Project final report

Virtual Irrigation Academy phase 2: From water monitoring to learning to governance - Final Report

Date released
13 March 2024
Publication Code

Dr Richard Stirzaker


The Virtual Irrigation Academy (VIA) designed, developed and scaled tools for monitoring water, nitrate and salt, focusing on smallholder irrigators. The VIA is primarily about how a new way of collecting, displaying and sharing information stimulates social learning and leads to a cascade of benefits.

Colour is a universal language that connects the knowledge domains of scientists and farmers into a unified learning system. The tools give output as colours, representing thresholds for action. Data is presented as colour patterns highlighting water and solute dynamics, such as under and over-irrigation, nitrate leaching and salt accumulation.

Scientific impacts from the project include:

  • A novel sensor that can be mass-produced at low cost and retain excellent accuracy
  • A suite of monitoring tools that provide complementary and mutually reinforcing data (water/salt/nitrate)
  • Detecting salinity through chameleon sensors
  • Colour and pattern visualisations that act as boundary objects between different stakeholder knowledge domains
  • The ability to relate yield to patterns
  • The ability to average data across schemes and/or years for M,E&L and
  • The ability to show inequality in water distribution across schemes

View the project page