What Are the Different Types of Filters for Your Irrigation System?

What Are the Different Types of Filters for Your Irrigation System?

Nov 2nd 2023

Just as our bodies need clean water to thrive, our irrigation systems also require filtered water to function optimally and last longer. Without proper filtration and with dirty water, the lifespan and efficiency of your irrigation system could be compromised.

Why Is a Filter Required?

Water filtration isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity, especially for irrigation systems. Think of water's debris and contaminants: sand, algae, organic matter, small particles, and more. While some may argue that certain sprinkler systems are designed to disperse solids, such as treated sewage, almost all irrigation systems incorporate some form of filtration. Why? To prevent large solids from causing havoc.

Imagine you've set up a pristine drip irrigation system but have overlooked the crucial step of water filtration. Over time, even the tiniest of sand particles can wear down your equipment, possibly leading to maintenance issues, such as clogged emitters or dysfunctional automatic valves. Worse yet, consider a tiny grain of sand that sticks inside a spray nozzle. This minor oversight could result in dry patches on your lawn, leading to uneven growth and blemishes in an otherwise lush landscape.

Not to mention, organic materials can pose an equal, if not more significant, threat. Algae growth inside the system or a small organic particle getting snagged inside a valve can lead to blockages over time. It's akin to the clogs we often find in vacuum cleaner hoses—a combination of dirt, debris, and small objects forming an obstruction.

And if you think it's just sand or organic matter, consider this: tiny fishes or clams can get into your system and grow, causing unexpected disruptions. Drinking water may be more resilient than you think, but the same doesn't apply to irrigation systems. Clean water ensures optimal functionality.

Different Type of Filters

The term 'filter' might sound simple, but there's a wide variety to choose from, each designed to handle specific challenges.

Screen Filters

A staple in many setups, screen filters are an affordable solution to filter out hard particulates, such as sand. Their design, however, makes them less suitable for filtering out organic materials like algae or mold, which can embed themselves into the screen. Cleaning screen filters is relatively easy, either through a water flush or manual cleaning.

For more advanced setups, there are directed-flow flush screen filters and the even more sophisticated backwash method. These systems ensure a more thorough cleaning process, although they might come at a higher price point.

Explore more on screen filters here.

Media Filters

With a design focusing on forcing water through sharp-edged, uniform-sized media (typically crushed sand), media filters excel at removing organic material. The sharpness of the media ensures organic materials are caught effectively. However, sourcing the right kind of media is vital for optimal performance.

Because of their high-volume water cleaning capacity, these filters are often found in larger setups like farms and municipal water systems. Media filters rely on backflushing for cleaning and might require periodic topping up as some media might be lost during the cleaning process.

Disk or Disc Filters

An amalgamation of screen and media filters, disc filters offer the best of both worlds. Comprising stacks of round disks with tiny spaces in between, these filters effectively trap sand and organic matter. Cleaning can either be automatic or require manual effort.

Centrifugal Filters

Perfect for scenarios where sand is a major contaminant, these filters (also known as sand separators) are simple and effective. The design creates a swirling motion inside a cylinder, forcing sand particles to the outer edge, from where they slide down to a holding tank. They're commonly used in large wells and can be paired with media filters for optomized filtration.

Filter Recommendations

Selecting the right filter for your irrigation system can be likened to picking the right attire for a particular occasion: it depends on the specific requirements and challenges of the situation.

  • Municipal Water Systems go for Screen Filter.
  • Wells go for Centrifugal Filter, A Screen Filter, or Disk Filter.
  • River or Creek goes for A combination of Centrifugal and Media Filter, or Disk Filter, Media Filter, and Screen Filter.
  • Pond or Lake go for Disk Filter and Media Filter, or Centrifugal and Media Filter combinations.
  • Spring or Artesian Wells go for Centrifugal Filter, Screen Filter, or Disk Filter.
  • Sand in water, go for Centrifugal Filter, Screen Filter, or Disk Filter.

How Much Filtration Do You Need?

The filtration level hinges largely on your irrigation type. For instance, drip irrigation demands more filtration to safeguard emitters. Filtration levels are gauged by the "mesh size" of the screen or by the maximum "micron size" of the object the filter allows to pass. The goal is always to aim for the highest level of feasible filtration without excessive water or energy waste.


  • Drip Systems: Adhere to the manufacturer's recommendations. However, a level above, like 100 mesh or 150 microns, is often advisable for added safety.
  • Sprinkler Systems: A 100 mesh (150 micron) or even 150 mesh (100 micron) filter ensures protection from potential wear and tear.
  • All Irrigation Systems: To safeguard your irrigation system and its control valves, aim for at least a 100-mesh (150 micron) screen or its equivalent. Filters can save you a fortune in maintenance over time.


This term represents one of the core metrics when discussing filtration. A micron (µm) is a tiny unit that measures the lowest particle size a filter can block. Smaller micron numbers suggest finer filtration, allowing fewer particles.

Millimeters (mm)

Millimeters, a more common metric, often complement micron values. We get a more tangible grasp of the size by presenting the particle size in millimeters alongside microns. For instance, when the table lists 800 microns as equivalent to 0.8 mm, it contextualizes the microscopic measure into a scale we're more familiar with.


This brings us to the 'mesh' number, a term that's a bit more abstract. In filtration, mesh refers to the number of openings in one linear inch of a screen. The larger the mesh number, the smaller the openings and, thus, the finer the filtration. However, this metric can be subjective, especially as the numbers increase. That's because the thickness of the wire making up the mesh can vary, causing slight differences in actual filtration capacity.

Let's explore some examples from the table for better comprehension:

  • A filter with a rating of 800 microns (0.8 mm) would have a mesh size of 20. This filter would allow relatively larger particles to pass through, making it suitable for applications where fine filtration isn't a top priority.
  • On the finer end of the spectrum, a 15-micron filter (0.015 mm) corresponds to a mesh size of 1000. Such a filter would be adept at blocking very tiny particles, ideal for systems that demand rigorous filtration, like drip irrigation setups.
  • Mid-range values, such as 250 microns (0.25 mm) aligning with a mesh size of 60, offer a balanced filtration level suitable for various applications, including some sprinkler systems.

Bottom Line

Your irrigation system is an investment. Protecting it with the right type of filter ensures not only longevity but also efficient water usage and a lush, thriving landscape. By understanding the different filter options and their strengths, you can select a solution that's tailor-made for your water supply's unique challenges.