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Moshe Sne
Irrigation and Plant Nutrition Consultant


I would like to thank Mr. Oded Halamit and Mr. Gad Elharar of Cinadco, for their
initiative of assembling the booklets on drip irrigation, micro-irrigation and sprinkler
irrigation in one publication, dealing in pressurized irrigation. I deeply appreciate their
constructive comments and suggestions.
I would like also to express deep gratitude to my colleague, Mr. Roberto Nathan, for
his contribution to the chapter on fertigation.


Overview 3
Definitions 4
The Future of Pressurized Irrigation 4
Introduction 5
Micro-emitters Classification 5
Water Distribution Uniformity 7
Introduction 10
Types of Drip Systems 10
Spatial Placement of Laterals 10
Layout of Water Emitters along the Lateral 11
Lateral Type 11
Water Passageway Structure and Characteristics 12
Position on Lateral 13
Exceptional Drippers 14
Pressure Compensated (PC) Drippers 14
Introduction 18
Static Micro-jets 18
Vibrating Micro-jets 19
Micro-sprinklers 19
Vortex Emitters 20
Bubblers 21
Water Distribution Patterns 22
Pressure Compensation 23
Emitter Mounting 23
Micro-emitters for Mechanized Irrigation 24
Introduction 29
Definitions 29
Sprinkler Types 31
Sprinkler Classification 31
Sprinkler Function 31


Pattern of Operation 32
New Generation Sprinklers 36
Nozzles 37
Sprinkler Spacing, Selection and Operation 39
7. PUMPS 40-55
Introduction 40
The main Components of the Irrigation System 40
The Pumping Unit 40
Pump Performance Terminology 41
Pump Types 42
Kinetic Pumps 43
Centrifugal Pumps 44
Turbine Pumps 46
Solar Water Pumps and Solar Water Pumping Systems 49
Variable Speed Drives 49
Establishing an Efficient Pumping plant 50
The Pumping Unit Efficiency 51
Cavitation 52
Pump Curves 53
Pump and Well Testing 55
Pipe materials 56
Plastic Materials 57
Polyethylene 58
PVC 59
Couplers 61
Introduction 64
Supply Pipelines 64
The Control Head 64
Regulation and Control Appliances 65
Globe Valves 65
Gate Valves 67
Ball Valves 68
Butterfly Valves 68
Piston Valves 69
Diaphragm Valves 69
Control Valves - Functioning and Actuation 70
Electric Control of Hydraulic Valves 71
Hydraulic Control of Valves 72


Check Valves 73
Pressure Relief Valves 73
Pressure Reducing Pilot Valves 74
Pressure Regulators 74
Air-release Valves 75
Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers 76
Valve Capacity 77
Automation 77
Flow-meters 78
Control Patterns 79
Computer-based Irrigation Control Systems 80
Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) 82
Introduction 85
Particulate Matter 85
Biological Substances 85
Chemical Precipitates 86
Water Hardness 86
Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) 87
Filtration 87
Screen Filters 87
Disc Filters 89
Media Filters 89
Sand Separators 90
Filter Characteristics 91
Filter Cleaning 92
Supplementary Water Treatments 95
Chlorination 95
Acidification 95
11. FERTIGATION 97-115
Introduction 97
The Different Aspects of Fertigation 97
Fertigation Technologies 98
Fertilizer Batch-tank 98
Venturi Injector 99
Injection Pumps 100
Hydraulic Pumps 100
Electric Pumps 102
Injection Site 102
Control and Automation 102


Back-flow Prevention 103

Safety 103
The Chemical Aspects of Fertigation 104
The Nutrition Elements 104
Fertilizers Used in Fertigation 105
Interaction of the Injected Chemicals with Irrigation Water 110
Physiological Aspects of Fertigation 112
Calculations 113
Water Head 116
Head Losses 117
Total Dynamic Head (TDH) 120
Operating Pressure 121
Hydraulic Characteristics of Emitters 122
Calculation of Head-losses 123
Introduction 128
Soil Properties 128
Soil - Water Relationship 130
Soil Wetting Patterns 136
Water Distribution Uniformity 136
Root System Development under Drip Irrigation 147
Micro-irrigation in Row Crops 149
Drip Irrigation of Protected Crops 151
Drip Irrigation in Landscaping 153
Micro-irrigation in Orchards 154
Sprinkler Irrigation Techniques 155
Overview 155
Hand-move 156
Flexible Laterals in Orchards 157
Permanent Installations 158
Mini-sprinklers Solid-set Systems in Vegetables 160
Mechanized Irrigation 161
Introduction 161
Towline 161
Wheel-move 161
Side-roll Systems 162
Traveling-gun (Traveler) 163
Continuous-move Systems 165


Center-pivots 166
Linear-move Systems 168
Introduction 171
Planning 171
Design of Micro-irrigation Systems 178
Basic Guidelines 178
Design of Drip Irrigation System for Row Crops 181
Subsurface Drip Irrigation 191
Design of Drip Irrigation for Protected Crops 192
Irrigation Design in Orchards 194
Design of Sprinkler Systems 207
Introduction 213
The Scheduling Procedure 214
Scheduling with the Water Budget Concept 213
Scheduling Software and On-line Calculators 218
Monitoring 221
Irrigation Control 223
18. MAINTENANCE 225-234
Introduction 225
Installation 225
Routine Inspection 226
Routine Maintenance 227
Maintenance of Fertigation Equipment 232
Chemical Water Treatments 232
Over-wintering of the Irrigation System 233
Nomogram for Hazen-Williams equation 235
Nomograms for head-loss determination In polyethylene pipes 236
Nomogram for local hydraulic gradient determination in accessories 237
Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in LDPE pipes 238
Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in HDPE pipes 239
Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in PVC pipes 240


1.1 Global water distribution 1
6.1 Wind velocity definitions 39
6.2 Recommended spacing between sprinklers 39
8.1 PE (PolyEthylene) pipes for agriculture 58
8.2 LDPE pipes internal (inner) diameter and wall thickness - mm 59
8.3 HDPE pipes internal (inner) diameter and wall thickness - mm 59
8.4 PVC Pipes for agriculture 60
8.5 Internal diameter and wall thickness of PVC pipes 60
9.1 Flow-rate of spring actuated pressure regulators 75
10.1 Relative clogging potential of micro-emitters by water contaminants 86
10.2 Screen perforation examples 88
10.3 particle size and mesh-equivalent 89
10.4 Nominal filter capacity – examples 91
11.1 The nutrition elements 104
11.2 Average content of nutrition elements in plants – per dry weight 104
11.3 Electric charges of nutrients 105
11.4 Cardinal fertilizers used in fertigation 107
11.5 The influence of temperature on the solubility of fertilizers (grams of 109
fertilizer in 1 liter of distilled water)
11.6 pH and EC of some fertilizers at the concentration of 1 g/l of distilled 109
11.7 pH rating 109
11.8 Equivalent weights - gram 111
11.9 Conversion factors 111
12.1 Pressure and water potential units 116
12.2 Friction coefficients 118
12.3 Multiple outlets factor F 122
12.4 Effect of the emitter discharge exponent on pressure – flow-rate 122
12.5 Head-losses in non-distributing aluminum pipes, m. head per 100 m. of 124
pipe length (without outlets)
12.6 F Coefficient in laterals 125
13.1 Soil classification according to particle diameter 128
13.2 AVC in differ16.4nt soil textures – W\W % 131
13.3 Available water in different soil textures 131
13.4 Calculating Christiansen's coefficient of uniformity with experimental data 141
15.1 Irrigation system planning form 172
15.2 Sprinkler performance data provided by manufacturer (example) 177


15.3 Compensated dripper (compensated pressure threshold – 4 m) data 181

15.4 Model 16012, ID = 13.70 mm, Inlet pressure 30 m Max. lateral length - m 182
15.5 Model 16009, ID = 14.20 mm, Inlet pressure 30 m Max. lateral length - m 182
15.6 Non compensated thick wall dripper pressure – flow-rate relationship 183
15.7 Max. lateral length in non compensated thick wall dripper 183
15.8 Non-compensated thin wall dripper 184
15.9 Max. lateral length in non-compensated thin wall dripper 184
15.10 The compatible drippers 185
15.11 Design form 187
15.12 Equipment list 188
15.13 Thin-wall tape data 190
15.14 (Duplicate) Max. lateral length – m. compensated dripper laterals 196
15.15 Basic data 198
15.16 Head losses calculation form 198
15.17 Head losses in the control head, flow-rate 56 m3/h 199
15.18 Head losses in the hydraulic valves on the sub mains flow-rate 14 m3/h 199
15.19 Total requested dynamic head 199
15.20 Basic data 200
15.21 Head-loss calculation 201
15.22 Total requested dynamic head 201
15.23 The chosen emitter 203
15.24 Allowed length of laterals 204
15.25 Basic data 205
15.26 Head-loss calculation 206
15.27 Total requested dynamic head 206
15.28 Maximum allowed number of sprinklers on lateral on level ground 208
16.1 Annual crops irrigation scheduling form (example) 213
16.2 Operative irrigation schedule 215
16.3 The estimated available water per unit of rooting depth for soils of 217
diverse textures and the intake rate for various soil textures
16.4 Active root-zone depth of fruit trees 217


1.1 The annual global water cycle 2
2.1 Archimedean screw pump 3
4.1 Point-source and line-source wetting patterns 11
4.2 In-line barbed semi-turbulent dripper and in-line integral turbulent 12
4.3 Evolution of the passageway style 12
4.4 Turbulent flow 12
4.5 Orifice dripper 13
4.6 Vortex dripper 13
4.7 Labyrinth button dripper 13
4.8 Tape trickling lateral: empty and filled with water 13
4.9 On-line drippers 13
4.10 Button drippers connector types 13
4.11 Adjustable dripper 14
4.12 Flag dripper 14
4.13 Button and inline PC (pressure compensated) drippers 14
4.14 Cylindrical PC dripper: water passageway lengthened under high 14
4.15 Flexible diaphragm under pressure 15
4.16 No-drain dripper 15
4.17 Flap equipped dripper 15
4.18 Woodpecker dripper 15
4.19 Arrow dripper for greenhouses, nurseries and pot plants 16
4.20 Six outlets dripper 16
4.21 Wetted soil volume by drippers 17
4.22 Ultra low flow micro-drippers 17
4.23 Integral filters 17
4.24 Auto flushing, pressure compensated dripper 17
5.1 Micro-emitters 18
5.2 Modular micro-emitters 19
5.3 Static micro-jets 19
5.4 Vibrating micro-jet, micro-sprinklers and vortex micro-jet 20
5.5 Modular micro-sprinkler 20
5.6 Bridge micro-sprinkler and bubbler 21
5.7 Water distribution by micro-sprinkler at different flow-rates 22
5.8 Ray-jet (fan-jet) distribution patterns 22
5.9 Improved micro-sprinklers 23
5.10 Changed wetting diameter (m.) and pattern with modular 23


