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An irrigation system is a method of delivering water to an area where it is needed, but not normally present in the required amounts. Generally, it is used for agriculture and landscaping purposes. The effectiveness of the irrigation is determined by a number of different factors, including the type of delivery system and the conditions at its time of use.
The key to an effective irrigation system is to get as much water to the plants, or into the soil, as possible. While this may seem like an easy thing to do, it is not. In fact, water loss from these systems can be up to 50% in some cases. The reason for this is simple: evaporation.
When water is sprayed over a large distance, it begins to break up from a steady stream and eventually becomes small droplets, or even a mist. On hot and sunny days, a good portion of this water never makes it to the ground. This phenomenon is easily seen, especially when the sun is low on the horizon and hits the water. Some of the water can be clearly seen going up, not down.
The key to an effective irrigation system is to keep the water as close to where it is needed as possible. Many systems are effective at doing this and therefore have water efficiency rates of 90% or more. A low energy precision application center pivot system, for example, has lines hanging down from massive arms that spray water from a level just above the plant’s height. Drip irrigation runs water through pipes, often PVC, bored with holes. The water then drips out at strategically-placed holes in areas where it is needed, cutting down on evaporation loss.
For those who must use a sprinkler system, there are other ways that can help improve the efficiency and conserve water. For example, sprinkling during hours when the sun is down helps increase efficiency dramatically. It also opens up the area for enjoyment and use during the daytime hours. Making sure that the system does not automatically turn on during times of adequate rainfall can also help conserve water.
No matter what irrigation system is chosen, there are always ways to cut costs and conserve resources. In some areas, especially where water is scarce, this is not only an option, but a requirement by law. In the end, finding efficient ways to irrigate is not only good for the environment, but also for an individual’s financial resources.