Converting Sprinkler Systems to Efficient Drip Irrigation

While it is true that drought conditions can and do contribute to regional water shortages, there is little doubt that, (in many parts of the country), even several consecutive seasons of higher than normal rainfall will not result in the easing or repeal of government imposed water use ordinances.

These restrictions on irrigation water use take many forms. Some are relatively minor, like allowing irrigation to take place only between certain hours of the day. Others are more extreme, like allowing for irrigation to take place on only one day per week. Some districts and counties are now imposing or about to impose limitations on the maximum square footage of turf that can be installed in new projects, either commercial or residential. All these restrictions have one goal in common, to reduce the consumption of water in the landscape.

The growth of these restrictions (whether voluntary or mandatory) has already brought about many changes in the green industry. Seed and sod producers are developing and marketing new turf products with lower water requirements. Irrigation manufacturers are developing and producing weather based smart controllers and sensors to save water by irrigating only when necessary.

And other factors, like tiered water rates, (and the fact that drip systems are usually exempt from these restrictive ordinances), are also driving more clients and contractors to install (or convert to) low volume / drip irrigation systems. One of the many appealing aspects of drip irrigation products is that they can be easily retro-fitted to existing sprinkler systems, thereby increasing their efficiency and lowering water consumption.

In many parts of the southwest, thousands of square feet of turf are being removed, and the existing high flow irrigation systems are being converted over to dripline or low- volume systems.

Normally the existing valves (and PVC lateral lines) can be left in place, however it is important to check the valve size and verify that the new system flow rate will be above the minimum flow rate for the valve. Also a pressure regulator and filter should be added at an accessible point after the control valve. After removing the existing sprinkler heads and capping off unused outlets, landscape dripline or multi outlet drip heads can be connected to the appropriate risers.

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