nile River by exploring potential cooperative strategies between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
“East Africa Climate” John Marsham (University of Leeds)
Dr. Kevin Wheeler is a research associate with the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, principal of Water Balance Consulting, and recent Research Fellow in Sustainability Science at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. His work focuses on trans-boundary rivers and increasing water security through cooperation, specifically through collaborative risk-based modelling within negotiation contexts. His work supports the development process of coordinated management strategies for multi-objective reservoir systems. With over 15 years of consulting experience, Dr. Wheeler has worked on a variety of water-related issues ranging from community-based development projects to international trans- boundary disputes, including the successful negotiations between the USA and Mexico over the Colorado River. For the last 6 years, he has focused on the Nile River by exploring potential cooperative strategies between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
Dr John Marsham is an Associate Professor with water@leeds at the University of Leeds and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. He is a meteorologist specialising in moist convection and tropical meteorology, especially in Africa. He is PI of the Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) HyCRISTAL project (Intergrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa), and Co-I on the FCFA pan-African IMPALA and West African AMMA2050 projects., as well as GCRF Africa SWIFT, which addresses weather prediction.
“Egypt – National Water Resources Plan” Caroline Bäcker (Mott MacDonald)
Introduction of integrated water resources planning and management in the Delta of Egypt, involving enhanced co-operation between government agencies to improve solid waste management, wastewater treatment, water quality in waterways, more efficient irrigation practices and strengthened end-user participation in water management.
Caroline Bäcker is an experienced institutional development expert in the water sector achieving sustainable results in project management and implementation in Asia, Africa and Europe working with international financing agencies including the World Bank, KfW German Development Bank and the European Union. Caroline managed multidisciplinary teams to engage end-users in water management, enhance capacity and cooperation between institutions to practise integrated water resource management, improve water resources planning, and strengthen the capacity of institutions and their contexts for efficient delivery of public sector services.
Integrated Urban Water Management
A joint talk with the British Hydrological Society.
Date: 10th November 2017
Urbanisation is typically associated with detrimental changes in water resources, including modified flow regimes, reduced water quality, increased sediment transport, and degraded ecosystems. The frequency and intensity of water-related hazards, such as floods, droughts and pollution events, can increase with population growth and climate change, and in turn put greater stress on systems for water treatment, stormwater and sewage treatment. These changes may have knock-on impacts downstream of urban centres. Reversing degradation to water and other natural resources, whilst meeting the increased demand for ecosystem services, requires significant changes in management practices. This meeting explored aspects of managing freshwater, wastewater and stormwater, in and from urban areas, as components of a basin-wide water resource management plan.
Speakers and Topics
Keynote Speaker – Dustin Garrick (University of Oxford)
“Urban Water Management in the Hindu-Kush” Pete Harrison, Jessica Morrissey and Valeria Pini (Landell Mills)
“Integrated Urban Water Management: Lessons from London” Michael Henderson and Melinda Davies (AECOM)
“Systems Modelling for Integrated Urban Water Management” Ana Mijic, Leyang Liu and Jimmy O’Keeffe (Imperial College London)
“Predicting Future Change in Water Flows and Quality in Urbanising Catchments” Mike Hutchins and James Miller (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)
“Urban Flood Resilience in an Uncertain Future” Shaun Maskrey (University of Nottingham)
“Is the Urban Landscape being Excluded from Natural Flood Management” Thea Wingfield, Kim Peters and Neil Macdonald (University of Liverpool), Jack Spees (Ribble Rivers Trust) and Karen Potter (Open University)
Irrigation and Water Supply: Conflict or Opportunity?
Date: 24th February 2017
Reliable access to safe drinking water was one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and more recently one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although good progress has been made, there are still many people with inadequate access to water, and in some situations conflict exists between water for agriculture and water for domestic use. There are sometimes contested rights to water sources and often different
institutional arrangements exist for managing agricultural and domestic water. Equally there may be opportunities for shared use of water, and grey water from domestic waste is a valuable resource. Multiple Use Systems (MUS) provide opportunities to grow small areas of vegetables and other valuable crops from systems primarily designed for domestic use. Both conflict and opportunity are most obvious in small systems, such as those found in rural Nepal, but major irrigation canals are used as the source of drinking water in many arid countries, such as Egypt and Pakistan
Unlike other meetings which look at problems and innovations related to large scale irrigation, this meeting focused at the opposite end of the spectrum. The half-day seminar examined experiences and progress in bridging the gap between rural water supply and irrigation, and assessed the role of integrated water resource management (IWRM) in ensuring sustainable access to and use of water for both agriculture and domestic use.
