SPRINKLER VERSUS DRIP IRRIGATION

With Melbourne water restrictions lifted and permanent water use rules in place, households can make the decision of having a sprinkler (spray) irrigation system or a drip irrigation system on their property.

During the long drought sprinklers were banned altogether for Gardens as well as lawns.
If people wanted to have an irrigation system they were only allowed to have a drip system on their garden and were not allowed to water their lawns at all from mains water. Now they can have a sprinkler system on their garden as well as their lawn. (Subject to current water rules)

In the years of the long drought Smart Water Shop and Wave Irrigation have converted many sprinkler irrigations systems over to drip as well as helping the DIY customer to do it themselves.

Two things happened in the 2011/2012 summer that have lead many people to either put in a new irrigation system, fix their existing system or convert back to their sprinkler irrigation systems. The first was the lifting of the water restrictions in December 2011 and second was the dry summer we were expecting.

We can’t quote you the number of people that walked into our stores over that summer with damaged sprinkler heads in their hand but I can say it was extraordinarily high.
The storey they told were similar “we mowed the top off it years ago and didn’t bother fixing it until now”

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WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SPRINKLER AND DRIP IRRIGATION SYSTEMS?

Above ground sprinklers, whether pop up or fixed head, distribute either a jet of water along with spray or a fixed arc of spray over an area of garden or lawn. For the vast majority of people with a sprinkler system, they ran off mains water and were broken down into small zones around the property. Some of the reasons for zoning the system were: water pressure not being sufficient to run the whole system at the same time and some zones having different watering requirements than others.

It had always been recognised that there were many inefficiencies in the spray system of watering and the drip system had always been a less popular option. It’s only since the drought and the water restrictions that drip irrigation has risen to dominance.

 Some of the problems often associated with the spray system are:

  • Misting
  • Wind drift
  • Overspray
  • Water runoff onto paths and roads
  • Easily broken
  • Puddling
  • Many areas were watered that didn’t need as much water as other parts of the same zone and.
  • Easily vandalised, particularly in public areas

 

 

THE DRIP SYSTEM, WHILST NOT PERFECT, DID OVERCOME MOST OF THESE INEFFICIENCIES OF THE SPRAY SYSTEM AND INTRODUCED SOME EFFICIENCIES NOT MENTIONED ABOVE. FOR EXAMPLE:

  • Reduces evaporation due to the drip line being under the mulch (ideally)
  • Reduces weed growth by not putting water in areas not requiring water
  • Totally eliminates the wind drift issue
  • Avoids run off because the water is emitted so slowly that it has a chance to soak into the soil rather than pool and run off
  • More efficient for the same reason when irrigating sloped areas
  • Eliminates the overspray problem because there is no spray
  • Reduces water consumption when designed correctly and the right run times are programmed.
  • Delivers water directly to the root area of the plant where it’s needed the most
  • Reduced vandalism because it’s out of site

Under level 2  water restrictions you were allowed to irrigate your garden using drip irrigation methods but only in your allocated times and days of the week.

For those with other sources of water, special drip lines could be used to irrigate lawn areas (as long as you install them before the lawn is laid) by running drip lines under the ground and at a depth that efficiently provides water to the roots.

One of the arguments against inline drip systems is that the emitter holes are spread evenly along the hose and many people run the dripper hose from one part of the garden to the next over areas that don’t need water.

Another is that you can’t see whether the drippers are working or not like you can with sprinklers.
Many people tell us that they just like seeing water spraying in their garden.

However, there are ways around these problems: firstly instead of installing inline dripper tube, use Low Density Polyethylene (LD Poly) hose and have individual drippers only at each plant or have Miniscape (which is a 6mm inline drip tube) coming off the LD Poly at the point closest to the plants.

You should also schedule an annual check of your drip system to ensure every part is working correctly.

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As dripper systems don’t need nor can be run on the high water pressure of the mains, pressure reducers are used to reduce the mains pressure down from the 600Kpa to 800Kpa range to the 180Kpa to 300Kpa range.

Other components of the drip system include the air release valve, which is used at the highest point of each zone in order to prevent a vacuum occurring when the water is turned off in the zone and water flowing out of the lowest positioned drippers.

