School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

John Gowing

Reader in Agricultural Water Management


Roles and Responsibilities

Degree Programme Director for MSc in Organic Farming & Food Production Systems 


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) 

Director of Postgraduate Studies for School of Agriculture Food & Rural Development

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

DFID funded research on citizen science for groundwater management

NERC funded research on citizen science for catchment management

Recent Research

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

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

Research Roles

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

Postgraduate Supervision

David Walker: resilience of shallow aquifers in Africa

David Golicha: resource productivity in a pioneer farming system in Kenya

Achmad Alim: climate change adaptation in sugar cane production system in Indonesia

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.

Associate Editor for Biosystems Enginering academic journal


Currently funded by NERC and DFID


irrigation, agriculture, water, sustainable development


Undergraduate Teaching

ACE2062 Soils: mapping and managing properties and processes

ACE3080 Environmental impact assessment (module leader)

Postgraduate Teaching

ACE8028 Environmental assessment: land & water resources

ACE8049 Climate change: adaptation and mitigation

ACE8101 Food security: sustainable food production (module leader)