Muhammad Mohsin Waqas

A UAF doctoral scholar helps develop hydrological models for irrigation management in rural Punjab.

Muhammad Mohsin Waqas, UAF doctoral scholar in the Dept. of Irrigation and Drainage, UAF.
Muhammad Mohsin Waqas, UAF doctoral scholar in the Dept. of Irrigation and Drainage, UAF.

Muhammad Mohsin Waqas, UAF doctoral scholar in the Dept. of Irrigation and Drainage, UAF.

Muhammad Mohsin Waqas, UAF doctoral scholar in the Dept. of Irrigation and Drainage, UAF.

Muhammad Mohsin Waqas is a doctoral student from the Department of Irrigation and Drainage at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. He split his six month exchange between the University of California, Davis, and Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.

Mr. Waqas’s research focuses on effective management of irrigation water in the lower Chenab canal system of Punjab. The oldest irrigation scheme in Punjab, the lower Chenab canal system is also one of the largest, irrigating over 1.24 million hectares (almost 4800 square miles, or nearly the size of Connecticut). The sheer size of the complex irrigation system is an obstacle to collecting detailed data on soil hydrology and recharge flow.

Under the guidance of Dr. Jan Hopmans at UC Davis and Dr. Maziar Kandelous at Oregon State University, Mr. Waqas began to define his objectives for his USPCAS-AFS exchange.

“I really challenged Mohsin during our first meeting, because I felt like there was a lot that he could learn here in the six months of his exchange,” says Dr. Hopmans. “I wanted to ensure that he could go back to UAF with a toolbox of skills that would be useful.”

In order to create an accurate data map and provide recommendation on water productivity, Mr. Waqas turned to modern techniques such as GIS and R, a statistical language. He began by mapping the lower Chenab canal system into smaller units called Irrigation Response Units (IRUs). Once he had defined the individual IRUs, he began to estimate each unit’s soil salinity, groundwater recharge, and water productivity using a SWAP (Soil, Water, Atmosphere, Plant) simulation model. Mr. Waqas then began to learn about inverse modeling, a method of estimating soil water retention and unsaturated soil conductivity that is one of Dr. Hopmans’ areas of expertise.

“As my research area is 1.24 million hectares, I cannot sample the soil hydrology from everywhere within the system,” said Mr. Waqas during his exit seminar. “So, I learned inverse modeling and the calibration techniques so that I can perform the model and get suitable results for a large irrigation scheme.”

Mr. Waqas also learned R, a language that is often used in statistical methodology. With the guidance of Dr. Kandelous at OSU, he translated HYDRUS-1D (a modeling environment for water flow analysis) into R Studio as another modeling tool.

During his exchange, Mr. Waqas visited the California Irrigation Management Information Systems (CIMIS) office to learn how they manage their systems and information, so that he could apply that knowledge in a future project in Pakistan. “We have a project on designing and implementing a cellular-based irrigation management information system in the rural areas of Punjab,” stated Mr. Waqas. “In this project, we are measuring the rainfall from the cellular signal distortion, because we have very few rain gauges. This way, we can measure the whole total of the rainfall and measure its contribution to the hydrological cycles.”

The U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies (USPCAS) is educating and training the next generation of scientists, engineers, and policy makers through innovative academic programs crucial for Pakistan’s development in agriculture and food security. Through applied research, academia-industry collaboration, and policy formation, USPCAS enhances Pakistan’s economic growth and prosperity. USPCAS was made possible by support from the American people through United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Profile written by Levi McGarry.