What Does an Irrigation Engineer Do?

Dan Cavallari

An irrigation engineer is a person who designs irrigation systems and oversees their construction or implementation. He or she must have a solid understanding of irrigation processes as well as moderate engineering skills for designing effective systems. It is likely that an irrigation engineer will work on an engineering or construction team along with designers and various types of construction workers who can help complete the project. This job generally requires a college education, and candidates often hold degrees in civil engineering, mechanical engineering, or other design degrees.

An irrigation engineer designs different water management systems for agricultural areas.
An irrigation engineer designs different water management systems for agricultural areas.

Irrigation is the process of transporting water safely from one location to another, usually for agricultural purposes but not exclusively so. This means an irrigation engineer should have a thorough knowledge of farming processes as well as other uses for irrigation systems. Learning about such topics may be part of a college degree program, though it is likely the irrigation engineer will learn about many of these topics through on the job training or apprenticeships. The engineer is likely to interact regularly with other experts such as farmers, ranchers, other engineers, or designers to ensure the irrigation systems meet the demands of the users and are within adherence of local laws and regulations.

Irrigation engineers often hold a degree in civil engineering.
Irrigation engineers often hold a degree in civil engineering.

Troubleshooting irrigation systems is another primary job responsibility of the irrigation engineer. This means he or she will need to have a thorough understanding of water flow, water supply, common groundwater issues, soil types, and various types of irrigation components. If a system fails to work, or if performance is sluggish, the engineer may need to find the problem and come up with a work process for fixing it. This may involve managing a team of engineers and other workers who can diagnose and fix the system.

An irrigation engineer may design and write instructional manuals for irrigation systems.
An irrigation engineer may design and write instructional manuals for irrigation systems.

One responsibility that may or may not be part of the irrigation engineer’s job duties is the design and writing of instructional manuals for irrigation systems. This requires a thorough knowledge of the irrigation system, so the engineer may work with technical writers who will write a comprehensive and clear user’s manual. In some cases, the manual may be computerized for even more ease of use; the engineer is not likely to be directly responsible for the writing of technical materials, but he or she will consult other professionals during the writing process to ensure all procedures are clearly outlined to ensure proper use and prevent damage to the system. These manuals will be provided to the end users of the system.

An irrigation engineer may work with technical writers to create a manual.
An irrigation engineer may work with technical writers to create a manual.

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