5.11 Micro-emitters mounting alternatives 24
5.12 Stationary deflection pad emitters 25
5.13 Rotators and spinner 26
5.14 Distinctive emitters 27
5.15 LDN (Low Drift Nozzle) emitter configurations 27
5.16 Oscillating deflection pad options 28
5.17 Diverse configurations of inverted wobblers 28
6.1 Sprinkler spacing positions 29
6.2 Irrigation intensity 29
6.3 The influence of wind on the uniformity of water distribution 30
6.4 Outdated pressurized irrigation systems 31
6.5 Impact-hammer sprinkler 33
6.6 Turbo-hammer sprinkler 33
6.7 Gun sprinkler (rain-gun) 33
6.8 Pop-up sprinklers 34
6.9 Part-circle Static Sprinklers 34
6.10 Impact sprinkler components 35
6.11 Configurations of Impact Sprinklers 36
6.12 All-plastic new-generation sprinklers 36
6.13 Distribution uniformity and range enhancers 37
6.14 Nozzle types 37
6.15 Typical trajectory angles 38
7.1 Schematic plot irrigation system 40
7.2 Electric water pumps 40
7.3 Pump type classification 42
7.4 Centrifugal pump 44
7.5 Different flow patterns in centrifugal pumps 44
7.6 Water flow in volute pump 45
7.7 Deep-well vertical turbine pumps 46
7.8 Pump impellers 47
7.9 Single-stage pump 48
7.10 Multi-stage pump 48
7.11 Solar pumping system 49
7.12 VFD (Variable-Frequency Drive) controls a set of 3 pumps 49
7.13 Pump Efficiency Curve 51
7.14 A Scheme of Pump Curves 53
7.15 An example of pump curves plotted on one sheet 54
7.16 Horse-power curve 54
7.17 Critical points on the pump curve 54
8.1 Aluminum hermetic and detached band couplers 61


8.2 Aluminum single latch couplers 61

8.3 Valve adapters 62
8.4 Adapter made of Al-Pb metal alloy 62
8.5 Aluminum lateral assembly 62
8.6 Plastic and metal connectors 62
8.7 Lock fastened polypropylene connectors 63
8.8 On-line saddles 63
8.9 Bayonet couplers 63
9.1 Water supply network in a cooperative village 64
9.2 Typical control head 64
9.3 Valve types 65
9.4 Manual actuators 65
9.5 Globe valve 65
9.6 Angular valve 66
9.7 Single-seat globe valve 66
9.8 Double-seat globe valve 66
9.9 Gate Valve 67
9.10 Ball valve cutaway 68
9.11 Butterfly valve 68
9.12 Piston valve 69
9.13 Diaphragm valves 69
9.14 Diaphragm valve components 69
9.15 Diaphragm valve working pattern 70
9.16 Control valves actuators 70
9.17 Cutaway of solenoid valves 71
9.18 Scheme of solenoid operation 71
9.19 Fail-closed (NC) solenoid valve – components and working 72
9.20 Hydraulic control valve 72
9.21 Check valves 73
9.22 Pilot-controlled hydraulic pressure relief valves 74
9.23 Pilot valves 74
9.24 Pressure regulators 75
9.25 Cross section of air-release valves 76
9.26 Atmospheric vacuum breaker 77
9.27 Flow-meters 78
9.28 Hydrometers – cross-section 78
9.29 Hydrometer – manual and remote-controlled dial 79
9.30 Modern field controller 82
9.31 SCADA control system 82
9.32 RTUs connected to field-unit (FU) by cable 83


9.33 Internet mediated SCADA network 84

10.1 Screen filter 87
10.2 Screen patterns 88
10.3 Head losses in clean screen filters 88
10.4 Disc filter 89
10.5 Media filters 89
10.6 Hydrocyclone sand separator - working pattern 90
10.7 Hydro-cyclone sand separator – head-losses and optimal flow- 90
10.8 Manual cleaning of screen filters 92
10.9 Manual hose flushing of a disc-filter 93
10.10 Continuous flushed circulating-filter 93
10.11 Automatic screen filters with scanning nozzles 93
10.12 Automatic flushing of disc-filter 94
10.13 High-capacity media-filter array 94
10.14 Back-flushing of media-filters 94
11.1 Fertilizer batch-tank 98
11.2 Venturi injector 99
11.3 By-pass Venturi installation 99
11.4 Piston and diaphragm hydraulic pumps 101
11.5 No-drain Internal-mixer hydraulic pump 101
11.6 The pump's piston 101
11.7 Fertilizer solution meter with pulse transmitter 101
11.8 Mixer array 101
11.9 Electric pump 102
11.10 Tandem back-flow preventer 103
11.11 Iron chelating 108
11.12 Iron chelate stability in changing pH levels 108
11.13 Nutrient consumption curves of greenhouse tomatoes 112
11.14 Frequent fertigation in mango vs. control 112
12.1 Graphic presentation of friction head 119
12.2 Feeding micro-tube connection 119
12.3 Head-losses in hydraulic valves (example) 120
12.4 Pressure measurement 123
12.5 Slide-ruler for head-loss calculation in pipes 126
12.6 Nomogram for the determination of the hydraulic gradient in 127
13.1 Visual illustration of soil particle diameter (American 129
classification code)
13.2 Soil texture triangle 129
13.3 Aggregates and voids 130
13.4 Soil structure – aggregate arrangements 130


13.5 Water-air ratio in two soil types, 12 hours after irrigation 131
13.6 Water potential values in the different water states in the soil 132
13.7 Water retention curves in different soil textures 132
13.8 The sequence of soil moisture determination by the gravimetric 133
13.9 Edelman Dutch auger 133
13.10 Curves of water infiltration into the soil 133
13.11 Soil texture triangle – infiltration rate contours 134
13.12 Typical infiltration curves in different soil textures 134
13.13 Double-ring infiltrometer 135
13.14 The “Sprinkler method” 135
13.15 Single sprinkler test 138
13.16 Single lateral test 139
13.17 Simultaneously operated laterals test 139
13.18 Recording form for measurement of the uniformity of water 140
13.19 Measured water in one quarter of the wetted area in single-sprinkler 140
13.20 Single sprinkler distribution pattern in wind-less conditions 140
13.21 Open-air test plot and covered distribution test facility 140
13.22 Wind effect on the distribution pattern of a single lateral 142
13.23 Micro-sprinkler distribution pattern 142
13.24 Water distribution in the soil in on-surface drip irrigation and 144
13.25 Water distribution from a single dripper in loamy and sandy soil 144
13.26 Salt distribution in the wetted volume 145ghdfdfgggggg
13.27 Leaching of salt into the active root-zone by rain 145
13.28 Diverse root systems 147
13.29 Typical root systems of field crops 148
13.30 Root system in sprinkler irrigation vs. root system in drip 148
14.1 Mechanized deployment of drip laterals 149
14.2 Cotton root development 149
14.3 Potatoes - laterals on top of hillocks 150
14.4 Wide-scale drip irrigation in greenhouses 152
14.5 Drip irrigation of potted plants in greenhouse 153
14.6 Roadside drip irrigation 153
14.7 Drip irrigation layouts in orchards 154
14.8 Dripper layouts in wide-spaced orchards 154
14.9 Yield increase in mango in nutrition ditches 155
14.10 Hand-move lateral 156
14.11 Hand-move layout 156


14.12 Coupling of aluminum pipe 157

14.13 10 shift drag under-canopy sprinkler array 157
14.14 Orchard under-canopy micro-sprinkler irrigation 158
14.15 Solid-set system in orchard. spacing 6 x 4 m. sprinkler flow-rate 158
100 l/h
14.16 Orchard overhead irrigation 159
14.17 Solid-set mini-sprinkler irrigation of vegetables 160
14.18 Towline 161
14.19 Towline accessories 161
14.20 Side-roll in the field 162
14.21 Sprinkler vertically stabilized by a swivel and a ballast 162
14.22 Hose-reel traveler 163
14.23 Cable-tow (hose-pull) traveler 163
14.24 Water driven cable-tow traveler scheme 164
14.25 Aerial view of center-pivot irrigated area 166
14.26 Center-pivot operation scheme 166
14.27 Net irrigated area 166
14.28 Components of center-pivot and linear-move lateral system 167
14.29 Center-pivot main tower 167
14.30 Options of sprinkler position and discharge 168
14.31 Linear-move lateral 168
14.32 Linear-move system with spray emitters on drops 169
14.33 Linear-move system pumping water from ditch 169
14.34 Linear-move – main-line in field margin 170
15.1 Topographic map 171
15.2 Diverse design layouts 179
15.3 Manifolds save accessories cost 179
15.4 Retrievable drip irrigation system in maize layout 186
15.5 SDI system layout 191
15.6 Thin-wall non-compensated laterals in strawberries 193
15.7 Apple orchard – 9.6 Ha 194
15.8 Non-compensated on-line drippers flow-rate -pressure 196
15.9 Two of the feasible layouts 196
15.10 Non- compensated drip system 197
15.11 Compensated drip system 200
15.12 Citrus grove - 11.5 ha. 203
15.13 Citrus grove - the design scheme 205
15.14 Solid-set in orchard design scheme 209
15.15 Hand-move design scheme 210
15.16 Gun traveler irrigation design scheme 211
15.17 Emitter spacing patterns in center-pivot 212


16.1 55 Ha. Cotton – drip system layout 215

16.2 Irrigation design software screen-shot 218
16.3 Visual presentation of designed system 219
16.4 Scheduling software screen-shot 219
16.5 On-line calculator 220
17.1 Tensiometers 221
17.2 Watermark granular sensor 221
17.3 Time domain transmissometry sensor 221
17.4 The pressure bomb 222
17.5 Measurement of fruit expansion rate and trunk contraction 223
17.6 Fertilizer and water controller 223
17.7 Integrated monitoring and control 224
17.8 Layout of irrigation systems controlled by iPhon/iPad 224
17.9 The iPhone Screen 224
18.1 Punch and holder 226
18.2 Automatic lateral end flushing valve 227
18.3 Control head 228
15.4 Coupling of PE pipes 229
18.5 Replacing seal 229
18.6 Insertion of emitters in small- PE lateral diameter soft 229
18.7 Components of hydraulic and metering valves 229
18.8 Sprinkler components 230
18.9 Sprinkler tools 230
18.10 Flow regulator 230
18.11 Micro-jets and mini-sprinklers components 231
19.1 Nomogram for Hazen-Williams equation 235
19.2 Nomograms for head-loss determination In polyethylene pipes 236
19.3 Nomogram for local hydraulic gradient determination in 237
19.4 Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in LDPE pipes 238
19.5 Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in HDPE pipes 239
19.6 Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in PVC pipes 240


