This paper examines the implications of technology - the design of canal irrigation for irrigation management reform. With reference to two different design systems in Indian irrigation - shejpali and warabandi - it shows that the potential for reform varies with the design of canal irrigation. Three approaches to canal irrigation reform are discussed - pricing, market creation and irrigation management transfer. The paper argues that academics and policy-makers need to be conscious of the implications of design for irrigation reform proposals. This calls for a move away from conventional approaches to irrigation management reform to a more inter-disciplinary perspective in which discussions on technology have been mainstreamed.