The History of Drip Irrigation

The History of Drip Irrigation

May 28th 2015

Mainline tubing is a flexible polyethylene tubing used for carrying water throughout a drip system. It is designed to carry water from your spigot to your plants via emitters, sprayers, sprinklers, or driplines inserted along its length. We know that the origins of drip--or micro--irrigation, goes back to ancient times, but from where and when did the idea of modern drip irrigation come about?

And Then There was Drip!

The story of modern drip irrigation begins with a man named Simcha Blass. Born November 27, 1897 in Poland, Blass studied engineering before co-founding Mekorot, Israel's national water company, which provided water for Israel's southern Negev desert in the 1930's. Around the time that Blass was working on the first modern aqueduct in the Jordan Valley, a farmer he knew drew his attention to a large tree growing "without water". After digging around the apparently dry surface, Blass found a leaking pipe coupler was supplying water to this tree.

In 1948, Blass bought up the pipes that England had used to extinguish fires during the London Blitz and shipped them home where they were used to construct a water system to supply 11 Israeli settlements and the Arab Bedouins in the Negev. After years of experimentation, a device, using water pressure and friction to control the water emitted from holes drilled at regular intervals in a plastic tube, ushered in the age of modern drip irrigation.

With the advent of modern plastics in the late 1950's, Blass reopened his private engineering office with his son, Yeshayahu, and pursued the idea of commercial drip irrigation. His main goal was the creation of a product that ran the water from the pipe through an emitter with a larger and longer passageway that used friction to slow the flow to a steady drip. In the early 1960's Blass developed and patented the first practical plastic drip emitter.

Working at Kibbutz Hatzerim during this period, Blass and his son developed drip irrigation systems both in Israel and abroad. He soon found investors within the Kibbutz to purchase his technology and erect a facility for large scale manufacturing of drip tubing and emitters. Taking Blass's original "spaghetti" tubing, along with a new inline emitter developed with the aid of other engineers, they formed Netafim, the world's first drip irrigation company.

In 1992, some 27 years later, DripWorks was founded on the principle that water is one of the world's most precious resources. From the beginning, Netafim has been one of our most dependable suppliers, providing the highest quality drip irrigation products available.

As Dr. Daniel Hillel, recipient of the 2012 World Food Prize for his role in conceiving and implementing improved methods of food production with "micro-irrigation", said: "No one person invented drip irrigation." Still, it's clear that, for all his contributions, Simcha Blass is more than deserving of the title "Father of Modern Drip Irrigation".

DripWorks would like to thank Netafim for historical information about Simcha Blass and the origins of modern drip irrigation.