In the twentieth century, world population had been quadrupled, from 1.5 billion in the
year 1900, to 6 billion in 2000. Today, world population amounts to 7 billion. The
forecast for the year 2050 is 9 billion. The anticipated growth in demand for
agricultural produce in that year, is 70% from now, due to the population growth and
the rising standards of living. Nourishing the fast-growing world population is the
main task of agriculture. Land and water resources required to satisfy that goal are
The total area of the earth surface is roughly 510 million km2
Of that area, some 360 million km2 are covered by water – oceans and seas and 150
million km2 are land. Roughly one third of this area – 50 million km2 can be used for
agriculture. 60 million km2 are comprised of deserts, area under permanent snow,
mountains and land devoid of topsoil. Forests cover 40 million km2.
Of the usable 50 million km2, some 35 million km2 are permanent pasture land and
15 million km2 are arable land under permanent crops.
Enormous quantities of water exist on the earth surface, far beyond the amount
required for the ecosystem and human beings. The problems with the water are the
low quality of most of world water and the uneven geographical distribution.
The estimated total water amount on the globe is roughly 1.4 billion km3. Of that, 1.35
billion km3 are saline water and only 35 million km3 are fresh water.
Table 1.1 Global water distribution
Oceans and seas 1,338,000,000 96.5
Ice caps and glaciers 24,064,000 1.74 68.7
Ground water 23,400,000 1.69
Fresh (10,530,000) (0.76) 30.1
Saline (12,870,000) (0.93)
Lakes 176,400 0.013
Fresh (91,000) (0.007) 0.26
Saline (85,400) (0.006)
Swamp water 11,470 0,0008 0.03
Rivers 2,120 0,0002 0.006
Ground ice and permafrost 300,000 0,022 0.86
Soil moisture 16,500 0.001 0.05
Atmosphere 12,900 0.001 0.04
Adapted from: Shiklomanov 1993

As seen in the table, 97.5% of world water is saline water, not usable in agriculture.
Of the 2.5% fresh water, 69% are in ice caps, glaciers and permanent snow.
Most of the fresh ground water is not accessible due to depth, from which, technically
or economically the water cannot be withdrawn.
The source of renewable water is the precipitations, notably rains. But due to the
massive evapo-transpiration, the net precipitation balance on the land area is only


40,000 km3. Of that, only 9,000 km3 are effective renewable water, some of it in
unpopulated areas.
Contemporary annual usage of water is
5,000 km3, 70% of that - 3,500 km3 is
used for irrigation and the rest is
supplied to the industry, household use
and municipalities. The anticipated
annual consumption in 2050 is 6.500 –
7,000 km3.
Between 1950 and 2000, the world
population increased threefold, the
irrigated area doubled, while water
supply to irrigated agriculture increased
The data above indicates that we are
close to the margin of using the
accessible renewable water resources. Fig. 1.1 The annual global water cycle
Three additional processes aggravate
the stress on land and water resources: soil degradation by water and wind erosion,
salination of agricultural land and water contamination.
3 million km2 (300 million Ha.) are under irrigation. That amounts to 20% of the
permanent cropping area. In the rest of the area rain-fed farming is implemented.
The irrigated area supplies 40% of the agricultural produce. Yields in irrigated
agriculture increase twice to tenfold, compared with non-irrigated agriculture. The
only way to cope with the growing demand for food is the expansion of the irrigated
The above-mentioned developments will raise the pressure on the limited fresh water
resources. Here comes the necessity to use water efficiently.
From the total irrigated area of 300 million Ha. 250 million Ha. (83%) are irrigated in
the traditional surface irrigation technologies. 50 million Ha. Are irrigated with
pressurized irrigation technologies, 38 million Ha. by sprinkler irrigation and 12 million
Ha. With micro-irrigation technologies.
Irrigation efficiency (the fraction of water uptake by the crop from the total applied
water amount) in surface irrigation is 30% – 65%. In pressurized irrigation the
efficiency range is 70% - 95%. The shift from surface to pressurized irrigation,
facilitates saving of up to 70% in irrigation water. That fact advocates wide-scale
conversion from surface irrigation to pressurized irrigation in the last three decades
and in the next coming years.


Irrigation technologies are classified into two main categories:
a. Surface (non-pressurized) irrigation - furrow, borders, flooding, basins, etc.;
b. Pressurized irrigation - sprinkler, spray and drip irrigation (including
mechanized irrigation).
The driving force of water movement from one point to another is the difference in the
inherent energy in the water, between two points. The movement is allways from the
point of higher energy to the point of lower energy content.
In daily life, the energy content of the water is expressed in pressure units.
In surface irrigation, the water in higher topographic points has higher level of energy
than the the water in lower points, hence the flow direction will be from the higher to
the lower points. The driving force is gravity. The water flows in open to the air
conduits: canals, ditches, furrows, bordered strips and levelled basins.
In pressurized irrigation, the energy content of the water in the intake point is
enriched by pumps. Water flows in closed pipe networks. The flow direction is free of
topography limits. Driven by the aquired energy, water can move in any direction and
overcome topography differences.
Pumps resembling devices were invented thousands years
ago. At the 2000ths BC, the Egyptians invented the shadoof to
raise water. It used a long suspended rod with a bucket at one
end and a weight at the other.
At 200 BC, Archimedes had invented the Archimedean screw
pump that is still in use today in some developing countries. At
the same era, another greek, Ctesibius invented the water
organ that is the principal design of contemporary reciprocating
In 1475 AC. Giorgio Martini of Italy designed a mud lifting Fig. 2.1. Archimedean
machine that resenbled the structure of today's centrifugal screw pump
In pressurized irrigation, the water is pumped from the source and delivered to the
irrigated area through piping networks and further applied by means of different types
of emitters.
In pressurized irrigation there are two principal patterns of water distribution:
In drip irrigation, the water is emitted directly to the soil.
In sprinkler irrigation, the water is sprinkled from the emitter into the atmosphere and
distributed on the soil surface.
Due to the different pattern of water distribution, the emitter configuration and
operation differs between the two technologies. In sprinkler irrgation, long range of
the water distribution is imperative. For that function, adequate opereation pressure
is requested that is significantly higher than that requested in drip irrigation. In the
sprinkler, the water passageway structure is designed to lose as little pressure as


possible. In contradiction, in drip irrigation, the pattern of the water passageway in

the emitter, is configured to create high pressure losses, bringing the pressure in the
dripper's oulet close to zero.

a. Pressure: a force acting on an area, expressed in units of kg/cm2, bars,
atmospheres or PSI (Pounds per Square Inch).
b. Operating pressure: the range of pressure, recommended by the
manufacturer, to achieve optimal performance of the system and its
components. Expressed in units of m. head or bars.
c. Working pressure: The maximum allowed pressure that will not damage
the component (pipe, lateral, emitter, etc). Expressed in units of m. head or
d. Water head: the pressure at the base of a water column, expressed in meter
units. The head in the bottom of a water column 10 m. high, is 10 m. = 1 bar. ≈
1 atm.
e. Water amount: measured in volume units. In the metric system the common
units are liter (l) and cubic meter (m3) (1,000 l = 1 m3).
f. Water flow-rate (discharge): the amount of water flowing through a certain
cross-section per time unit. In the metric system the units are: m3/h or liter/h
g. Application (precipitation) rate: the amount of water applied to an area
unit per a unit of time: 1 mm/h = 1 m per 0.1 Ha/h = 10 m3 per Ha per hour.

h. Irrigation interval: The time interval between two water applications - the
period between the start of one irrigation cycle and the start of the following
i. Irrigation cycle: The period between the beginning and the termination of
one irrigation event of a certain area.
j. Nominal pipe diameter: The nominal diameter of steel pipes, up to 10" is
the internal diameter, measured in inches (1 inch = 25.4 mm.) In wider
diameters, as well as in aluminum, plastic pipes and tubes, the nominal
diameter is the external diameter, measured in inches in aluminum pipes and
in mm. in pipes made of plastic materials.

The Future of Pressurized Irrigation

The increasing demand for agricultural products while land and water
resources approach their limits, commit urgent increase in the efficiency of
use of these resources. Forecasts indicate that in the coming years, more
rain-fed agricultural areas will shift to irrigated agriculture and areas
irrigated with the water wasteful surface irrigation will convert to pressurized
irrigation. With this development we can double food production from the
same land and water resources.


Micro-irrigation is one of the pressurized irrigation technologies, alongside sprinkler
irrigation and mechanized irrigation technologies.
The term micro-irrigation refers to irrigation technologies employing water emitters
with tiny apertures that deliver water at a low flow-rate. Micro-irrigation is
distinguished from the traditional sprinkler irrigation technology by the flow-rate of the
emitters. Some experts lay the barrier between ordinary sprinklers and micro emitters
as 200 l/h. Others insist that the barrier is 60 l/h.
Chronologically, the micro-irrigation is the last introduced pressurized irrigation
technology in wide scale commercial use. Sprinkler irrigation was the first, since the
end of world war II in the mid-forties, in the United States. In the mid-fifties, also in
the USA, the mechanized irrigation was developed, with impact sprinklers as the
water emitters. In the mid sixties, drip irrigation had been introduced for commercial
use in Israel. Although, Sprinkler irrigation covers most of the irrigated area, its
expansion is slowed, while micro-irrigation and mechanized irrigation are gaining
momentum worldwide.
Four principal characteristics distinguish micro-irrigation from the other two
pressurized irrigation technologies:
a. Low flow-rate;
b. Localized, partial wetting of the soil surface and soil volume while in
sprinkler irrigation in field crops and vegetables the soil surface is wetted
c. Frequent water applications are needed due to the limited wetted soil
d. Low operating pressure, compared with sprinkler irrigation.
Micro-emitters Classification
Micro-emitters are classified in two principal groups in respect to water emitting
patterns. The functional objectives of the emitters are distinctive in both groups.
In the first group, water is applied directly to the soil in discrete drops (by drippers) or
as a continuous stream (by bubblers). The objective of the water passageways is to
maximize pressure dissipation, to approach atmospheric pressure in the emitter
In the second group, water is conveyed through the air and applied to the soil as jet
stream, spray, mist or multiple discrete jets. Pressure dissipation is kept minimal, in
order to enable adequate spattering of the water on the desired surface area.
The emitters are matched to the working patterns of the two technologies: emitters
with direct water application to the soil and emitters that apply the water through the
Emitters for direct water application to the soil:
a. Drippers;
b. Bubblers.


