WRM-50806 Drainage of Agricultural Lands


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)GJ Borghuis
Lecturer(s)GJ Borghuis
dr. ir. JC van Dam
dr. ir. K Metselaar
Examiner(s)dr. ir. HP Ritzema

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

WRM-10306 Irrigation and Water Management; HWM-21806 Hydraulics and Hydrometry; WRM-21312 Design in Land and Water Management 2 and SLM-20306 Land and Water Engineering.

Continuation courses:

WRM-34306 Water System Design for Water Use from Multiple sources; WRM-30806 Water Delivery.


In this course, the role of drainage in agricultural water management will be treated. Worldwide, about the same percentages of agricultural lands are irrigated (17%) and drained (13%). Irrigation is needed when the natural rainfall is not sufficient to satisfy the crop water requirements and/or drainage is needed to remove excess rainfall and irrigation water or salts brought in by the irrigation water. As the global demand for food continues to increase and this increase mainly has to come from existing agricultural lands, there is urgent to invest in irrigation and drainage systems. Global climate change may further exacerbate the pressure on supply and demand for water through changing temperatures and long-term variation in annual precipitation amounts and regional distribution patterns. In addition to the changing climate, cropping patterns are diversifying and field irrigation methods are changing. In light of all these changes in water demand, supply and use, the role of (subsurface) drainage has changed from a single-purpose measure for controlling waterlogging and/or salinity to an essential element of integrated water management under multiple land use scenarios. Although the total area under irrigation continues to grow, very little is being invested in drainage systems to sustain the investments in irrigation. This is due in part to drainage being at the end of the pipeline where it has to clean up the “mess” that other activities leave behind: i.e. salts brought in by irrigation water, residues of fertilisers and pesticides, etc. However, to move towards more sustainability, drainage has to be given its appropriate role in agricultural water management. 
In this course, the role of drainage in agricultural water management will be treated in five modalities:
- drainage, concepts and benefits;
- drainage, soil and water;
- drainage, salinity and alkalinity;
- drainage, design and implementation;
- drainage, part of agricultural water management.
The course is offered as an online course and consists of two blocks. In Block 1, students will do five E-learning modules on the above-mentioned drainage modalities. At the end of this block, students will made an individual exam to assess their knowledge on these issues. In Block 2, students will work in an online International Classroom in design teams and through a guided design practical apply the various drainage modalities that were presented in Block 1 to design drainage interventions in a complex agricultural setting. Teams may select a case study in a region of their own choice, e.g. in a Temperate Humid Zone, an Arid and/or Semi-Arid Region, or in a Sub-Humid Region. Students will have the opportunity to specialize in one of the drainage modalities that were presented in Block 1 and use this knowledge to make a technical design, including the operational and maintenance requirements of these agricultural drainage systems. At the end of this block, students will deliver two reports: (i) a team report on the design and management of agricultural drainage systems; and (ii) an individual reflection report on the choices you have made in the design process. 

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to: 
- understand the need of drainage in agricultural lands;
- classify the components of a drainage system;
- formulate the requirements for water table and salinity control in agricultural lands;
- analyse the soil and hydrological factors that influence the functioning of an agricultural drainage system;
- design drainage interventions, which special emphasis on the design of subsurface drainage systems;
- develop drainage practices to optimize agricultural water management;
- assess the expected performance of the proposed interventions and analyse these for the multiple dimensions of technology, management/governance and water user perspectives;
- present and defend the proposed interventions in a professional manner.


In Block 1, students will work individually online on five modules, i.e. (1) Drainage, concepts and benefits; (2) Drainage, soil and water; (3) Drainage, salinity and alkalinity; (4) Drainage, design and implementation, and; (5) Drainage, part of agricultural water management. Block 1 is concluded with an individual exam that students have to pass to earn a ‘ticket’ to proceed to Block 2. Block 1 is offered on-line course and can be made throughout the academic year.

In Block 2, students will work together in an online International Classroom and in design teams to develop integrated designs to improve agricultural water management practices in a case study in one of the following regions: (i) Temperate Humid Zone; (ii) Arid and/or a Semi-Arid Region; (iii) Sub-Humid Region. Students will select one of these case studies and will work together in a team of maximum six students. Teams have to make a team contract in which they will specify the (group)arrangements so that each of the student can obtain his/her personal objectives and how as a team they are going to prepare the design report. Students also have to submit an individual reflection report on the choices they have made in the design process (compulsory but not
marked). In the Brightspace environment, we will provide you with reading materials, background information on the case study areas and assignments. Staff members are available to assist the teams and expert groups, but it is the responsibility of the team/group to accomplish the tasks. For communication, we will use Feedback Fruits, an online learning platform that enables you to collaborate, to participate in discussions and to share and discuss the study materials. Block 2 will be offered at specific period through the academic year. 


Block 1 will be concluded with an online individual exam and an oral defence (weight 60%). To proceed with Block 2, students need mark of at least 5.0 for Block 1.
Block 2 will be assessed by a design report and an oral exam in which students have to defend their design report (40%). The individual reflection report is compulsory but not marked.


E-learning modules and background information provided through an electronic learning environment that can be accessed via edX (Block 1) and Brightspace (Block 2).