History of the International Irrigation Center

Many of Utah State University's international programs in water are accomplished by the College of Engineering through the Utah Water Research Laboratory (UWRL) and its International Irrigation Center (IIC). The UWRL and IIC are part of the historic, century-long commitment that USU has made to provide assistance in water resources management and planning to the international community.

History of International Involvement at USU

Utah State University (USU) has a long history of cooperation with various countries around the world. Development and management of water resources and irrigation have been USU's primary areas of domestic and international focus since the early 1900s to the present. For example, former USU President John A Widstoe wrote a textbook on irrigation in 1910 and a companion volume on dryland farming in 1914. Some consider these to have formed the basis of modern irrigation science throughout the world. In 1916, the Shah of Persia's Ambassador to the United States gave the commencement address at USU at the invitation of Widstoe, and the first international students (from Persia) arrived shortly thereafter.

Our first advisors in water resources and arid-land agriculture went to Persia in the 1920s with long-term advisors stationed there from 1939–42.

Types of International Training and Assistance

Short Courses and Intensive Training

The UWRL and IIC have trained over 3,500 participants in various water resources and irrigation disciplines. Courses have been presented at USU, at other western U.S. locations, in developing countries, and by distance delivery techniques. Specialized courses have been prepared and presented in other languages and geared to high-level managers, engineers, and field technicians.

Technical Assistance

USU has provided hundreds of person-years of technical assistance on projects throughout the world over the last seven decades. Through this collective experience, USU has developed strong capabilities in helping developing countries improve irrigation efficiency and manage water in large, complex systems at the basin scale. Many USU irrigation and water engineering faculty members have significant inter-cultural skills in the Muslim world of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia and Spanish language capability because of our considerable work in Latin America.

Academic Training

USU has trained more than a thousand international students in academic programs in water resources at the undergraduate and graduate level, primarily in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the Utah Water Research Laboratory. Our academic and short-course graduates comprise one of the largest networks of international alumni in water resources of any US university and are an important resource for future programs to improve water management in the most vulnerable regions where they live and work.

International Water Experience

Utah State University has developed an international reputation for training, applied research, and technical assistance in irrigation, integrated water management, river basin management, conjunctive use of ground and surface water, watershed management, environmental engineering, and remote sensing.

Principal Regional Experience

USU has a substantial base of international experience in water resources in four regions of the world: North, West and Sub-Saharan Africa, The Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.

During the past four decades, more than 20 major technical assistance and training projects have been implemented, along with numerous smaller projects in water resources and irrigation. Funding for these projects has come from a wide variety of diverse sources such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Organization of American States, the US Agency for International Development, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, various foundation, and programs financed directly by hose countries. USU has provided hundreds of man-years of technical assistance and trained thousands of people through our International Irrigation Center and the Utah Water Research Laboratory in the College of Engineering.