Maurits Ertsen

Membership:  2013

Member Bio

Maurits Ertsen was a Carson Fellow from May 2013 to August 2013 and from November 2013 to December 2013.
Maurits Ertsen is associate professor within the Water Resources Management group of Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. His main research topic is irrigation. Irrigation is closely associated with the start of human civilization and has been a technology of interest in colonial rule and development cooperation. Irrigation is gaining renewed recognition in the face of climate variability and change. Ertsen tries to understand irrigation from two perspectives: firstly, how do irrigation practices emerge from the many short-term actions of human agents, and secondly, how do farmers respond to irrigation planning from a central state. Currently, he is working on two main projects linked to these themes. The first focuses on human agency in ancient irrigation. For this project, he is collaborating with archaeologists in order to develop an agent-based modeling methodology. His second project, which he will work on at the Rachel Carson Center, is a book on the Gezira Irrigation Scheme in Sudan in the twentieth century. Ertsen is the current treasurer of the International Water History Association (IWHA), secretary of the Dutch Association of Water History and, alongside Heather Hoag from the University of San Francisco, the main editor of Water History, the official journal of the IWHA.


  • Locales of Happiness: Colonial Irrigation in the Netherlands East Indies and its Remains, 1830–1980. VSSD Press: Delft, 2010.
  • “Structuring Properties of Irrigation Systems: Understanding Relations between Humans and Hydraulics through Modeling.” Water History 2, no. 2 (2010): 165–83.
  • “Controlling the Farmer: Irrigation Encounters in Kano, Nigeria. ” The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa 4, no. 1 (2008): 209–36.
  • “The Development of Irrigation Design Schools or How History Structures Human Action. ” Irrigation and Drainage56, no. 2 (2007): 1–19.
  • “Colonial Irrigation: Myths of Emptiness. ” Landscape Research 31, no. 2 (2006) 147–68.