5 Drip Irrigation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them!)

Jun 25th 2015

Drip Irrigation isn't really all that complex. There are just a few things that you need to consider before putting a drip irrigation system together, and once you've nailed that down, the rest is kind of like Legos for water. The trouble is, we sometimes try to take shortcuts and that can lead to problems down the line. Today we'll look at what those problems are and how you can avoid them.

Not installing a filter on your system

A lot of people try to get by without a filter on their system and live to regret it. Even if you're on a "clean" municipal water system you can run into trouble. Municipalities periodically flush their systems, sending rust and debris through your pipes and into your drip irrigation system. Without a filter this stuff has nowhere to go, so naturally it tries to ride the flow of water through your emitters and ends up as a logjam of gunk that stops things up. This can clog sprinklers, sprayers, emitters, and can even gum up your timer. That's why DripWorks will not warranty any system that lacks a filter. For the price of a $15 filter, why take a chance?

Ignoring low pressure issues

It's often easy to overlook checking the pressure at your spigot before putting together a drip irrigation system. Most people don't have clue what their water pressure is and don't take them time to borrow, rent, or purchase a pressure meter to find out. But if your pressure is too low, products like pressure-compensating emitters don't work properly and timers and valves won't open (or worse, if you have a holding tank, they have just enough pressure to open but won't close!). For about $10 you can purchase a pressure gauge and insure this won't happen to you.

Not checking your flow

Like water pressure, this is often ignored until problems arise. While most municipal systems can be assumed to have roughly 300 GPH of flow, this is not the case where the water source is a well or holding tank where the water is distributed by a pump or gravity fed. The real trouble comes to light when you install a drip irrigation system that's demanding more than your source can supply and plants begin to suffer. In reality, checking your flow is a simple matter that shouldn't take more than a few minutes of your time. 15 minutes or less can save you hours of wasted time and expense.

Not installing a pressure regulator

Okay, installing a pressure regulator might seem like it's part of problem #2 but it occurs often enough we thought it deserved its own space. Most drip irrigation systems operate best at around 30 PSI, though devices like misters and sprinklers are happy with 40 or 50 PSI. Anything higher than that and fittings can start popping off (especially on a hot day!), mist becomes almost like smoke and drifts away on the breeze, and, over time, the diaphragms inside emitters can begin to distort. Again, for less than $10 you can avoid this pitfall.

Not have spare parts on hand

How many times have you gotten to the end of a project only to discover you're missing some key part required to finish? For general maintenance, and especially when installing a drip irrigation system, make sure you have extra repair couplers, tees, elbows, goof plugs, and other essential fittings on hand. Stuff happens, and you don't want to be forced to stop just because you can repair a cut mainline or turn a corner because you don't have an elbow. For want of nail...

Over the years (24 and counting!) we've seen people make a lot of mistakes, and we've made most of them ourselves. So do yourself a favor and avoid them. You'll save water, time, and money!