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Drip Irrigation Tutorial (toggle)

About drip irrigation and installing drip irrigation system. What is drip irrigation, for more information on how to use drip irrigation call 1877-597-1669

A Brief History of micro irrigation
Drip irrigation, sometimes referred to as micro irrigation or trickle irrigation, has its roots in agriculture. In many parts of the world with limited water supplies drip irrigation was one of the few options available for irrigation. Its development depended on advancements in polyethylene tubing, and its growth was most rapid in arid and drought-plagued regions. Beginning in the late 1960's farmers discovered that by using drip irrigation they could increase yields while lowering water use. The 80's saw drip irrigation making the transition into commercial landscape, with mixed success; in today's market, however, drip irrigation is well trusted and used extensively in agriculture, and is actively utilized in commercial landscape and residential garden sites, providing a possible solution to some of our water management problems.

What is Drip Irrigation?
Drip irrigation is the slow, precise application of water and nutrients directly to the plants' root zones in a predetermined pattern using a point source. A drip irrigation, micro irrigation or trickle irrigation design can be customized to meet specific needs while maintaining an optimum moisture level within the root zones, efficiently conserving water that might otherwise be lost to non-growth areas, runoff, sun or wind, and providing the proper balance of water and air needed for successful plant growth. These benefits can be useful for any residential, commercial or agricultural installation, and may be critical for cities and municipalities that face water restrictions while aspiring to maintain or expand their green areas.drip zone picutre with dripper

At the present time and as long as water is inexpensive, irrigation inefficiency and over-watering may be overlooked. Once water supply is low due to a drought and water restrictions are applied, the inefficiencies of a poorly designed and installed irrigation system quickly become apparent. For an irrigation system to be successful, it must include proper design, correct installation, the right component selection, the proper layout, and equally important, appropriate maintenance. One of the main advantages of drip irrigation systems over conventional irrigation systems is the flexibility to adapt to any layout above or below grade, in any location. This feature allows users and installers to customize an irrigation system to meet a specific need for a wide range of irrigation requirements.

Unlike drippers or drip emitters, "micro sprinklers" throw the water over a wide area, and are designed to be used in areas where drip emitters are not practical, such as large areas of groundcover and flowerbeds. Micro sprinklers offer many of the same benefits as drip emitters. Using low volume irrigation offers key advantages and benefits to both contractors and homeowners.

Conventional irrigation systems using sprinklers or bubblers are rated in gallons per minute (GPM). Drip irrigation, micro irrigation or trickle irrigationflow rates are in gallons per hour (GPH), such as 1 GPH or 2 GPH drip emitters. For example a popup sprinkler used on a lawn may be rated at 1 to 3 GPM (gallons per minute), or 60 to 180 GPH (gallons per hour) while drip emitters are rated at 1-4 GPH (gallon per hour) and micro sprinklers may be rated from 5 to 45 GPH (gallons per hour).

With conventional watering systems, water may be lost through runoff, low system uniformity and high rate of evaporation, blown away by wind or wasted on non-growth areas. Using drip irrigation water is absorbed slowly into the soil and directly into the root zone. No water is wasted on non-growth areas. By placing the drip emitters just at the plant root zone you can water using much less water and with better efficiency. This irrigation method allows the water to move deeper into the soil, encouraging deeper root growth.  In addition, the low flow of drip system enables watering of large areas using a single water source.

Another advantage of using a low flow drip irrigation system is that high pressure is not required to supply water to the drippers and micro sprinklers. Most drip systems operate at about 15 to 30 PSI (pounds per square inch), while the average home has water pressures of anywhere from 40 PSI to 80 PSI. Consequently, with a drip system, you will not notice a drop in pressure when the system is operating. 

Also, operating under low pressure allows drip irrigation systems to use drip tubing, drip emitters, drip fittings and other components that do not require glue, clamps or hard-to-connect components. In fact, most components of a drip system can be moved or reused. This is explained in more depth in other sections.

Advantages and Benefits of Drip Irrigation System

  • Water Efficiency:
    By applying water only where and when it is needed, with less runoff and less evaporation from leaves and soil, the uniform application of water from drip irrigation systems can achieve high water savings.

  • Ease of Installation:
    The system can be installed without special tools or glue, and with limited knowledge, making the installation a very simple process.

  • Reduced Pest Problems and Weed Growth:
    Watering only the roots of your plants with drip irrigation cuts down on water-borne pests and fungal diseases that spread by water movement, as well as the germination of weeds in the area between your plants.

  • Versatility:
    Low volume irrigation systems are designed for placement in both new and existing landscape areas, and are ideal for installation on difficult terrain such as on slopes, in oddly shaped areas, and on windy sites.

  • Root Zone:
    One benefit of a drip irrigation system is the creation of a totally new and more favorable root zone environment because of the maintenance of a relatively constant soil moisture level. This has important implications for plant water requirements, tolerance and control of disease.

  • Economy:
    Investing in a low volume irrigation system can save you money and significantly lower your water use.

Disadvantages of Drip Irrigation

No serious introduction to drip irrigation would be complete without a look at the disadvantages associated with its use:

  • The drip tubing can be susceptible to damage from rodents, and household pets.
  • A filter is required to guard against potential clogging of the small water passages of the drip emitters and micro sprinklers.
  • You cannot see a drip system working as you can see a conventional sprinkler system.
  • Each drip emitter creates a wetted area around each plant, so watering is more critical in replacing the water used by the plant to avoid stress.

There are other details about drip irrigation that make it the sensible way to water your landscape area. Here we have provided only a broad overview. To see all the details scroll back up to our main help menu and check out the other sections.