Thursday, January 28, 2010

Microsprinkler Drip Irrigation - the Green Choice

I installed a drip irrigation system yesterday. Drip irrigation uses less than half the water of traditional sprinkler systems, while also costing less to install. I used commercial half inch polyethylene tubing for the main line and then inserted 8" rods with microsprinklers attached at intervals. Here is one of the microsprinklers:

The stated cast area for the microsprinklers is ten feet and I found this to be accurate - and since they cast such a wide water "net", you don't need to run an individual dripper to each plant, so it's a much less fussy and involved setup than older forms of drip irrigation. You just run the half inch poly main line through your flower beds, winding around major plantings and trees, using plastic stakes to hold the line in place in the mulch:

And then you insert the microsprinkler rods at intervals roughly corresponding to their cast area, with a little overlap for good measure:

The half inch poly is a new commercial blend that is strong and resilient, yet pliable - and once it's warmed up in the sun a little you can bend it around obstacles such as tree roots or hardscaping - here a tree root also protects the line from mower blades:

All of this hooks up to a standard hose faucet so no serious plumbing work is usually required - and because poly is more pliable and less brittle than schedule 40 PVC it's also less likely to freeze in cold weather - pretty cool huh? The head unit at the faucet is comprised of 5 parts that takes about 30 minutes to install:

Component #1: Attach a simple pressure regulator that reduces the household water pressure from the faucet down to 50 PSI to avoid blowing out the tubing connections between the poly and the rods.
#2: Attach a Y joint so that a garden hose can still be used at the faucet.
#3: Attach an electronic timer control unit which can be set like any hardwired sprinkler unit - here I set it for 15 minutes at 6 AM every other day.
#4: A backflow antisiphon valve to prevent water from siphoning back up into the house.
Finally #5: a hose to poly coupler - and then you're done. I also used plumber's tape on all of the thread connections between these components just to be safe and prevent leakage:

So what is microspinkler drip irrigation NOT good for? Large lawns with lots of turf and heavy foot traffic. Football fields. Municipal open spaces. But if you've got a "green" yard with a combination of mulched flower beds and native plantings, or a vegetable or flower garden that needs consistent, precise watering during the growing season, microsprinklers will save you 50% off your water bill while reducing runoff, overspray and unnecessary waste. And the install process is relatively painless and inexpensive - so in my book it's a great option for many homeowners and a win win.

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