From the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
by the Sonoma County Master Gardeners

Drip Irrigation

Drip Irrigation Design

Water wars! Water is one of THE key commodities in the coming years. There's less and less of it generally available (not that the ocean volumes are changing much) and it's becoming increasingly expensive. As a result, homeowners are focusing on water use like never before.

Without question, the best method of garden irrigation for most home garden and landscape situations is drip irrigation. Efficient watering means putting the right amount of water, in the right place, just at the plants needing it, without excess, runoff, overspray, or waste. The most efficient irrigation method available is drip. Drip irrigation exceeds 90 percent efficiency, whereas sprinkler systems and hand watering are 50 to 70 percent efficient. The advantages of drip irrigation greatly outweigh the disadvantages. The primary advantages are:

Lower water use
Less water waste
Ease of watering

The two primary disadvantages are the necessity of routine maintenance, and the need to know and monitor your garden—since by and large you can’t see drip at work, you have to pay attention to your plants, as well as visually monitor the system.

Drip irrigation works by placing water slowly and directly into the soil—literally “dripping” it in from the many small water emitters which are placed one or more at each plant, or through in-line emitters in dripline. Drip is also excellent for watering sloped gardens because the slow rate of water applied through drip irrigation means it is more likely to soak in before it runs off.

Whether you currently hand water, use hose-end sprinklers, have an in-ground sprinkler system, or are putting in new landscape, there is a drip system for you. Some are very, very basic, and still require turning the water on by hand, on a schedule that keeps your garden properly irrigated, and others are more complex systems, with electric valves and electronic controllers—but you get to choose.

We cover drip from soup to nuts--basic to advanced in several different papers:

Drip Basics is just that--an introduction to the concepts and components of home drip systems.

Intermediate Drip goes the next step--discussing hydrozoning, types of drip components and systems, automatic valves and controllers.

Installation & Maintenance gets into how to design and install systems, and routine maintenance.

Calculating Drip Irrigation Schedules delves into the scientific/mathematical way to determine how frequently, and for how long, each irrigation should be run, in which times of year, for optimum water use.

So if you're new to drip--start with the basics. If you have some experience, head to intermediate. And if your drip system is already installed, and you're looking for a better method than guessing for setting controller times and frequencies, check the scheduling article.

Back to
Irrigation and Water Management Page

© Sonoma County Master Gardeners

"Drip Irrigation". Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Master Gardeners Sonoma County Extension. Web. 14 May 2015.


Hightower, Steven. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Master Gardeners Sonoma County Extension. Web. 14 May 2015.

Published 20 May 2015 LR
© 2013 -
about credits disclaimer sitemap updates