Emitters for water application through the air:

a. Static emitters
1. Sprayers;
2. Ray micro-jets (fan-jets);
3. Misters and foggers.
b. Vibrating emitters
c. Rotating emitters
1. Micro sprinklers;
2. Rotators;
3. Spinners.
Micro-irrigation holds five obvious advantages over most other irrigation
a. High efficiency of water application;
b. Improved plant nutrition management;
c. Independency of wind conditions (in drip irrigation);
d. Better salinity handling;
e. Low energy requirement compared with sprinkler and mechanized
irrigation technologies.
The basic planning and design procedures are similar in the two micro-irrigation
principal technologies.
Certain terms relating to irrigation have different interpretations in micro-irrigation
than in conventional sprinkler irrigation.
Application Rate (Irrigation Rate)
In localized micro-irrigation, the water does not spread evenly on the soil surface.
The term Irrigation Rate (IR) designates a virtual value. The applied water quantity
per hour over the irrigated area is addressed as if coverage is uniform.
The virtual irrigation rate per single emitter will be its flow-rate divided by its
spacing (distance between laterals X distance between the emitters on the lateral).
Emitter flow-rate: 2 l/h
Spacing 3 × 0.5 m
Irrigation Rate = 2 / (3 × 0.5) = 1.333 l/m2/h = 13.33 m3/ha/h
Water Distribution
The water that spreads unevenly on the soil surface and in the soil volume. makes it
impractical to consider Distribution Uniformity the same as in sprinkler and border
irrigation. The wetted volume by a single emitter has variable moisture levels as a
function of distance from the emitter, soil properties and water dose. Hence, the
uniformity of water distribution in micro-irrigation is expressed differently than in
sprinkler irrigation. The common term is Emission Uniformity (EU) that indicates the
variance between emitters' flow-rate in a representative sample. The calculation of


EU is the same as the calculation for DU but it relates to variance between emitters
and not to the variance of application to the soil surface.
Distribution of Chemicals
The distribution of dissolved chemicals (salts, nutrition elements) in micro-irrigation
has also a different pattern than in other irrigation methods. This pattern is beneficial
for nutrition and salt management but obliges strict precautions to be taken in acute
climatic events like heat spells and early rains after a dry period.
Water Distribution Uniformity
Irrigation Efficiency
Irrigation Efficiency (IE) is an important parameter for the evaluation of irrigation

(Eq. 3.1)

Water beneficially used is the sum of the water amounts absorbed by the plant and
extra amounts applied for salt leaching and/or frost protection, crop cooling and
increase of the relative humidity in the atmosphere.
Micro-irrigation facilitates the application of the same volume of water to each single
plant in the irrigated plot. This requires adequate spacing between laterals and
emitters, as well as an appropriate pressure regime.
Application Uniformity can be expressed with different indices. Uniformity of 100%,
(that actually is not achievable), means that each point within the plot area gets
exactly the same amount of irrigation water. When uniformity is low, certain sections
of the simultaneously irrigating plot, receive less water than others. In order for those
sections to receive sufficient amount of water, extra water amount has to be applied
to the plot as a whole. As the application uniformity is lower, the required amount of
extra water will be greater. Application uniformity is particularly important with drip
irrigation systems, due to the cumulative nature of non-uniformity embodied in factors
that determine the dripper's flow-rate.
Distribution Uniformity
A common index of application uniformity is DU (Distribution Uniformity). For
calculating this value, the flow-rate of a representative sample (40 - 100 emitters
randomly selected in different sections of the irrigated plot) is measured.

(Eq. 3.2)

Q25% = the average flow-rate of 25% of the emitters with the lowest flow-rate;
Qn = the average flow-rate of all the sampled emitters.
DU significance:
>87% - excellent distribution uniformity;
75% - 87% - good uniformity;
62% - 75% - acceptable;
<62% - unacceptable.


Variability in the flow-rate depends on the pressure regime, the manufacturing

variance of the emitters and partial emitter clogging.
Manufacturer’s Coefficient of Variation (Cvm)
No two emitters can be identically manufactured; there will be always a certain
variation. The flow-rate uniformity of new emitters is evaluated with the
Manufacturing Coefficient of Variation (Cvm).
Cvm indicates the variability in the flow-rate of a random sample of a given emitter
model, just off the production line, before any field operation or degradation has
taken place.
The flow-rate variation in manufacturing is determined statistically. Randomly
selected emitter samples or a lateral segment are tested under constant pressure.
The Cvm is defined as the standard deviation over the average flow-rate of a sample
of emitters. It is expressed as a decimal fraction or percentage. (0.01 = 1%)
According to the formula:

(Eq. 3.3)

Cvm = manufacturer coefficient of variation;
Sdm = standard deviation;
Xm = mean flow-rate.
A Cvm of 0.1 (10%) means normal distribution (a “bell shaped” curve), where 68 % of
all emitter flow-rates are more or less within 10% deviation from the mean flow-rate.
The emitter design, materials used in production, and manufacturing precision
determine the variance in any particular emitter type.
The standard ranking of variability is as follows:
a. For point source emitters:
Cvm <0.05 - excellent;
0.05 - 0.07 – average;
0.07 - 0.11 – marginal;
0.11 – 0.15 – poor;
>0.15 – unacceptable.
With recent improvements in manufacturing technology, most emitters have Cvm
lower than 0.10. Pressure compensating emitters have a somewhat higher Cvm than
non-compensating labyrinth path emitters, due to the cumulative variability of the
passageway and the compensating mechanism.
b. For line source emitters (comparison of 1 m length segments):
Cvm <0.10 - good;
0.10 – 0.20 – average;
> 0.20 – marginal - unacceptable.
Emission Uniformity
The Emission Uniformity (EU) conforms to Distribution Uniformity.


A controversy still exists about whether or not to consider Cvm to determine Emission
Uniformity when designing irrigation systems.
The stringent attitude claims that Cvm is one of the cumulative factors that determine
the uniformity of water distribution and has to be taken into account.
In this case, Emission Uniformity will be calculated using the following formula:

(Eq. 3.4)

EU = the design Emission Uniformity, %;
n = for a point-source emitter in a perennial crop, the number of emitters per plant;
for a line-source emitter in an annual or perennial row crop, either the horizontal
rooting diameter of the plants, divided by the same unit length of lateral line used to
calculate Cvm or 1, which of these variables that is greater;
Cvm = manufacturer’s coefficient of variation;
qm = minimum emitter flow-rate in the sample, l/h;
qa = average or design emitter flow-rate for the related sample, l/h.
The lenient attitude claims that since emitters with a dissimilar flow-rate are randomly
located, the Cvm has to be ignored in evaluating Emission Uniformity in the design
It has to be emphasized that the Design Emission Uniformity is relevant only for
new equipment before field operation. Once the system has been operated, there is
degradation of the Emission Uniformity due to full or partial clogging of emitters,
deformation of emitters and compensating membranes and damage to hoses and
tapes by environmental and mechanical factors. High-level maintenance, routine
periodical inspections and corrective measures are required to lessen the
degradation in water distribution uniformity within an irrigated plot over the long term.
The design emission uniformity compares maximum and minimum emitter flow-
rates along a single lateral.
(Eq. 3.5)

(Eq. 3.6)

qmax is the maximum emitter flow-rate;
qmin is the minimum emitter flow-rate;
qvar is the emitter flow-rate variation.
It is assumed that the manufacturer's emitter flow variation, follows normal
distribution, so that the mean value plus two standard deviations is considered as the
maximum flow-rate, and the mean value minus two standard deviations is considered
as the minimum emitter flow-rate. This range covers over 95% of the emitter flow-
rates measured in the tests.
Relating test results to the manufacturer’s Cvm indicates that with a manufacturing
Cvm of 0.05 = 5%, the difference between maximum and minimum flow-rates on the
lateral may be 15%.


Drippers, the core of the drip irrigation system, are small water emitters made of
plastic materials. The design and production of high quality drippers is comprised of
delicate and complicated processes.
The basic requested attributes of a dripper:
a. Low flow-rate (discharge): 0.5 – 8 liter per hour (l/h);
b. Low vulnerability to clogging;
c. Durability and low production cost.
Attaining low flow-rate requires a high degree of pressure dissipation. The flow-rate is
determined by the pattern and dimensions of the dripper’s water passageway and the
water pressure, at the dripper inlet. The smaller the passageway cross-section, the
lower the dripper flow-rate at a given pressure. However, the narrower the
passageway, the greater the risk of clogging by suspended solid particles and
chemical precipitates.
Since the dissipated water pressure en-route to the dripper's outlet is a key factor in
determining its flow-rate, sophisticated passageway patterns have been developed
for intensive pressure dissipation.
Types of Drip Systems
Drip systems can be classified in respect to a variety of parameters:
a. spatial placement of the laterals;
b. layout of the water emitters on the lateral;
c. type of the laterals;
d. water passageway structure and characteristics;
e. position on lateral;
f. special applications.
Spatial Placement of Laterals
On-Surface Drip Irrigation
The dominant drip technology is on-surface drip irrigation. In this placement,
monitoring and control of the drippers' performance is convenient and effective. On
the other hand, the laterals are prone to mechanical damage and degradation by
solar radiation and may interfere with farming activity. In annuals, seasonal
deployment and retrieval of the laterals is obligatory and annoying. In vineyards, kiwi
plantations and palmetta-shaped deciduous orchards, laterals are hanged on trellises
in order to facilitate convenient monitoring of dripper function and minimize
mechanical damage.
Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI)
SDI has gathered momentum over the last two decades.
SDI Main Advantages:
a. Negligible interference with farm activity;
b. Elimination of mechanical damage to laterals;
c. Decreased weed infestation;


d. Elimination of runoff and evaporation from soil surface;

e. Improved uptake of nutrition elements by the roots, notably phosphorous.
SDI Main Disadvantages:
a. High installation costs;
b. clogging hazard by intruding roots and sucked-in soil particles;
c. Inconvenience in monitoring the performance of drippers and laterals;
d. Strict maintenance is mandatory.
Layout of Water Emitters along the Lateral
Two typical layouts of drippers on laterals determine the water distribution pattern in
the soil.
Point Sources
In this layout, drippers are mounted or inserted along the laterals at length intervals
that create a discrete wetted soil volume by each emitter, without overlapping. In
orchard irrigation and in widely spaced annuals, thick walled hose laterals are

Fig. 4.1. Point-source (left) and line-source (right) wetting patterns

Line Sources
Drippers are densely positioned along the lateral, ensuring overlapping of the wetted
soil volumes of adjacent drippers. This layout is typical in tape design and is the
favored choice for densely grown annual crops.
Lateral Type
Thick-Walled Hoses
Thick-walled hoses, used as drip laterals are made of Low Density Polyethylene
(LDPE) of 12 – 25 mm external diameter and wall thickness of 1 – 2 mm. The
discrete drippers are mounted on-line or inserted inline, 10 – 100 cm apart. The
normal working pressure (PN) is 10 – 40 m. (1 – 4 bar).
Thin-Walled Laterals
Thin-walled laterals may be manufactured as hoses or tapes. The thin-walled hose
keeps its cylindrical cross section also when it is empty while the tape lies flat when it
is not filled with water. The tapes are also made of LDPE. However, the wall
thickness is only 0.1 – 0.9 mm and the PN is 1 – 10 m. (0.1 – 1 bar). Laterals may be
fitted with discrete molded or inserted drippers. Some tapes have contiguous
pressure dissipating passageways as integral components.