Speakers and Topics
“The importance of managing water locally in a fragile state context” StJohn (Singe) Day (Adam Smith International)
“Management of groundwater in Burkina Faso for domestic agricultural and livestock uses” Vincent Casey (WaterAid)
“Experiences from the WASH results fund” Ian Ross (Oxford Policy Management)
“Can climate finance stimulate better sharing of water between agricultural and domestic water users: lesson from Nepal” Simon Howarth (Mott MacDonald)
Water Crises: Challenges and Opportunities
A joint talk with King’s Water
Date: 11th November 2016
Amid growing concerns about the increasing frequency and severity of droughts, water scarcity remains high on international agenda. Water scarcity, together with climate, environment, and population stresses, compounds political instability and water conflict, and this requires emergency action both nationally and internationally. It is widely acknowledged that there are different types of scarcity (e.g. physical, economic) and the consequences of scarcity are context-dependent.
This seminar examined the relationship between water crises, particularly related to surface water, and conflict. It also looked at water crises through the lens of opportunity – exploring the interplay between conflict and cooperation in solving water crises, and exploring how water crises can act as a catalyst to improve water governance.
This one-day workshop included presentations from IWF members, Kings Water, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the Department for International Development (DFID) among others. The full programme included papers on characterisation and management of drought, challenging the war and water scarcity discourse; role of regional drought and climate change in contributing to conflict, and the use of water management as a tool for conflict resolution, amongst others.
Speakers and Topics
Keynote Speaker – Mohamed Bazza (FAO) “A global review of how we currently characterise and deal with drought“
Mohamed is a Senior Water Resources Officer in the Land and Water Division of the United Nation’s FAO. He leads FAO’s work on drought management. Previously, he led the water resources and irrigation program in the Near East and North Africa regions and was chief technical advisor on land and water conservation in Yemen. Prior to FAO, Mohamed was a university professor of Agricultural Engineering at the Hassan II Agronomic and Veterinary Medicine Institute in Rabat, Morocco, and consultant with several organizations.
“Transboundary Water Conflict and Cooperation and the role of Power Dynamics” – a panel session led by Naho Miromachi (King’s College London)
“Life-saving or state-building? Navigating the paradoxes of humanitarian and peacebuilding objectives in the conflicted water context of Darfur” Brendan Bromwich (King’s College London)
“Drought Crises and the Evolution of Drought Risk Management: to what extent has practice built on lessons from past crises?” Paul Sayers (WWF)
The Role of the Private Sector in Irrigation Management: Experiences and Opportunities
Date: 26th February 2016
Good management of large scale irrigation remains a challenging prospect, despite numerous initiatives in recent decades. Although a large proportion of global food production is dependent on such irrigation systems, they are still widely perceived to be poorly managed, wasteful of water and money, and to cause adverse social and environmental impacts. Since the 1990s Water Users’ Associations have been almost universally promoted to address these problems, but these cannot yet address the underlying problems, particularly on very large scale irrigation in South and East Asia. More recently, a more commercial approach has been promoted by the World Bank and Asian Development, with much larger components of irrigation development and management being contracted to the private sector. The Guerdane scheme in Morocco is often cited as a success story, but decades on it has rarely been replicated.
This meeting explored some of these issues, including the challenges of managing irrigation for subsistence purposes in very poor countries, the opportunities for introduced advanced methods from more developed economies, and the role that agribusinesses and socially aware consumers can have.
IWF members have been involved in many of these developments and have a strong interest in improving the performance of irrigation systems globally. This meeting provided an opportunity to share experiences, successes and failures.
