Drip irrigation has many advantages over sprinklers. The application efficiency of sprinklers varies widely, but is typically about 70%. This means that while 70% of the water that leaves the sprinkler nozzle ends up in the soil for potential use by plants, 30% is lost to wind drift and evaporation. Drip irrigation is 90–95% efficient. The 5–10% water loss comes from water evaporation from the small soil surface area that gets wet.
Another benefit is that because only a small surface area gets wet, fewer weed seeds germinate. Drip irrigation also allows a plant’s leaves to stay dry, reducing the risk of plant diseases that thrive in wet conditions. Drip irrigation typically allows a much higher degree of control over the soil water content. And, unlike flood irrigation or sprinkler irrigation, drip systems are suitable to any soil type or slope. A drip system can also simplify irrigation management since once it is set up, irrigating via drip is simply a matter of opening a valve.
Drip Irrigation System Components
The following are components of typical drip irrigation systems. Starting at the water source (typically a spigot), a drip system (Figure 1) consists of (1) a control valve to turn the water on and off; (2) a backflow prevention/anti-siphon device; (3) a pressure regulator; (4) a filter or filtration system; (5) air- and vacuum-release valves; (6) a main line, submains, and laterals; (7) drip emitters; and (8) a flush mechanism. Not all components are required in every landscape or garden situation and the functions of some components may be combined into a single device. All of these components can be found at an irrigation supply store or many hardware stores.