Water Passageway Structure and Characteristics

Long Laminar or Semi-turbulent Path
The water flows through a long, narrow, micro-tube. The micro-tube may be long
(spaghetti) or a built-in spiral in a capsulation. Water flow is laminar in the spaghetti
and semi turbulent in the built-in spiral. The friction of water with the tube walls plus
the internal friction between water molecules results in pressure dissipation. The
flow-rate of laminar-flow drippers is specifically sensitive to changes in pressure. The
long water path and low flow velocity bring about deposition of chemical precipitates
that alter the dripper's flow-rate. In extreme cases, the emitter is fully plugged.

Fig. 4.2. In-line barbed semi-turbulent dripper (left) and in-line integral turbulent dripper (right)

Labyrinth Path Preliminary

The water flows along a design
labyrinth in which the flow
direction changes abruptly. Semi
The recurrent changes in turbulent
direction result in turbulent dripper
flow, high-energy losses and
decreased flow-rate. The Labyrinth
labyrinth passageway is wider passageway
and shorter than the laminar
path of the same flow-rate. Toothed
The turbulent flow flushes the (zigzag)
corners of the twisted water passageway
path, decreasing clogging by
precipitation events. The flow- TurboNet
rate in a labyrinth dripper is passageway
less affected by changes in Fig. 4.3. Evolution of the passageway style Courtesy “Netafim”
pressure, compared with
laminar flow. The short path
facilitates manufacturing of
smaller, cheaper drippers. Fig. 4.4. Turbulent flow from "DIS" brochure
Zigzag (toothed) Path
This passageway form has higher pressure dissipation and better self-cleaning
attributes. Enhanced version of the toothed passageway - TurboNet - allows for
shorter, wider water passageways. The last versions of these drippers embed a small
integral filter in each dripper.
Vortex Drippers
In vortex drippers, water enters tangentially into a circular chamber, creating a spiral
whirlpool that generates high head losses along a relatively short path. This allows
for a wide-outlet orifice that decreases clogging hazard.


Orifice Drippers
Pressure dissipation occurs at a tiny inlet in the bottom of the dripper, rendering it
prone to plugging.

Fig. 4.5. Orifice dripper Fig. 4.6. Vortex dripper Fig. 4.7. Labyrinth button dripper
Adapted from Karmeli & Keller, 1975 Adapted from Karmeli & Keller, 1975 Courtesy "Netafim"

Tape Laterals
Trickling tapes are made of thin walled plastic tubes. When empty, the pipe lies flat. It
gets a cylindrical cross section when filled with water. Water emission can take place
directly through tiny perforations in the wall or through molded labyrinth
passageways. The first-mentioned design is prone to partial or full clogging of the
perforations and its emission uniformity degrades with time.

Fig. 4.8. Tape trickling lateral: empty (left) and filled with water (right) Adapted from "T-Tape" brochure

Position on Lateral
Drippers can be mounted externally on the lateral (on-line), or inserted into the lateral

Fig. 4.9. On-line drippers Courtesy "Netafim"

On-Line Mounted Drippers

On-line drippers are mounted through punched holes.
Drippers can be added to the laterals with time to
answer changes in crop development and water
The dripper has a threaded or barbed joint that is
screwed or inserted into thick-wall hoses. Because the Fig. 4.10. Button drippers
dripper protrudes from the lateral, it is prone to connector types


damage in delivery, installation and retrieval.

In-Line Inserted Drippers
In-line drippers allow for the outer face of the lateral to be smooth. Two versions are
Built-in Drippers
The drippers are fused into the lateral during its extrusion process.
Barbed Drippers
Each dripper joins two segments of the lateral.
Exceptional Drippers
Adjustable Drippers
The flow-rate can be adjusted by revolving its cap.
Flag Emitters
The dripper has a twisting locker that facilitates cleansing of clogged drippers while
water continues to flow in the lateral.

Fig. 4.11 Adjustable


Fig. 4.12. Flag dripper Fig. 4.13. Button and inline PC drippers
Courtesy "Netafim"

Pressure Compensated (PC) Drippers

The flow-rate of compensated emitters remains constant provided the pressure in
dripper's inlet is kept above a given minimum threshold. The compensating
mechanism narrows or lengthens the internal water passageway as the pressure
rises, adjusting the friction head losses that keep the flow-rate constant.

Fig.4.14. Cylindrical PC dripper: water passageway lengthened under high pressure From "Mezerplas" brochure


Flexible Membrane above Water Path

As the pressure above the diaphragm
rises, the water passageway below the
diaphragm narrows, increasing head
losses and decreasing the flow-rate.
Changing the Length of the Water Flow
Path Fig. 4.15. Flexible diaphragm under pressure
Pressure compensation is accomplished
by changing the effective length of the water path. The higher the pressure the longer
the effective passageway, rendering higher head losses.
Non-leakage (No-drain) Drippers
Draining of drip laterals after water shutdown promotes
accumulation of precipitates at the bottom of the
laterals and in the drippers' water passageways.
Additionally, time elapses from the renewal of water
supply until the laterals are filled with water and the
desired working pressure builds-up. During this time
interval, the flow-rate of the initial drippers in the lateral Fig. 4.16. No-drain dripper
is significantly higher than that of the drippers at the distal end. Frequent small water
applications, makes this time segment of uneven emission a significant part of the
irrigation time length, decreasing application uniformity.
That process generates a substantial variance in water dosage between the initial
and the distal ends of the laterals and in the irrigated plot as a whole.
Non-leakage drippers eliminate drain of the laterals
after water shutdown by sealing the dripper's outlet
as the pressure drops. This facilitates rapid
pressure build-up in the laterals at the start of the
next irrigation.
Flap Equipped Drippers
Each Dripper is equipped with a flap on the water Fig. 4.17. Flap equipped dripper
outlet that eliminates suction of small soil particles into the dripper by back siphonage
at water shutdown, as well as the intrusion of roots into drip laterals in subsurface
drip systems.
Woodpecker Drippers
These drippers are used in areas prone to
woodpecker activity. The birds, while looking for
water, drill holes in the laterals. Preventive action
is taken by burying laterals with the woodpecker
drippers underground and connecting thin micro-
tubes to the dripper outlet. The distal end of the
micro-tube is laid on the soil surface.
Trifluraline Impregnated Drippers
For long-term prevention of root intrusion into a. Bug cover b. The bird
subsurface drip laterals, the herbicide Trifluraline Fig. 4.18. Woodpecker dripper


(TreflanTM) is impregnated into the drippers during the production process. After the
installation of the subsurface laterals, small amounts of the herbicide are released
with each water application into the soil adjacent to the dripper, sterilizing its
immediate vicinity. Drippers impregnated with Trifluraline can substitute routine
Treflan application for up to 15 years.

Fig. 4.19. Arrow dripper for greenhouses, nurseries and pot plants Courtesy "Netafim"
Arrow Drippers
Arrow drippers are used for the irrigation of potted plants. The stake-styled dripper is
inserted into the growing bed. A high capacity built-in filter and efficient zigzag
turbulent water passageway keep the tiny dripper unplugged and reliable for long-
term use.
Multi-outlet Drippers
Each dripper has 2 – 12 outlets onto which small diameter
micro-tubes are connected. The drippers are used mostly in
landscaping and for irrigation of potted plants.
Fig. 4.20. Six outlets
Ultra Low-flow Drippers dripper
Exceptionally low water emission rates of 0.1 – 0.3 l/h per
dripper alters the water distribution pattern in the soil and other growing media. The
water-to-air ratio in the wetted bed volume is altered in favor of the air. Water
horizontal movement is more pronounced than with drippers of conventional flow-
rate. In this technology, water can be applied to shallow rooted plants with minimized
drainage beneath the root-zone.
Due to the narrow water passageways and low flow velocity, these tiny drippers are
prone to clogging.
The ultra low flow-rate is achieved in two techniques:


a. A conventional button dripper releases water into a secondary micro-tube with 10

– 30 molded or inserted micro-drippers;
b. Water is applied in pulses through conventional drip laterals. The pulses are
created by the irrigation controller or by dedicated pulsators. To correspond with the
short pulses and long time intervals, drippers should be of the non-leakage type.

Fig. 4.21. Wetted soil volume by drippers Fig. 4.22. Ultra low flow micro-drippers
Adapted from "Plastro" brochure

Integral Filtration in Drippers

Modern high quality drippers are fitted with built-in integral filters. The filtering area
increased significantly in the new models to ensure long-term high performance with
reduced clogging.

Fig. 4.23. Integral filters From "Netafim" brochure

Other anti-clogging means are:
a. Dual water inlets and outlets per dripper;
b. The barbs of on-line drippers protrude deep into the lateral, keeping the water
inlet away from the dirt that accumulates on the lateral's walls.
Anti-siphon devices such as the abovementioned flaps also decrease clogging
Auto Flushing Mechanism
Certain compensating drippers are fitted with unique flexible diaphragms for
releasing the debris that clog the dripper. When a solid particle blocks the water path,
the diaphragm arches to widen the passageway and the clogging object is released.