Speakers and Topics
“The Challenges of Private Sector Involvement in Management of Large-Scale Surface Irrigation in Bangladesh” Alan Clark (North West Hydraulics)
“Agribusiness, Water Stewardship, and Irrigation Management” Suvi Sujamo and Nick Hepworh (Water Witness)
“Sustainable Agricultural Water Management from a Supermarket Perspective” Simon Reid (Marks and Spencer)
“Innovations in Irrigation Financing and Management in Africa” Wietse van Tilburg (AgDevCo)
Irrigation – Improving Social and Environmental Outcomes
Date: 06th November 2015
Irrigation can contribute significantly to poverty alleviation, food security, and improving the quality of life for rural populations. However, irrigation often does not live up to expectations and can also have negative environmental and socio-economic effects, such as water logging and salinization, water and vector borne diseases, and inequitable access to water.
Speakers and Topics
“Climate Change – a Challenge and an Opportunity: How can better irrigation contribute to poverty reduction in Nepal” Simon Howarth (Mott MacDonald)
“Irrigation, Water Efficiency and Environmental Flow” Conor Linstead, Freshwater Specialist (WWF-UK)
“Drip Irrigation in Morocco: a contribution to water conservation and poverty reduction?” Guy Jobbins (Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute)
“Multiple Uses of Irrigation Water: Drinking Water Quality vs Water Availability” Dr. Jeroen Ensink (Senior Lecturer, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
“Making Agricultural Advice Work for Smallholder Farmers: matching expectations on large irrigation dams in West Africa” Dr. Barbara Adolph (Principal Researcher, International Institute for Environment and Development)
“Don’t Overlook the Groundwater – the importance of recognising how farmers irrigation, environmental and social impacts of over abstraction of groundwater in the Lower Bari Daob Scheme in Pakistan” Dr. Ian Tod (CEng MICE Independent Consultant)
“Panj-Amu Project in Afghanistan: Impact of Water User Associations on social conditions, conflict reduction and poverty alleviation” Simon Foxwell (Asia/Pacific Division Director, Landell Mills)
Dams for Irrigation: Technical and Social Consideration for Sustainability
A joint talk with the British Dam Society.
Date: 20th February 2015
Although often essential for water management, dams can be controversial and have had much adverse publicity in recent decades. The focus of this joint meeting is on dams for irrigation, for which there is an increasing need for storage of water in order to meet the seasonal requirements for crop production. Groundwater – the subject of our last meeting – has a valuable role in this regard, but there is often a need for surface storage as well. Climate change, with a resulting increase in the variability in river flows, combined with population growth and changes in livelihoods will make the need even greater. There is a need to build better dams, and manage them better to avoid the problems encountered in the past, to help achieve food security, and to do so in a way that is socially and environmentally sound.
This was a joint meeting with the British Dams Society, which is also an associated society of ICE and aims to advance the knowledge of technical subjects relating to planning, design, construction, maintenance, operation, safety, environmental and social issues.
The IWF is strongly interested in the sustainable development of irrigation and water management for agriculture and was well-placed to hold a short meeting and debate on optimising the design and are management of dams. The subject was recently debated at the Environmental Change Institute in Oxford in November 2014 in a meeting entitled “Africa, Dams and Development”. This meeting at IWF focused specifically on design and management of dams for irrigation, highlighting good practice and solutions rather than simply identifying problems.
Management of Groundwater Resources for Irrigation and Co-users
Date: 07th November 2014
Groundwater resources provide an important mechanism for balancing the supply of water to meet local needs. The consequences of mining groundwater resources for immediate benefit are well known, however, across large tracts of Africa for instance groundwater provides a significant source, available for those that understand how to abstract it. With this in mind, this IWF meeting discussed the issues and best practices associated with the management of groundwater resources for the needs of both agricultural producers and local stakeholders.
