Marvin Eli Jensen, an ASCE Distinguished Member lauded for pioneering methods to determine irrigation water requirements, has died. He was 95.
Jensen, P.E., Ph.D., NAE, Dist.M.ASCE, had a varied career serving for a government agency, as a university employee, and as a consultant. From 1955 to 2007 he was employed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Texas, Colorado, Idaho, and Maryland. His primary area of research was crop and irrigation water requirements. He traveled internationally extensively for his work, frequently delivering keynote speeches and participating in workshops.
Jensen was instrumental in analyzing flows in the Colorado River and aiding the Colorado River Authority to apportion flows to irrigation projects in Southern California. He was responsible for many of the industry’s modern developments in real-time analysis, and his computer models enabled scientific irrigation water scheduling in the United States.
His accomplishments earned him election to the National Academy of Engineering and an ASCE Environmental & Water Resources Institute Lifetime Achievement Award.
Born to Norwegian immigrants on a farm in Minnesota, Jensen served two years on an aviation supply ship and on a landing ship. His two degrees in agriculture and agricultural engineering were from North Dakota State University, where he joined the staff. He received his doctoral degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University in 1965. While at CSU he served several one-month assignments in Egypt and Sri Lanka.
Jensen was elected to NAE in 1988 and to the ARS-USDA Science Hall of Fame in 2003. He was an ASCE life member. He was elected to a three-year term as president of the International Commission of Irrigation and Drainage in 1984. He was honored with the EWRI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
Among his other accolades, Jensen was elected an honorary member of ASCE in 1988, awarded a doctor of science degree at NDSU in 1988, and presented ASCE’s Royce J. Tipton Award in 1982, followed the next year by a USDA Distinguished Service Award and the Irrigation Association Man of the Year Award.
Jensen was a longtime member of the ASCE Irrigation and Drainage Committee and was world president of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage. He served as soil and water director and later as technical vice president of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. He was also lead author on ASCE Manual 70, Evapotranspiration and Irrigation Water Requirements, in 1990.
He was a national program leader for USDA-ARS and director of the Snake River Conservation Research Center. He was USAID liaison officer to the International Irrigation Management Institute in Sri Lanka. As a consultant, he worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Florida Atlantic University, California Imperial Irrigation District, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. He also served as director of the Colorado Institute for Irrigation Management at CSU.