Static state Pressure compensation Flushing

Fig. 4.24. Auto flushing, pressure compensated dripper Courtesy "Netafim"



Micro emitters that distribute water through the air are used extensively in orchard
irrigation. Unlike sprinkler irrigation used in field crops and vegetables where water is
distributed evenly over the entire irrigated area, in orchard irrigation, full soil surface
coverage and even distribution of water is unattainable and is not necessary. The
objective of orchard irrigation is to deliver equal amounts of water to each tree and to
distribute it in compliance with the root system distribution pattern in the soil.
Under-canopy irrigation is common in orchard
irrigation. It can be carried out by low-volume,
low-angle mini sprinklers as well as by micro-
sprinklers, micro-jets, sprayers, drippers and
Recently, the use of micro-sprinklers had been
extended to overhead irrigation of vegetables and
field crops.
Micro-emitters built of rigid plastic materials are
much smaller and cheaper than conventional
Four emitter types are available:
a. Static micro-jets;
b. Micro-jets with vibrating deflector;
c. Micro-sprinklers - spinners and rotators;
d. Vortex Emitters.
The operating pressure of these emitters is 10 – Fig. 5.1 Micro-emitters
30 m., lower than with conventional sprinklers
and higher than in drip systems. The water distribution diameter, at a given pressure,
depends on the nozzle geometry, emission pattern, flow-rate and water pressure
Many types of micro-sprinklers are modular. Components are interchangeable and
facilitate low cost modification of flow-rate, droplet size, distribution pattern and
range. Changing the deflector and nozzle makes the difference.
Static Micro-jets
Static micro-jets have no moving components and are classified into three groups:
Sprayers – the water stream is fragmented into tiny droplets by means of a static
deflector. Water is distributed in a relatively short range and the tiny drops are wind
sensitive and prone to drift.
Misters and Foggers – water droplets are smaller than in sprayers. Spread range
is shorter. Wind sensitivity and evaporation losses are higher than in sprayers. These
types are mostly used to increase the relative humidity and decrease the temperature
in greenhouses and poultry coops and for frost protection in orchards.


Fig. 5.2. Modular micro-emitters From "Naan-Dan-Jain" brochure

Deflectors in diverse configurations allow sectorial area coverage from 450 to 3600.
Ray-Jets– thewater stream is fragmented into 4 – 20 discrete jets. The range is
extended and wind sensitivity is reduced compared with sprayers, misters and

Static sprayer Mister Fogger Ray-jet

Fig. 5.3. Static micro-jets
Vibrating Micro-jets
The ejected water from a circular orifice strikes a deflector and triggers it to vibrate.
The vibration of the deflector creates larger drops than in sprayers, increases the
distribution range and reduces evaporation and wind impact.
Rotators are manufactured in different configurations. The central shaft with the
nozzle is static. The water jet hits a rotating deflector that distributes water in larger
area than the vibrating emitters.
Spinners - the nozzle rotates and further increases the jet range.
Moving components in micro-sprinklers, increase their sensitivity to weeds,
precipitates and splashed soil particles interference. It also accelerates the wear of


the emitter. Damage is caused by herbicide sprayer booms and other tillage
equipment. It particularly increased during harvest operations.
Vortex Emitters
These emitters have no moving parts. The water revolves in a circular vortex
chamber that delivers a low flow-rate through a relatively large opening that reduces
the clogging hazard. The area wetted by this emitter is smaller than with rotating
emitter types.

Vibrating sprayer Rotator Spinner Vortex sprayer

Fig. 5.4. Vibrating micro-jet, micro-sprinklers and vortex micro-jet

Micro-sprinkler components Interchangeable components

Fig. 5.5. Modular micro-sprinkler
Pressure compensated and flow regulated micro-emitters are particularly suitable for
irrigating steep sloping areas.


Micro-sprinkler systems require a higher volume of water supply compared to on-

surface or buried drip systems.
The micro-emitters are mostly
connected to the laterals by means of a
plastic micro tube. They are mounted on
a stake or a rod to stabilize their vertical
position at 10 - 25 cm above ground
Threaded micro-emitters are installed
on 1/2" – 3/4" rigid PVC risers. Barb
micro-emitters can be mounted directly
on the lateral. In greenhouses, micro-
emitters may be installed upside-down
(inverted) for overhead irrigation and Unilateral bridge
misting. Weights are hung to stabilize
them vertically.
Bridge type micro-emitters provide
improved support to the rotating spinner
or deflector, but the vertical supports of
the bridge creates dry sectors behind
Micro-emitters are prone to clogging like
drippers, but when clogging occurs it is
quickly noticed and easily cleaned.
Some emitters are equipped with a
small integral valve to enable local Bi-lateral bridge Bubbler
water shutdown during the cleaning Fig. 5.6. Bridge micro-sprinkler and bubbler
Some types of micro-sprinklers are prone to clogging by the eggs and excretions of
spiders, ants and other insects. Insect-proof devices have been developed to prevent
these obstructions. Ant and bug caps may be added to discourage ants and other
insects from intruding into the system. Spiders are capable of tying up spinners and
halt their rotation. Micro-sprinkler operation can be disturbed by sand that is splashed
upward from the soil surface when hit by droplets from adjacent emitters.
Clogging that is not removed on time in orchards that employ one emitter per tree
may result in lower yields and reduced produce quality.
In Bubblers, the water pressure dissipates almost fully on its way to the outlet, but the
discharge is much higher than in drippers: 20 – 200 l/h. The water flows from the
bubbler along its stake or spreads adjacent to it. The pressure is dissipated through
diaphragms and small orifices. In some cases the use of bubblers requires the
excavation of small basins around the emitter to prevent runoff.
Bubblers may be pressure compensated.


Water Distribution Patterns

The emitter’s water distribution pattern depends on its outlet (nozzle) and deflector
geometry, trajectory angle, droplets size, pressure and flow-rate. The higher the
trajectory angle (up to 450) and the larger the droplet size and flow-rate, the larger will
be the wetting diameter. The patterns of water distribution and wetting depth in the
wetted area vary with the emitter type. In some emitters the wetting pattern is
triangular. These emitters are suitable for overlapping and full wetting of the soil
surface. In some emitters the deeper wetting depth is adjacent to the emitter while in
others it is uniform in most of the wetted area.

Fig. 5.7. Water distribution by micro-sprinkler at different flow-rates (example)

Fig. 5.8. Ray-jet (fan-jet) distribution patterns From "Bowsmith" Brochure


Pressure Compensation
Micro-sprinklers and micro-jets can be pressure compensated. That facilitates longer
laterals and uniform application in harsh topographic conditions.
Improved Micro emitters
In the last decade, the micro emitters further improved. Pressure regulation,
protection against insect intrusion, range control and leakage prevention and self
cleaning by vibration, added versatility to this group of emitters and expanded its
utilization in expense of the more expensive sprinklers.

a. Regulated b. Insect Proof c. Extended range d. Vibrating

Fig. 5.9. Improved micro-sprinklers
Modular spreaders enable convenient and cheap changing the wetting range and
pattern with the same emitter.

Fig. 5..10. Changed wetting diameter (m.) and pattern with modular spreaders
Emitter Mounting
Emitters can be mounted directly on the lateral, attached by a barbed or threaded
protrusion. The preferred connection to the lateral is by means of a small-diameter
micro-tube. The vertical position is secured by a stake, stabilizing rod or stabilizing
tube. The emitter is raised 10 – 25 cm above soil surface to prevent halt of rotation of
the moving parts by weed interference and splashed soil particles. The micro-tubes
are 50 – 100 cm long and 4 – 8 mm in diameter. Diameter of 6 - 8 mm is preferred for
emitter flow-rates over 60 l/h and when the micro-tube's length is over 60 cm, to
prevent excessive head losses.
In greenhouses, micro-sprinklers, misters and foggers are frequently used to
increase the relative humidity and lower the temperature of the environment. Misters
and foggers emit tiny droplets and may be operated intermittently in pulses. These


emitters are often mounted upside-down with the trajectory angle slanted
downwards, in order to avoid hitting the glass or plastic ceiling.

Sprayer on Upside-down misters Micro-sprinkler on rod Upside-down

stake with stabilizing tubes Micro-sprinkler
Fig. 5.11. Micro-emitters mounting alternatives

Micro-emitters for Mechanized Irrigation

In the last two decades there was expansion in use of micro emitters in mechanized
irrigation, in expense of high volume impact sprinklers. Low-pressure emitters - static
and dynamic sprayers, rotators and spinners were developed to be installed 1 - 4 m.
apart along the lateral. Frequently, inverted position of the emitter is preferred.
The micro-sprinklers require 10 - 25 m. head in the inlet. The operating pressure of
spray nozzles, rotators and spinners is 6 - 20 m. Operating pressure in LEPA (Low
Energy Precision Application) emitters is 4 – 7 m., compared with 30 – 50 m. head
requested in the inlets of high-volume impact sprinklers


The low-pressure systems have relatively high local application-rates that may cause
runoff, despite the little impact of the smaller water droplets on the soil surface.
Particular distributing pads had been developed for the unique water distributing
pattern, requested in continuously moving lateral.
Static Emitters
a. Stationary pad - a deflection pad that does not move when impacted by the
water stream leaving the nozzle. Water is ejected in spray pattern;
b. Rotating pad - a deflection pad that rotates in a 360 degrees circle when
impacted by the water stream leaving the nozzle. Water is ejected as many
distinctive streams;
c. Oscillating pad - a deflection pad that oscillates when impacted by the water
stream leaving the nozzle. The water is ejected in more uniform and bigger
drops with larger coverage area;
d. Drop tubes -- plastic, rubber hose, or metal tubes used to deliver water to an
emitter mounted below the pivot pipeline;
e. Sprayers - In sprayers with stationary pad the water jet, ejected from the nozzle
hits the deflector pad, from which the small water droplets are spread in a
conic pattern. The wetting diameter is relatively small, 2 - 4 m. Spacing
between the emitters on the lateral is 1 – 3 m.

a. Spray Emitter b. Spray Emitter with Bubbler Clip c. Super-spray

Fig. 5.12. Stationary deflection pad emitters
Dynamic Emitters
In order to increase the wetting diameter of micro-emitters, Dynamic micro-emitters
had been developed. They have rotary deflection pads that significantly increase the
wetting diameter, 15 meters and more, allowing a wider distance of 4 m. between
the emitters on the lateral and reducing the application-rate.
The rotators Incorporate 4 or 6 groove plates. Their bearings contain a viscous fluid
to slow the rotation (1 – 2 RPM). The drops are relatively large, Four-groove Rotator
has the largest wetting diameter and biggest drops.


Sensitivity to wind is low but the impact of the large drops on the soil surface and the
high instantaneous application-rates due to the slowly rotating jets may increase
Spinners have similar plates but have a low friction bearing for higher speed rotation.
Plate rotation takes place by the force of the water jets activated on the curved
grooves. The rotation speed is affected by pressure and flow-rate. The spinner
rotates much faster than the rotator, scattering smaller droplets. Its impact on the soil
surface is slighter but drift sensitivity and evaporation losses are higher. The free
spinning action generates a gentle, rain-like drops pattern. It is designed for relatively
sensitive crops and soils, low instantaneous application-rates and reduced kinetic
energy of the droplets, decrease soil structure destruction and encrustation.
a. Convex plates are mounted upright on top of the lateral with higher trajectory
angles, rendering larger wetting diameter and better uniformity of application-
rates, but are more susceptible to drift by wind;
b. Concave plates create jet trajectory angles of 60 – 350. Usually the heads are
inverted for use on drops.

a. Upside-down Rotator b. Upright Rotator c. Upside-down Spinner

Fig. 5.13. Rotators and spinner
That is an hybrid of rotator and spinner. It maximizes performance of in-canopy water
application, by increasing rotation speed but keeping wide wetting diameter.
Features technology that eliminates the struts of the emitter's body, provides
improved uniformity and optimal droplets at low pressure (7 – 15 m.). That keeps
uniformity in poor water conditions, because there are no body struts for debris to
hang up on.
The strut-less body reduces droplet breakup and drift. The streamlined design
renders smooth movement through canopy and over field obstacles.