Speakers and Topics
“Groundwater Management in Irrigated Catchments – Key Principles and Common Misconceptions” Dr Stephen Foster
“Excessive groundwater use – how to think about it, and what to do about it. The Chinese perspective” Dr Chris Perry
“The groundwater systems of north-western India” Prof Alex Densmore
“Groundwater irrigation in sub-Saharan Arica: trends, potential and constraints for development” Dr Karen Villholth
“UPGRo” Richard Carter
“Groundwater storage and recharge in Africa” Prof Alan McDonald
“Adaptive Management of Groundwater in Africa (AMGRAF)” John Gowing
“Some reflections on groundwater development and poverty reduction” Dr Roger Calow
The Daunting Challenge of Canal Irrigation Reform for Water Productivity and Food Security
A joint meeting with the University of East Anglia.
Date: 21st February 2014
The Irrigation and Water Forum and University of East Anglia Water Security hosted a half-day technical meeting on the appropriate design and reform of canal irrigation systems and services under the guise of irrigation rehabilitation and modernisation. The improvement of irrigation performance, underpinned by design that offers better manageability, is a vital part of the anticipation that water and land productivity will have to rise over the next few decades to meet future food demands – yet without having to default to pressurised systems.
To set the stage, it is perhaps remarkable that the 2013 publication “Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems” prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network failed to refer to the challenges and rewards of canal irrigation, instead highlighting the popular but nonetheless risky solutions of micro-scale irrigation technologies.
This meeting started with a keynote presentation from Herve Plusquellec, one of the most foremost specialists working in this field.
Speakers and Topics
Keynote Speaker: “Improving performance of canal irrigation
systems in developing countries is long-overdue: Hope or desperation?” Herve Plusquellec (Recently World Bank)
“Experiences of Irrigation Rehabilitation and Modernisation
in Vietnam” Martin Donaldson (Independent Consultant)
“Directions and degrees for canal modernisation; more or less? (with reference to Pakistan, Sudan and Armenia).” Adrian Laycock (Independent Consultant)
“Performance of irrigation management: Analysis from 60 irrigation systems in the world” Robina Wahaj (FAO)
“Inconvenient truths: irrigation modernization in transition and lessons from the Western U.S.” Beau Freeman(Lahmeyer International)
Water and the Green Economy
A joint meeting with the University of East Anglia.
Date: 08th November 2013
This University of East Anglia Water Security and the Irrigation and Water Forum event featured eleven talks covering projects from all over the world, presented by representatives from many different organisations. The day began with two keynote presentations from Jean-Paul Penrose (DFID) and Mohamed Ait Kadi (Chair, GWP Technical Committee).
A number of themes appeared throughout the conference. The necessity of economic activity for development coupled with acknowledgement that water security is a fluid and debatable issue formed an undercurrent throughout. The meeting also consider changes happening now and the need to decide how to adapt whilst realising that there will be trade-offs. It was also evident that governance and political institutions are an important component of change. Finally, in most cases more evidence in the form of reliable data is required to make informed decisions on water-related development issues.
Speakers and Topics
Keynote speaker: ‘Implementation and Incorporation of the Green Economy’ Jean-Paul Penrose (DFID)
“Water and Green Economy” Mohamed Ait Kadi (Chair, Global Water Partnership Technical Committee). See the slides here.
“Enabling Green Economic Growth – Central role of innovation and implication for a dynamic management of land and water resources” Jochen Frobrich (Alterra Wageningen). See the slides here.
“Green Economy for Agricultural Water Development through Optimisation” Michael Gilmont (King’s College London). See the slides here.
“Understanding ‘value’ in Debates on Land and Water Use” Phil Woodhouse (Manchester University). See the slides here.
“Implementation of a Green Economy Strategy: lessons from Ethiopia” Roger Calow (ODI). See the slides here.
“Green Economy Approaches – Water and Abstraction Reform” Mike Young (Harvard University, University College London, The University of Adelaide). See the slides here.
“Making Space for Green in a Black and White Economy” Aileen Anderson (Crossflow Consulting). See the slides here.
“Catchment Management – A Sustainable Solution for Water Companies?” Jodie Whitehead (Severn Trent Water). See the slides here.
“Can Large Dams be Part of a Green Economy?” Mike Skinner (International Institute for Environment and Development). See the slides here.
“Who gets the Gain of an Efficiency Gain? An exploration of the paracommons and paradoxes of irrigation and resource efficiency” Bruce Lankford (University of East Anglia). See the slides here.