Waterwise Drip Irrigation: Using Water More Efficiently

Want to conserve water, have healthier plants, and make gardening easier? Then drip irrigation is the way to go.

Drip Much More Efficient than Sprinklers

Drip irrigation is over 90 percent efficient in getting water from its source to plant roots. (Sprinkler systems are between 50 and 70 percent efficient).

Water Gets Directly to Plant Roots

Properly applied and regulated, drip irrigation delivers low volumes of water directly to the roots of plants, wasting no or very little water. Plants get only the amount of water they need. Since it is applied slowly to the soil, it does not displace air, keeping the balance of air and water necessary for healthy soil and root systems.

Technology Available and Inexpensive

Drip irrigation systems (also called micro-irrigation) were originally designed by Simcha Blass in Israel to irrigate large desert farming operations. Later they were adapted to raise vegetables commercially, for use in greenhouses and other larger operations. However, now these systems have been designed for home gardening and are easily obtained. They are also easily installed by gardeners who want to do it themselves.

Landscape Use

These systems are ideal for landscape irrigation. Perennials and even annual beds can be watered more efficiently with drip irrigation. These systems can even water container plants.

Vegetable Gardens

Drip irrigation is great for vegetable gardens. That’s because it gets to the roots immediately, allowing the plants to grow, mature, flower and fruit quickly. Since drip irrigation does not cause runoff, erosion is controlled more readily.

Helps Prevent Mold and Rot

When sprinkler systems overspray, which is often the case, and that spray hits house siding, it encourages mold. It also causes rotting of wooden fences.

Driveway and Sidewalks

Using drip irrigation keeps water where the gardener wants it. This also means that water doesn’t overflow onto driveways and sidewalks. Water on sidewalks and driveways can weaken the structures and cause cracking and breaking.

Evaporation

Drip irrigation significantly lowers water loss through evaporation. Desiccating winds, high temperatures and low humidity can cause high evaporation when sprinkler systems are used.

Watering Slopes

It’s difficult to irrigate anything on a slope. Using sprinkler systems or other surface systems is highly inefficient on slopes. Water quickly flows down slopes, gathering speed the farther downhill it goes. The faster water travels downhill, the less likely it is to seep into the ground. Many gardeners build berms and swales to slow that water flow. They plant these little earthen dams and this helps to slow water further. Watering these berms and swales with drip irrigation further slows water down, and helps it soak into the ground.

Adaptable

Drip systems are easily changed, rearranged and readapted according to need. They can be expanded, changed out, removed, or placed in different locations.

Disadvantages of Drip Systems

Maintenance

Since the emitters and the delivery tubes in the system are so small, they can become clogged with tiny soil particles, mineral deposits from water systems, or from debris in the lines.

Damage to lines

Rodents and other small animals can chew through lines. Machines, such as lawn mowers or trimmers, can sever lines. Lines can be severed or separated by heavy weights (such as a heavily-laden wheelbarrow) or other objects (such as the ill-placed footsteps of a gardener).

Improperly spaced emitters

If the water emitters are spaced improperly, or there are not enough emitters, plant roots may not get enough water.