Educational Programs in Irrigation and Agricultural Water Management

Irrigation and Agricultural Water Management

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Irrigation pivot

The goal of the Irrigation and Agricultural Water Management (IAWM) educational programs is to prepare students to be wise managers of irrigation, water resources, and agricultural systems.

The need for professionals in agricultural water management is great, yet few universities in the U.S. have maintained educational programs in irrigation engineering and management.

UNL is well positioned to address this gap with several irrigation faculty and synergy with Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute (DWFI). Nebraska has more irrigated acres than any other state and is home to the irrigation industry (the four largest center pivot manufacturers, power and pumping systems, water conveyance systems, service providers, etc.).

As a land-grant university, we maintain a strong connection with the irrigation industry by equipping students to work in the irrigation profession and integrating current technology into irrigation coursework. Our programs focus on irrigated agriculture in Nebraska, the Great Plains, and internationally.

A student inspects a water sample in a lab.

Undergraduate programs

Undergraduate students interested in irrigation typically major in Agricultural Engineering or Agricultural Systems Technology. Students learn about the fundamentals of irrigation from a systems perspective, as well as current technology and issues related to irrigation and water resources. Students often find summer internships, either in industry or with faculty doing irrigation research. Job opportunities after graduation include irrigation industry, government, international development, and graduate school.

Undergraduate courses
  • AGST/MYSM 452 Irrigation Systems Management (fall semesters)

  • AGEN 453 Irrigation and Drainage Systems Engineering (fall semesters)

Graduate students participate in a stream flow lab in Salt Creek.

Graduate programs

By working closely with faculty, students learn about current research and technology as well as the fundamentals of irrigation. Key components of a graduate education in irrigation include field experience, a systems perspective, and learning to think critically about issues related to irrigation, agriculture, and water resources. Student projects are often interdisciplinary in nature, and students often have the opportunity to present at professional conferences.

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Student in a cornfield holding a drone.

Specialization option

The Irrigation and Agricultural Water Management (IAWM) graduate specialization is available to both MS students and PhD students in the BSE department. Unique in the country, the specialization is designed to provide in-depth expertise on irrigation, at the graduate level, for students pursuing irrigation careers in industry, government, research, teaching, or extension. The specialization is credentialed and will be listed on the student’s transcript. 

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7-12 Irrigation and Water Management Curriculum

UNL Extension is a leader in irrigation management and has developed Irrigation and Agricultural Water Management lessons, YouTube videos, and other curricula to use in the classroom. These materials were created with funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

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IAWM Faculty

Contact Information

For more information about UNL's educational programs in irrigation, contact Dr. Derek Heeren at


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