Drip Irrigation Systems

Drip irrigation systems technology consists of a system of plastic pipes that transfers water under low pressure to plants. The water is applied much more slowly than with sprinklers. Spray is minimized and point watering is possible.

Drip irrigation systems are a great option for a water-wise landscape. Drip irrigation is a much more efficient way to apply water to landscape plants as compared to sprinkler systems which are only about 65-75% efficient.

Drip irrigation systems apply water at a slower rate at lower pressure and directly to the root zone of the individual plant. The emitters are connected to hoses and subsequently to the home water system.

Benefits for using Drip Irrigation

  • Minimizes disease by minimizing water contact with plant parts
  • Avoids watering soil in between plants, thus reducing water use and weed growth
  • Saves time, money, and water due to higher efficiency
  • Increases effectiveness on uneven ground
  • Reduces leaching of water and nutrients below root zone
  • Maintains a desirable balance of air and water in the soil
  • Provides a more even soil moisture than the often wet-to-dry fluctuations of sprinklers.

Where To Use Drip Irrigation

There are many uses for drip irrigation. Drip irrigation can be used to water trees, shrubs and flowers. Pots and vegetable gardens are also appropriate areas for drip irrigation. As noted earlier, areas with uneven ground are excellent for drip irrigation. One area where drip irrigation may not be a good solution is turf or lawn. Lawn mowing and high traffic make lawn less attractive for drip irrigation.

Some important factors to consider when deciding where to use drip irrigation are listed below.

  • Soil structure and texture greatly affects water needs. Sandy soil has high drainage while clay soils have poor drainage.
  • The water needs of the plant need to be considered. Plant size, cultivation water needs, and sun/wind exposure all factor into the amount of water that needs to be applied.
  • The size of the roots system will be a factor in determining the number of emitters per plant and placement of those emitters.

Drip irrigation is a great way to reduce water use in the landscape. It is very versatile and can be used for a variety of areas.

Types of Drip Irrigation Systems


Point source drip emitter
Point source drip irrigation emitters allow precise water placement to the roots of individual plants. Photo credit: Joby Elliot Flickr CC BY 2.0
Drip line laid out in a garden
In-line drip has evenly spaced emitters to water the whole area where it is laid. Photo credit: Gardening Solutions Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
Soaker hose in garden
Soaker hoses have water slowly seep out along the whole line. Photo credit: Good Housekeeping, Patrick Montero


Additional Resources:

Colorado State University
Washington State University