I’m confronted all the time by skepticism about drip and point source irrigation and usually after a brief discussion on how advances in technology, design, installation, and innovation made drip irrigation systems more effective than overhead watering, I am able to communicate the immense benefits. From an end-user stand point drip irrigation systems not only provide water to the landscape more efficiently and effectively but also eliminate a lot of unwanted maintenance if installed properly. As someone who installs drip systems regularly, I thought it would be a good idea to explain what I feel are three crucial yet often overlooked components.
Automated Zone Valve
This component is a given in drip irrigation systems, however, very few contractors know what the low-end flow is of the valves they install on a daily basis. For simplicity purposes and continued employment reasons, I can tell you that a Jain valve can close with as low as 2 GPM. Most manufacturer’s valves will close at about 3-4 GPM, because of this you are limited to larger zone design. Point source emitters and drip lines put very little water out and therefore the hydraulics present closing complications when it comes time to shut the valve down. Always be sure to check the GPM flow spec on the valve you are going to use for your drip system to ensure the valve will shut down.
Although the manufacturers offer pressure compensating emitters in drip line this does not mean that your system will not benefit from added pressure regulation at a valve level. Most contractors I talk to don’t know that pressure compensation and pressure regulation are not the same things! A pressure regulator will control pressure regardless of variations in flow, a pressure compensating emitter will distribute the exact same amount of water regardless of changes in pressure. From a design standpoint why not create one more consistent variable in your system to make a design that much easier? Once the regulator is installed calculating drip line runs and flow capacity will be much easier.
Filtration For Drip Irrigation Systems
Hailing from Florida we pulled out of in-ground limestone aquifers, retention ponds and all kinds of unholy water supplies. I learned at a young age that filtration is one of the most important factors in drip irrigation systems. Fortunately for Jain we have been innovating filtration in agriculture for more than 30 years. Just like farmers don’t want to see a row of their crop die you probably don’t want your customer calling to tell you his whole row of Indian Hawthorne is dead. To avoid this issue, along with proper flushing upon installation, a filter at the valve is an easy way to show the customer that you care about the effectiveness of the system long term and not only while you are standing there waiting for the check to be cut. Filters are measured and specified by micron, a micron is a unit of measurement used when measuring the spacing in fleece. In typical clean water supply, a 100-micron count filter will be just fine and require maintenance every year or two.
When pulling from a lake or well you may want to consider a tighter weave and go up to a 150 or 200-micron count filter. Obviously based on this description you can see that the higher the number the tighter the concentration of weaves and thus more prone to catching debris. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, while you want to prevent clogged emitters you also don’t want to add excessive maintenance. There are a lot of other components that make up a drip system and I will touch on those soon, in the meantime when installing your drip valves be sure to include these three components, consider them mandatory. You can also follow me on twitter for my latest water management updates@MDSavesWater