School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

Staff Profile

John Gowing

Reader in Agricultural Water Management


Roles and Responsibilities

Director of postgraduate studies for AFRD
Degree Programme Director for MSc in AFRD
Member of AFRD research committee
Member of Sage Graduate School committee

Member of UTLSEC PGR sub-committee 


BSc Hons Engineering Science
MSc Agricultural Engineering
CEng Chartered Engineer

Previous Positions

Deputy Director Centre for Land Use & Water Resources Research

Deputy Director of Developing Areas Research Network (DARN) 

Informal Interests

Foundation Trust Governor for King Edward VI School, Morpeth

Trustee/Secretary for Jack Wright Memorial trust 


Research Interests

Much of my research activity is multi-disciplinary. The scientific context can be seen as management of land and water resources.

Irrigated agriculture is a primary interest with a research focus on improved management of irrigation systems, which has involved activity in various countries within the tropics and sub-tropics. Recent activities have explored scope for multi-purpose management of irrigation systems including consideration of non-consumptive water uses such as for fishing and aquaculture.
Interest in agricultural water management extends beyond irrigation and into catchment management and dryland cropping systems. Collaborative research projects with partners in Africa have focussed on interactions between land-use and hydrological response in a semi-arid environment.

My research often brings together elements of soil science and hydrology within broader interdisciplinary approaches to environmental management. This interest is reflected in recent work, which explored indigenous farmers’ knowledge of their soils as an aid to planning soil-water management interventions. It is reflected also in a third focus of research, which has involved a succession of research students in investigation of the soil hydrological processes affecting management of salinity in irrigated land.

Other Expertise

Rural development and sustainable livelihoods.
Soil hydrology and soil physics.

Current Work

1. EU funded research project: Water Harvesting Revisited in sub-Saharan Africa (WHaTeR)

2. NERC/DFID funded research project: Adaptive Management of Groundwater in Africa (AMGRAF) 

Future Research

1.Salinity management and use of low quality water in irrigated land under shallow watertable conditions.
2.Sustainable intensification of cropping systems through land and water management in semi-arid dryland conditions.
3.Environmental and social impacts of conversion from rice to shrimp production in tropical coastal zones.

Research Roles

Principal investigator for several research projects involving interdisciplinary and international collaboration.

Postgraduate Supervision

Supervised 30+ research students to successful completion of PhD.
Currently director of postgraduate research students within AFRD.

Esteem Indicators

Appointed by NSF (South Africa) as external reviewer for proposals to establish Centre of Excellence in Food Security. 

Appointed by NERC as panel member to review proposals for UK Drought and Water Scarcity research programme.

Appointed as External Moderator for training in Agro-technology in Sultanate of Brunei. 

Regular reviewer for several academic journals: Agricultural Water Management, Water Policy, Water Resources Management, Experimental Agriculture, Aquaculture Engineering. I have reviewed book proposals for various publishers: CABI, Spon Press, John Wiley and Thomas Telford.

Acted as research project reviewer for various international organisations: International Water Management Institute, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, International Foundation for Science, Flemish Interuniversity Council.


Currently funded by NERC and EU


irrigation, agriculture, water, sustainable development


Undergraduate Teaching

ACE2015 Environmental science field class
ACE3080 Environmental impact assessment (module leader)

Postgraduate Teaching

ACE8021 Sustainable Development & Environmental Change (module leader)
ACE8060 Land - Water Interface (module leader)
ACE8028 Environmental Assessment: land & water resources
ACE8030 Environmental Assessment: field class

ACE8093 MSc dissertation preparation (module leader)

ACE8094 MSc Environmental science/management dissertation (module leader)