Personal profile

Academic Background

I acquired my PhD (reading Irrigation Design & Management) from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1998. Prior to that I gained my Masters of Science in Irrigation (Distinction) also from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1992. My BSc in Soil Science (Hons) is from University of Reading, graduating in 1985.



Although I have now left UEA I remain affliated to the School of International Development (DEV)

I joined DEV in May 1994 as a lecturer in Natural Resources.  Prior to that I worked for two organisations - the Commonwealth Development Corporation (where I was based in Swaziland on the IYSIS project) and then Hunting Technical Services Ltd (then HTSPE, now DAI).  From 1994 to 2001 I both taught on UG and PG courses and undertook my doctoral research.

My doctoral research considered design-management interactions on large-scale canal irrigation systems, with a focus on Southern Africa. This work attempted to characterise and model the factors that influence the performance of irrigation schemes with a view to providing guidance on system evaluation and best practices for rehabilitation.

During 2001 to 2006 I was as Team Leader for a DFID-KAR project in Tanzania called RIPARWIN - Raising Irrigation Productivity and Releasing Water for Intersectoral Needs. See this website for more details

During the period 2006 to 2010, I became Head of School, DEV at the University.  

I worked with the UK section of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) as its Chair from 2011 to 2014.


Oct 2019 onwards - independent / affiliated to the School of International Development, UEA, UK

2011 – 2019 Professor of Water and Irrigation Policy, School of International Development, UEA, UK2005 – 2011 Senior Lecturer in Natural Resources, School of International Development, UEA, UK

2006 – 2010 Head of School, School of International Development, UEA, UK
1994 – 2005 Lecturer in Natural Resources, School of Development Studies, UEA, UK
1990 – 1994 Consultant & Irrigation Agronomist, Hunting Technical Services Ltd, UK
1985 – 1989 Irrigation Agronomist, Commonwealth Development. Corporation, Swaziland
1983 – 1984 Assistant Soils Agronomist, Commonwealth Development. Corporation, Swaziland

Key Research Interests

My main research areas are: water resources planning and management; river basin management; irrigation systems analysis; community-based irrigation; design management interactions; conflict resolution and natural resource gaming.

Key country experience includes Tanzania, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Swaziland.

Research Groups: UEA Water Security Research Centre
I have worked in and studied agricultural water management since 1983, initially at the irrigation system level in Swaziland but more recently on livelihood, institutional and basin approaches to the governance of water.

I study 16 interrelated themes of research, grouped thematically here:

Participatory polycentric water governance and allocation
1.Dynamic irrigation systems and river basins in semi-arid environments via a non-equilibrium lens.
2.Polycentric river basin/water management and user participation, critiquing the design of IWRM applied to river basins in Sub-Saharan Africa
3.Serious games and deliberative tools in the management and allocation of water (the river basin game and multi-agent spreadsheets for water allocation).
4.On being a waterist.

 Resource efficiency complexity and the paracommons
5.Irrigation efficiency and productivity measurement and theorising.
6.The paracommons; a commons of (yet to be) conserved resources.

Irrigation infrastructure, livelihoods and policy
7.Sub-Sahara irrigation policy to expand and rehabilitate irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
8.Irrigation livelihoods studies including LADDER work and consultancy in Kyrgyzstan on water user associations.
9.User-centred design of irrigation and basin systems for water apportionment (my doctoral research).
10.Irrigationalism and irrigationism. On the ideology of irrigation engineering, expansion and rehabilitation.

Ecosystem and vector water studies
11.Science of water and ecosystems services within irrigated river basins (NERC- funded ‘ESPA’ project in South Africa examined trade-offs and interfaces between wetlands and irrigated agriculture).
12.Environmental demand management of ecological water resources to sustain or increase productivity in that sector
13.Vector water. A set of ideas around how blue water might support green water.
14.Water-energy-food nexus. Interrelationships between different sectors.

Performance, equity and justice in water allocation
15.Incodys Water Security framework.
16.Transboundary water law, in particular the principle of equitable allocation defined in the UN Watercourses convention, on water allocation.

Research Supervision

I am no longer supervising PhD students in DEV.

Areas of Expertise

Water scarcity and allocation; water and irrigation management; irrigation policy; irrigation policy in Africa; agricultural water management; small-scale irrigation; irrigation efficiency and productivity; river basin management; competition for water; conflict resolutions over water.

Teaching Interests

I provide a few guest lectures at UEA and elsewhere.  I take a similar approach to both teaching University students and the training of professionals – I employ experiential learning. This means that on the whole the session comprises a series of exercises, group discussions and games. The lecture material provides a structure in which these exercises can be embedded as well as reference to theory and further reading.

Training has taken place both at UEA on various climate change and water security short-courses, but also overseas in countries as diverse as Laos, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique.

Research Supervision

I am no longer supervising research students.  Past students include:

  • Citalli Becerril-Tinoco; 'Institutional Analysis of Water Management in Mexico'
  • David Blake; 'Irrigationalism – the politics and ideology of irrigation development in the Nam Songkhram Basin, Northeast Thailand'
  • María de Jesús Márquez Dorantes; 'The institutional paradox of water investment in Mexico City: Institutional arrangements for trade-offs in actors’ objectives and their constraints to the sustainable development of the water sector.'
  • Matthew England; 'IWRM and Climate Change in India'
  • Virginia Hooper: 'Inter-sectoral water allocation in developing countries'
  • Dorice Agol; ‘Linking Culture and Science: Water Resources in Kenya’
  • Henry Alhassan; ‘Large Dams: A Development Imperative, a Tyranny of Technology, or a Subversion of Southern Coutries Development: Case Studies of the Akosombo Dam and the Bui Dam Project of Ghana’
  • Nicholas Hepworth; ‘The Role of Regulatory Practice in Integrated Water Resource Management: Impacts, Implications and Insights for Progress via a Multiple Case Study of Sectoral Water Uses in Tanzania’
  • Joe Hill; ‘Water Rights and Water Governance in Chotanagpur, Jharkhand’
  • Suzanty Sitorus; ‘Linkages between Water, Politics and Territoriality in the Implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management: The Case in Indonesia'
  • Julien Cour; ‘Understanding the Needs of Institutions for the Development of Water Resource Management 'Decision Aids' Software: Learning from the Ruaha Basin, Tanzania’ 


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or