In the 1960s, drip irrigation was first used by farmers who had little access to water supplies and in the 1980s it was first seen on commercial landscaped areas. Forty years on, shouldn’t everybody be using it?

Drip, micro or trickle irrigation all mean the same – the slow, precise drop of water placed where you need it, when you need it.

Those using this method are keeping roots moist, while saving water from being used where nothing is planted, or ending up running off over hard surfaces, or evaporating in the sun or being displaced by the wind.

Overwatering these days is not considered important where water is readily available, as it is in developed countries but since drinking water is becoming increasingly expensive, it may be that rain harvesting, together with drip feeding, will become the order of the day for purposes other than providing water fit to drink.

Arid countries have taught us how precious rainwater can be and it is relatively easy to obtain any kind of water deposit these days, whether it is made of concrete, PVC or metal lined. It can also be built with traditional materials to suit your purposes.

Once you determine the point source on your irrigation layout[1], you must be certain that your new installation is based on a proper design. This is of paramount importance for successful implementation of the drip system and the certainty that you will reap all benefits it can provide.

This design must be adaptable enough to be used above or below ground level, in any location allowing users to customize its layout to meet their specific needs at all seasons, and thus meet differing irrigation requirements with the minimum of difficulty.

Below there is an example of an installation with adequate components which will guarantee that maintenance will be kept to a minimum. Where large areas make drip feeding less feasible, one can opt for combining it with micro sprinklers which also use low volume water consumption.

Normal sprinklers are rated as having a consumption measured in gallons per MINUTE (GPM) as opposed to the drip system which is measured in gallons per HOUR (GPH). This shows immediately the difference in consumption between conventional watering and dripping.[2]

Another relevant difference between conventional installations and dripping is the water pressure running through the pipe work.

The greater the pressure, the more likely vibration will occur and the wear and tear caused by the weight of the pressurized water against the internal surface of the piping will make it more vulnerable to hairline cracks and consequent leaks.[3]

The ease with which each drip installation can be made is due to the fact that it does not require any special tools. The components are not in any way bound or glued and all fittings can be put together by users with limited plumbing knowledge.

What this also means is that even in oddly-shaped ground areas or those with difficult access, it is still possible to install a drip system which will fit into the existing space without expensive cutting, welding or gluing of components and transporting heavy equipment to perform the job.

But most importantly, investing in the installation of any low volume irrigation technique will certainly bring down your water bill. You will also be contributing to the conservation of drinking water on the planet.

 Dripping can be good 1

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By Silvia Pelham

[1] The watering of large areas can be successfully done with a single water supply source, due to the low flow of the drip system.

[2] A lawn sprinkler linked to a conventional tap will consume between 1 to 3 GPM, as opposed to the same sprinkler connected to drip feeding which will consume 1 to 4 GPH.

[3] Conventional water installations will function with pressure ranging from 40 to 80 PSI (pounds per inch) as opposed to 15 to 30 with drip irrigation systems.