The emitter is mounted on drop tubes and has low trajectory angle for keeping the
water down, free of wind intervention, for maximum water and energy conservation. It
is available with the choice of two plate types to meet desired droplet size, specific to
site and soil requirements.
This emitter, features an open-architecture body design that allows easy debris
passage. It had been developed for use with low-quality irrigation water, like
reclaimed wastewater and storm-water.

a. Accelerator b. Orbitor c. Trashbuster

Figure 5.14. Distinctive emitters
LDN (Low Drift Nozzle)

Fig. 5.15. LDN (Low Drift Nozzle) emitter configurations


The emitter employs multiple deflector pad levels (single, double and triple), utilizing
additional grooves to direct water and control droplet size.
This feature enables the LDN to handle large flows, up to 3.8 m3/h, and render gentle
spread-out water application.
As the nozzle flow-rate has to increase with growing distance from the pivot point,
multiple pads divide nozzle flow into a larger number of streams and apply that flow
over a larger surface area, reducing application intensity and runoff hazard. The
emitter operates at low pressure (4 – 14 m).
Part-Circle and Chemigation pads are available.
Emitters with Oscillating Pads/Plates
A new generation of dynamic emitters had been developed. That includes the
Nutator and the Wobbler. In these emitters, the deflection pad bends from side to
side (oscillates like a pendulum) in addition to its rotary motion, improving uniformity
of distribution. The angle of deflection determines the wetting diameter. The
deflection angles vary from 100 to 450.
Oscillating plate emitters have some
advantages over the fixed and rotating
plate spray heads. They have a 6 to 9
groove plate in which the center of the
plate moves in a circular motion around
the water jet, and the entire jet is
channeled through each groove in
sequence. This creates relatively large
drops and a larger wetting diameter. Fig. 5.16. Oscillating deflection pad options
Adaptee from NebGuide
Trajectory angles are 150 or 250.
The emitters can be mounted in upright positions above laterals or booms or inverted
on drop tubes. Since the oscillation of the plate causes vibration, it should be
suspended from a short length of flexible hose when mounted on drop tubes.

Fig. 5.17. Diverse configurations of inverted wobblers

Due to their excellent performance, wobblers had been introduced in solid-set
irrigation systems in field crops and vegetables in the last 5 years.

Sprinklers were first introduced as pressurized irrigation emitters, at the beginning of
the twentieth century, in flower gardens. Later-on they were accommodated in the
irrigation of field crops, plantations and greenhouses.
The area irrigated with sprinkler irrigation expanded extensively after the Second
World War when aluminum became a cheap and widely available commodity and
flat lands, suitable for surface irrigation became scarce. Sprinkler irrigation enables
simultaneous operation of many sprinkler laterals, facilitates accurate water
measurement and matching of the water application rate with the water intake
(infiltration) rate of the soil.
Wetting diameter: the diameter of a circle on the soil surface, wetted by a certain
sprinkler = twice the wetting radius of the sprinkler. Measured in meter units.
Sprinkler spacing: the spacing between the sprinklers along and between the
sprinkler laterals. For example: 12 m x 18 m.

a. Rectangular position b. Diagonal position

Fig. 6.1. Sprinkler spacing positions

Irrigation Intensity: the force exerted by the water droplets on the soil surface
during precipitation. The intensity depends on the number of droplets, their size, their
velocity and the impact angle at which they hit the soil surface. The intensity is
expressed in qualitative terms: high, medium, low.

a. High intensity – rough droplets b. Low intensity – fine droplets

Fig. 6.2. Irrigation intensity

Application (precipitation) rate: the amount of water applied to an area unit per
a unit of time.
The application rate is expressed in units of l/m2/hour, m3/ha/hour or mm/hour. The
last unit indicates the depth of the applied water volume equally spread on the
irrigated area. E.g.: 1 mm water depth over 1 m2 area (1,000,000 mm2) is: 1 mm ×
1,000,000 mm2 = 1,000,000 mm3 (micro liters). 1,000,000 micro liters = 1000
milliliters = 1 liter/1 m2. Since 1 ha consists of 10,000 m2, 1mm water depth = 10,000
l/ha = 10 m3/ha.

(Eq. 6.1)

Wind velocity: expressed in meters per second (m/sec.) or km/h units.

Fig. 6.3. The influence of wind on the uniformity of water distribution

a. Sprinkler irrigation technology is suitable to diverse topographic
conditions, uneven land and steep slopes that cannot be irrigated by
surface irrigation;
b. A vast selection of emitters and nozzles facilitates the matching of the
water application rate to the intake rate of the soil;
c. Uniform distribution of water in the field renders high water use efficiency;
d. Operation is easy and simple, only short training of the operators is required;
e. Capability of accurate measurement of the applied water amount;
f. Convenient mobility of the irrigation equipment from one field to another;
g. Operation of solid-set and mechaniized systems, minimizes labor requirement;
h. Feasibility of frequent - small water dosage applications for germination
and environmental control - cooling, frost protection, etc.;
i. Closed delivery system prevents water contamination and decreases the
occurrence of emitter clogging;
j. Convenient blending of fertilizers with the irrigation water;
k. Handy integration with automation.
Disadvantages and Limitations
a. High initial investment;
b. Extra cost of the energy consumed for generation of water pressure;
c. Sensitivity to wind conditions;

d. Water losses by evaporation from soil surface, the atmosphere and plant
e. Induction of leaf-diseases, hazards of leaf burns by salt and washout of
pesticides from the foliage in overhead irrigation;
f. Interference of irrigation with diverse farm activities like tillage, spraying,
harvesting, etc;
g. Hazard of soil surface encrustation and enhancement of runoff and erosion of
the soil surface;
h. Water losses in plot margins.

Sprinkler Types
In the early years of pressurized irrigation, water under pressure had been
applied by nozzles mounted along oscillating galvanized cast iron pipes. The
oscillating movement was driven by the inherent water pressure in the
irrigation system. Another means for water distribution was perforated tin
pipes laid on the soil surface.

a. Skinner oscillating pipe system b. Perforated pipe (Perf-O-Rain)

Fig. 6.4. Outdated pressurized irrigation systems After Benami & Ofen 1993

Contemporary sprinklers are made of metal and plastic materials. The sprinklers are
mounted on metallic or plastic risers of various heights, corresponding to the
irrigation technique and the crop canopy height.
Sprinkler Classification
Sprinklers are classified according to their function, pattern of operation, operating
pressure, flow-rate, materials from whom they are made, etc.
Sprinkler Function
Sprinkler functional classification is based on the crop and growing technologies, for
whom the related sprinkler type is assigned.
General use: Impact sprinklers with one or two nozzles and jet trajectory angle of
300, are used for overhead irrigation in field crops, forage and vegetables, as well as
in overhead irrigation in orchards, in hand move, solid-set and towed laterals.
Under-canopy sprinklers: used for irrigation in orchards. The trajectory angle is 40 -
70. This group is comprised of under-canopy impact-hammers, turbo-hammers,
whirling sprinklers, mini-sprinklers, microsprinklers and microjets – rotors, spinners,
sprayers and ray-jets (multiple jets). These emitters are used also in solid-set
irrigation of vegetables and flowers in the open field and greenhouses and with
mechanized irrigation.
Gun sprinklers (rain-guns): Used for irrigation of wide-scale areas of field crops and
forage. They may be used as stand-alone units, mounted on laterals, moved by hand
or installed on self-propelled travelers, center pivots and lateral move machines, as
Part circle (sectorial) sprinklers: These sprinklers are used at lateral ends, plot
margins and in specific situations in mechanized laterals in order to avoid water
losses beyond plot borders and wetting of roads and sidewalks.
Regulated sprinklers: May be pressure-compensated or flow-regulated. Simplifies
design and operation in harsh topography conditions and enable use of longer
Pop-up sprinklers: Used in irrigation of lawns, golf courses and residential gardens.
Small-size impact and turbo-sprinklers: are used for under canopy irrigation in
orchards, and overhead irrigation in the open field, protected vegetables and
Static sprinklers are used in small residential gardens.
Pattern of Operation
Sprinklers are operated by water pressure. A water jet that is ejected from a nozzle
activates the moveable component of the sprinkler.
Rotating impact sprinklers: The water jet, emitted from the nozzle, hits the hammer
arm, pushing it in counter-clockwise direction. A spring returns the arm back. Its
strike on the sprinkler body results in rotary movement of the body in the opposite
direction. The velocity of rotation can be adjusted by changing the tension of its
spring. The common rpm of sprinkles is 1 – 2 .Lower rotation speed emits larger
drops that decrease distribution uniformity, while too fast rotation emits smaller
droplets, prone to drift by wind. The impact sprinklers are fitted with one, two or three
nozzles. The water pressure ejects a stream of water into the atmosphere. The
stream breaks-up into jets, those to descrete drops that fell down to the ground. The
sprinkler's body turns atound its shaft and distribute the water in a circle. Impact
sprinklers are manufactured in diverse configurations. With a 300 ejection angle it is
used for overhead irrigation of field crops and orchards. For under-canopy irrigation
of orchards the recommended jet angles are 40-70. Initially, the sprinklers were made
of metal only, later-on, plastic materials were also used and today, for diverse
assignments, plastic materials are favored over metals in sprinkler manufacturing.
The wear of moving parts and nozzles made of reinforced plastic, is much smaller
than that of metallic ones. Although impact sprinklers are highly reliable, they require
strict routine maintenance to guarantee consistent operation along time.
Turbo-hammer sprinklers: The water jet stirs a grooved wheel that hits the hammer.
The impact of the hammer rotates the sprinkler. The turbo-hammer sprinklers are
made of plastic materials and are used for under-canopy irrigation of orchards and
overhead irrigation in vegetables and gardens at low flow-rates.