There’s the flush valve, which is normally placed at the lowest or end point of the zone to flush out any impurities that have found their way into the tubes and there is the filter which does the job of reducing impurities getting into the system in the first place.

Some dripper hose layouts are shown in the diagram to the left.

NEW WATER EFFICIENT SPRINKLER NOZZLES

In recent times, irrigation component manufacturers have introduced more efficient watering nozzles that are fitted to the top of pop ups and risers that use up to 30% less water and provide lower precipitation rates thus reducing many of the pitfalls of the traditional spray heads.

Click on the Hunter Logo below to view the range of Hunter MP Rotator water efficient nozzles.

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PLANNING YOUR IRRIGATION SYSTEM

Our suggestion is that you let us help you.

The first option is to have Smart Water Installations (A division of Smart Water Corporation) come and provide you with a quotation on designing and installing an irrigation system for your property, be it your home or commercial property.
Whether it be a new system (Sprinkler or drip) or converting an existing system to a drip system or the other way, we can provide you with an obligation free quotation to do the work for you.

Just call us or drop in at one of our shops to have a preliminary discussion about your needs.

The second option is for those with the time and ability of doing the job themselves, with the help of our friendly staff in any of our Smart Water shops. With our assistance in planning the projects, understanding components required, tips and ideas as well as pitfalls to avoid, we can help you to achieve an efficient irrigation system.

 

If you choose to install your own irrigation system then we recommend that you take the following simple steps:

If you are sourcing your water from water tanks or some other source other than mains, then skip step 1 below and replace it with the specifications and details of your pump, tank , pipes sizes and lengths or anything else related to your source of water.

 

Step 1. Calculate the amount of flow available at your Tap(s).

We will assume that most people don’t have a pressure gauge test kit so we will describe how to use the bucket method which everyone can do.

  • Conduct the test at a time that you would normally be turning your system on (i.e 6pm to 10am) 
  • Make sure all other taps and appliances are turned off
  • Place a normal 9 or 10 litre garden bucket under your tap and with a watch with a second hand   at the ready, turn the tap on fully and time how long it takes to completely fill the bucket. Repeat the same test for other outside taps that could be used as the source of water for your system.

 

Step 2. Download the Irrigation Planning sheet PDF on this page

  • Print out the planner, preferably on A3 size, otherwise A4 will suffice.
  • Draw your property boundaries using as much of the page as you can.
  • Use a scale of either 1cm = 1m or 0.5cm = 1m. The first is most desirable as long as it fits on the page.Alternatively you can join two pages together with tape. If you don't wish to draw it to scale then simply write all the measurements down on your planner.
  • Measure and draw all your buildings on the plan
  • Measure and draw your garden beds, lawns, driveways and paths on the plan
  • Measure and draw where your taps are located on the plan
  • Roughly calculate the slope(s) of the land and note them on the plan
  • If you are sourcing water using a pump then draw on the plan where your tanks and pumps are located
  • On your plan mark where your plants are located and if possible provide the details of the type of plants they are.
  • It would also be helpful if you noted the type of soil you have, particularly in your garden.
  • Note on the drawing where your external power points are located

Step 3. Come to one of our shops at Braeside, Burwood, Wantirna or Hoppers Crossing.

With the knowledge of how long it took to fill the 9 or 10 litre bucket we can now calculate the water flow available for your system. From your drawing so far we can plan the irrigation system for you and prepare an obligation free quotation for all the components you require to do the job yourself..

 

Step 4. Purchase your components

If you accept our quotation, come back into the store and we will go over the detailed irrigation plan with you so you understand how it will work and make any modifications required. If you accept our quotation and are happy with how your irrigation system will work then purchase the components quoted (or as modified at your request). Our staff will give you the detailed irrigation plan and all the necessary guidance on how the products work and how the components fit together. (It really is very simple and will save you a lot of money by doing it yourself)

 

Step 5. Install you irrigation system.

It’s over to you now but if you are doing the work during our open hours and you run into a problem, give us a call or drop into one of the shops and one of our staff will help you.
If you want to do it all yourself and are just looking to find comprehensive information about planning then click on the HR botton below.
If you just want a simple Planner then click on the other button.

 

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