Researcher on Impact of Irrigation Efficiency on Catchment Water Resources

KU Leuven




Research topics within the Division of Soil and Water Management cover physical, chemical and biological processes in the environment: measuring and modeling transport processes of water and solutes (nutrients - contaminants) in soils, expert systems for efficient crop water use, long-term trends in tropical soil fertility and soil chemistry, risk-analysis studies and speciation of metals and phosphorous species in soil and water, land surface modeling, remote sensing and data assimilation. The research will be supportive within the general context of the interuniversity programme on water resources engineering and more in particular a MOOC on irrigation efficiency



The future of irrigation is challenging; irrigation accounts for 70% of freshwater consumption and according to FAO the global irrigation efficiency is 56% (see Aquastat).


As well as these factors, irrigation is under pressure from other sectors as its economic productivity is relatively low compared to other water users and activities. Indeveloping countries, drinking water and industrial requirements, along with ecosystem water needs are often more powerful than farming communities. When we consider this within the context of possible lower water availability due to climate and land-use changes, increasing irrigation efficiency and watersavings is essential. Irrigation efficiency studies are scale and perspective dependent and need to be accompanied by comprehensive water accounting and measurement. Thankfully, despite the challenges we face, we now have access tomore numerous and better data sources through satellite remote sensing andin-situ data collection than ever before.


The research will focus on anumber of catchments in Latin America with headwaters in the Andes, such as the Cuenca Chancay-Lambayeque. Water availability and abstraction of surface and groundwater within these catchments at different altitudes will be quantified and compared to the water needs for irrigation to build a water balance. The estimation of the water needs will be based on irrigation requirements for the predominant crops and the effective irrigated areas based on Sentinel images.

One objective is to develop amethodology which quantifies the impact of irrigation and its efficiency on catchmentwater resources. That will include assessing water use at different scales from field up to basin level. Suitable performance indicators will be determined in order to appropriately compare the performance of irrigation schemes indifferent catchments. The fractions approach to irrigation efficiency will be applied at different scales.


Catchments in (semi-)aridconditions are often closed due to excessive water consumption. As well as this,inequalities often exist between head-end and tail-end irrigation users inschemes. Another objective is to consider management practices employed in thecatchments and irrigation schemes and how best they may incorporate performanceindicators in the integrated management of their resources.

Support to education:

The candidate is expected to spent 20% of his time to education:

-       Assistance to running a MOOC on irrigationefficiency and applying flipped classroom based on pre-class preparation by theMOOC.

-       Supporting exercises on the courses of irrigationmethods and design.



Preference to canddate with good knowledge of soil and water engineering. Ideally the candidate holds an MSc in Water resources engineering  or in  soil and water systems. The candidate should also have an MSc which gives direct access to  PhD studies without the need for predoctoral studies. Evidence of experience with modern teaching methods like MOOC's is an asset.


First year contract with a extension to a second year provided the first year PhD progress evaluation was positive. The contract will be at an appropriate junior research associate salary scale.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Guido Wyseure, tel.: +32 16 32 96 61, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than November 30, 2019 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

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