You’d be surprised just how much water can be wasted with bad drip irrigation. By its very nature, drip is simple to lay out and simple to operate: supply lines laid on top of the ground with emitters to release water precisely where it’s needed. When properly designed, drip can be the most efficient method of irrigation, delivering a steady stream of moisture directly into the roots of plants.
There are also plenty of ways to install it wrong: bizarre piles of overlapping, tangled drip tubes spaced too close together, and drip lines in rigid geometric patterns where nothing is growing.
Poorly designed drip systems can use as much, or many times more, water as ordinary sprinklers. SAWS irrigation rebates suggest drip deliver a half-inch of water per week with 18-inch tube spacing and individual emitters rated .6 gallons per hour.
Drip runs longer than other irrigation types — 45-60-minute run times are not uncommon. What the pictures don’t show is that many of the featured drip systems were set to water every day. It’s a common misperception that drip should run three times a week, or every day.
Remember, in a single cycle drip delivers a week’s worth of water to established perennials. There’s no need to run it every day.
Ideal Drip Irrigation w/ Inline Tubes:
Tubes: .6 gallons per hour, 18 inches between emitters
Spacing: 18 inches between tubes
Water: ½ inch per week
Precipitation rate: .43 inches per hour
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About our expert
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation consultant. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.
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