Bruce Lankford

Systems- & people-centred water and irrigation

User-centred design of irrigation systems

My doctoral research (1995-1999) 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 and modernisation. The origin of this work can be traced to my work as a CDC Technical Officer on the Inyoni Yami Swaziland Irrigation Scheme from 1985 to 1989. I returned to the Swaziland lowveld in the nineties to undertake the field research for the PhD.

The paper that describes how surface irrigation systems can be attuned to make them more manageable is Lankford, B. A. (1992) The use of measured water flows in furrow irrigation management – a case study in Swaziland. Irrigation and Drainage Systems 6: 113-128.

Lankford, B. A. and Gowing, J. (1996) The impact of design approximations on the operational performance of an irrigation scheme: a case study in Malaysia. Irrigation and Drainage Systems 10: 193-205  (Kluwer Academic Publishers).

The two chapters I wrote while studying for the PhD are:

Lankford, B.A. and Gowing, J. (1996) Understanding water supply control in canal irrigation systems in Water Policy: Allocation and Management in Practice by P. Howsan and R. Carter (eds.) E & FN Spon, London, pp 186-193

Lankford, B. A. and Gowing, J. (1997) Providing a water delivery service through design management interactions and system management in Water: Economics, Management and Demand Kay, M., Franks, T. and Smith, L. (eds) E & FN Spon, London, pp 238-246

I also apply the ideas of manageability of infrastructure to the river basin level, asking whether irrigation headworks enable and foster a more equitable and transparent apportionment of river flow water over a wide range of discharges. The four articles relevant here are:

  1. Lankford B.A. 2013. Infrastructure hydromentalities; water sharing, water control and water (in)security. In, B.A. Lankford, K. Bakker, M. Zeitoun and D Conway (Eds) ‘Water security: Principles, perspectives and practices’. Earthscan Publications, London. Pp 256-272
  2. Lankford, B. A and Mwaruvanda, W. 2007. A legal-infrastructural framework for catchment apportionment. In ‘Community-based Water Law and Water Resource Management Reform in Developing Countries’. Barbara Van Koppen, Mark Giordano, and John Butterworth, and (eds). Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture Series, CABI Publishing. 228-247.
  3. Lankford, B. A. (2004) Resource-centred thinking in river basins: should we revoke the crop water approach to irrigation planning? Agricultural Water Management 68:1 33-46
  4. Lankford, B. A. 2004. Irrigation improvement projects in Tanzania; scale impacts and policy implications. Water Policy 6(2), 89-102.

A powerpoint presentation on LIFCA is available here (0.7 MB PDF file)

For further information on the theoretical field in which this fits, search for Lucas Horst, and the ‘MASSCOTE approach’.

small nyerpic gate

Photo: a small nyerpic gate