Eco-Friendly Irrigation Systems You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Eco-Friendly Irrigation Systems You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Eco-Friendly Irrigation Systems You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

As water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, more and more attention is being paid to developing irrigation systems that use less water and are less wasteful. Here are some eco-friendly irrigation systems that are innovative and sustainable, but not yet mainstream or well-known.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation delivers water directly to plant roots through a network of valves, pipes, tubing and emitters. Water is applied slowly and under low pressure, reducing waste, runoff, and evaporation.

  • Drip irrigation uses 20-50% less water than conventional sprinkler or furrow irrigation.
  • It allows precise control over the amount and location of water delivery.
  • Drip irrigation prevents disease by not wetting plant leaves or surrounding soil.
  • It reduces weed growth between rows since water only flows within the crop root zone.

Drip irrigation is ideal for crops like vineyards, trees, shrubs, and row crops. The main drawbacks are the initial cost of materials and installation, and the need to filter the water supply.

Subsurface Drip Irrigation

This is a type of drip irrigation where the drip tape or tubing is buried below the soil surface, underneath mulch or plastic sheeting.

Benefits of subsurface drip irrigation:

  • No evaporation loss since water is applied directly into the root zone.
  • Reduces weed growth.
  • Does not interfere with cultural practices.
  • Less prone to damage from animals, weather or farm equipment.

The main disadvantage is that the drip tape is difficult to monitor for leaks or blockages. Subsurface drip is well-suited for vineyards, orchards, row crops and landscaping.

Micro-sprinkler Irrigation

Micro-sprinklers distribute water over a small area by spraying it through tiny nozzles. They are placed close to plants so that water is applied precisely.

  • Covers a 2-10 foot diameter area, less than conventional sprinklers.
  • Can reduce water use by 30% compared to sprinklers.
  • Improves uniformity of water application.
  • Adaptable to various terrains and soil types.

Micro-sprinklers are suitable for gardens, orchards and vineyard irrigation. Drawbacks include potential clogging of the small nozzles.

Rainwater Harvesting

Collecting and storing rainwater from rooftops, terraces and surfaces is an ancient yet underutilized practice. The water can be used for irrigation via gravity flow or pumped through irrigation pipes.

  • Provides a free source of water.
  • Reduces demand on wells or municipal supplies.
  • Environmentally sustainable way to irrigate.
  • Can also recharge groundwater when allowed to soak into the ground.

Rainwater harvesting requires filtration and storage systems. While feasible for small scale gardens, larger systems may require complex engineering.

Irrigation Automation

Smart irrigation controllers adjust watering schedules and run times based on weather, soil moisture, plant types, and other conditions. Sensors measure and relay data to ensure water is applied only when and where needed.

  • Can reduce water use by 20-40% compared to timers.
  • Eliminates overwatering and improves plant health.
  • Provides flexibility to change schedules remotely via a smartphone app.

Downsides include high initial cost of equipment and sensors, complexity to program, and reliance on power and WiFi connectivity. Professional installation is recommended.

Adopting one of these innovative but underutilized irrigation methods can help to significantly reduce water usage for agricultural, commercial and residential landscape applications. With growing water scarcity worldwide, sustainable solutions are needed now more than ever.