Fig. 6.5. Impact-hammer sprinkler Fig. 6.6. Turbo-hammer sprinkler

From "Naan" Brochure

Gun Sprinklers
Big size hammer sprinklers are made of brass with two or three nozzles. The
operating pressure is high 40 - 80 m. (4 - 8 bars). The sprinkler flow-rate range is 6 -
60 m3/h. Gun sprinklers are used for irrigation of forage and field crops in solid-set
schemes, as end-guns in Center-Pivot and as a traveling gun.

a. Close-up b. Stand-alone gun-sprinkler with stabilizer

Fig. 6.7. Gun sprinkler (rain-gun)
Pop-up sprinklers - commonly used for lawn and golf courses irrigation. The
sprinkler pops upwards at the beginning of the irrigation and falls back after water
shut-down into its digged housing in the soil, where it remains in stand-by position
until the next irrigation. In the underground stand-by position it allows the undisturbed
use of lawns, parks or golf courses, and does not interfere with lawn mowers'
operation. There is a wide-range of pop-up sprinkler types, including part-circle
sprinklers, as well as rise-ups to various heights.

Gear-driven sprinklers are used mostly in residential and public lawn irrigation.
Some gun sprinkler types are also driven by a turbine and velocity reduction gear.
Rotor and rotary stream sprinklers often incorporate a small water turbine which, by
means of reducing gears, provides for slow, continuous nozzle or nozzle head
rotation. Gear-drive mechanisms require clean water to prevent clogging and wear.

a. Gear-driven b. Part-circle impact c. Pop-up sprinkler irrigating a lawn

Fig. 6.8. Pop-up sprinklers
Static sprinklers – are made of
brass or rigid plastic materials,
without moving parts. These
sprinklers are used mainly in
residential gardens. They
irrigate a full or partial circle.
The wetting range is smaller as
compared to rotating sprinklers.
Manufacturers' catalogs provide
the essential data about the
specifications and performance
a. Fixed angle b. Adjustable angle
of the sprinklers. Information is
given about the flow-rate (Q), Fig. 6.9. Part-circle static sprinklers
and the effective wetting diameter (D), in the range of the optimal operating pressure
(P). Additional data relate to the recommended spacing between sprinklers, the
precipitation rate and distribution uniformity.

Components of Impact Sprinklers
a. Base: It is the connection to
the riser. It has internal or
external thread, manufactured
in diameters of 0.5” - 3".
b. Tube: It is inserted in the base
and fixed to the body of the
sprinkler. Between the base and
the tube, there are located 1 - 3
seals that function as bearings
to smooth the rotation of the
sprinkler and minimize wear
from the friction of the tube with
the base.
c. Sand protection mechanism:
Consists of a thrust spring and
an external plastic sleeve that
prevents the intrusion of sand
and grit from the outside.
d. Body: Accommodates the
housings in which the nozzles
are fitted and carries the moving
parts of the sprinkler. The body
can be of one of the
1. Bridge: In some sprinkler
types, the hammer is connected
to the body by means of a shaft Fig. 6.10. Impact sprinkler components
fixed to a bridge between two vertical supports. The sprinkler rotation is
activated by the impact of the hammer on one of the supports. The reverting
spring surrounds the shaft.
2. Crown: Other types of sprinklers are bridge-less. The spring is connected
above the hammer by a plastic or metallic crown. Under frost or dusty
conditions, an external plastic cover protects the spring.
e. Spring: Stimulates the rotation of the sprinkler by returning the hammer arm,
activated by the water jet that was emitted from the nozzle. In the Bridge
Sprinkler, the spring is fixed within a fastening frame while in the Crown
Sprinkler the spring is not fixed within the frame. In a Crown Sprinkler, the
spring tension can be adjusted to the size of the nozzle and the water head.
Springs are commonly made of copper, however when using reclaimed water,
stainless steel springs are recommended.
f. Hammer arm: Activates the sprinkler rotation. Wetting range and
distribution are determined by the number of strikes per minute (30-60). There
are two types of hammer arms:
1. Spoon drive: a rigid arm without moving parts, used in medium and high
pressure conditions;
2. Wedge (dual action) drive: a plastic wedge is fitted on a shaft at the edge
of the arm. Used in low-pressure conditions prone to malfunction, for small
diameter wetting circle.
g. Buffer: Absorbs partially the energy of the hammer impact to Minimize the
wear of the body by the strikes and acts as a guide to the arm.

a. Spoon drive b. Wedge (dual-action) c. Part-circle sprinkler


d. Bridge sprinkler e. Crown sprinkler f. Protected crown sprinkler

Fig. 6.11. Configurations of impact sprinklers
New Generation Sprinklers

a. Full circle impact b. Part circle impact b. Rotating

Fig. 6.12. All-plastic new-generation sprinklers

In the last decade, impact sprinklers are mostly made of fully plastic construction.
The new plastic materials are
versatile, durable and less prone to
friction wear. The hammers are
equipped with super diffusers that
improve the distribution uniformity.
The water passageway from the base
to the nozzle is arched to increae the
range of the jet and the wetting a. Super-diffuser b. Arched passageway
Fig. 6.13. Distribution uniformity and range
Another innovative design is the enhancers
rotating impact sprinkler, with
enclosed chamber that frotect the moving elements. This sprinkler had also a small
integral filter installed.
Each sprinkler is fitted with one, two or three nozzles. The nozzle type and size
determine the flow-rate, the distribution pattern and uniformity and the droplets size.
Nozzles are prone to wear and change of the flow-rate and the water distribution
pattern. Irrigation water containing sand is abrasive and may expand the nozzle
aperture, increasing the flow-rate and changing the distribution pattern. As mentioned
before. plastic nozzles are more resistant to abrasion than metallic ones.
There are different types of nozzles. A circular cross-section of the nozzle's aperture,
indicates a long range jet while an elliptic or half-crescent cross-section, indicates a
short-range wetting diameter. Maximum range is achieved by a jet trajectory angle of
300 related to the soil surface while in under-canopy sprinklers, 40 and 70 angles are
dominant. Nozzle size is expressed as its diameter in mm. Since the nozzle cross-
section is not always circular, size definition may be quoted as the nominal size that
is equivalent to a nozzle of circular cross-section with an identical flow-rate.
Ordinarily, the nozzle size is stamped on the nozzles. In plastic nozzles it is common
to distinguish between different sizes by different colors.

Fig. 6.14. Nozzle types After S. Elhanani, 1961

The nozzle flow-rate (Q) depends on the water pressure head, the diameter of the
nozzle's aperture and its friction coefficient.
Eq. 6.2

Q = Nozzle flow-rate (discharge), expressed as liters per hour (l/h);
p = Water pressure head, expressed in m. (meters);
d = Nozzle nominal diameter, expressed in mm;
C = Friction coefficient. Its value for small nozzles, up to 5.5 mm. = 0.95;
For medium size nozzles, 5.5-8 mm. = 0.9;
For large nozzles, over 8 mm. = 0.85.
The pressure dependent flow-rate for a certain nozzle is:

Eq. 6.3

Q1 = The flow-rate at the p1 head;
Q2 = The flow-rate at the p2 head.
The Jet Angle
The angle of the water stream ejected from the nozzle determines the range, the
sensitivity to wind and the water distribution pattern. Larger angles, up to 450, render
longer range but higher sensitivity to wind. In irrigation of field crops a 300 angle is
common, while for under-canopy irrigation in orchards, the prevalent angles are 40 -
70 .

a. Under canopy sprinkler b. Overhead sprinkler

Figure 6.15. Typical trajectory angles
Sprinkler Flow-rate
Sprinklers are classified into three groups in respect to their flow-rate.
a. Low flow-rate: 20 - 500 l/h. Used in orchards, greenhouses and gardens;
b. Medium flow-rate: 500 - 5000 l/h. Used mainly for overhead irrigation in
field crops, orchards, fodder and vegetables;
c. High flow-rate: Above 5 m3/h. Used in wide-spacing positioning and
mechanized irrigation systems.
Operating Pressure (Head)
a. Low pressure: Up to 20 m. (2 bars). Microjets, microsprinklers, mini-
sprinklers, whirling sprinklers and turbo-hammer sprinklers;
b. Medium pressure: 20 - 50 m. (2 – 5 bar). Impact sprinklers;
c. High pressure: Above 50 m. (5 bar). Gun sprinklers and large impact

Sprinkler Spacing, Selection And Operation
There are some basic factors that have to be considered in the selection of sprinklers
according to the operating conditions:
a. The flow-rate and wetting diameter at different levels of pressure;
b. Crop spacing;
c. The desired pressure range and the recommended spacing between emitters;
d. Soil intake rate. The application rate has to be lower than the soil intake rate;
e. Water quality;
f. Wind regime in the plot have to be considered in selection of the sprinkler
type. As the wind velocity is higher, the spacing between the sprinklers will be
Table 6.1. Wind velocity definitions
No wind 0 - 1.0 m/sec.
Medium wind velocity 1.0 - 2.5 m/sec.
Strong wind 2.5 - 4.0 m/sec.
Very strong wind above 4.0 m/sec. Sprinkler overhead irrigation is
not recommended.

Table 6.2. Recommended spacing between sprinklers

Positioning Wind velocity m/sec Spacing
Rectangular No wind 60% of wetting diameter
2 50% of wetting diameter
3.5 40% of wetting diameter
More than 3.5 30% of wetting diameter
Diagonal No wind 65% of wetting diameter
2 55% of wetting diameter
3.5 45% of wetting diameter
More than 3.5 30% of wetting diameter
The diagonal (staggered) position allows for wider spacing between sprinklers under
windy conditions.


The performance of a pressurized
irrigation system depends on the
available water sources, reservoirs and
pumping facilities. The efficiency of
energy use and the water application is
determined by the properties of the
pumping unit and the water delivery and
distribution network.
The Main Components of the
Irrigation System
a. The pumping unit;
b. Supply pipelines;
c. Control head;
d. Mains and sub-mains; Fig. 7.1. Schematic plot irrigation system
e. Manifolds; layout After NDSU Extension Publication
f. Laterals;
g. Risers;
h. Emitters;
i. Accessories: Valves, check-valves (backflow preventers), air release
valves, vacuum valves, filters, couplers, risers, pressure and flow
regulators, fertigation devices, etc.
The Pumping Unit
While the water emitters are the core of the
pressurized irrigation system, the pump is its priming
element. The pump lifts water from the source (well,
river, lake, reservoir, canal, etc.,), enriches its energy
and governs the capacity and the pressure regime in
the system.
Pumps are propelled by electric motors or internal
conbustion engines and deliver water under pressure
to the irrigation system. Water can be provided by
external water suppliers that are responsible for the
appropriate pressure head in the connection to the
irrigation system. In some occasions, the pressure in
the connection point is too low and the farmer has to
boost the water pressure by means of a booster
The energy use efficiency of electric motors is
significantly higher than that of combustion engines.
Hence, If electricity is available, it will be the preferred
choice. If there is no electricity source, pumps can be
operated by a diesel, kerosene or gas motor.
Fig. 7.2. Electric water pumps
The efficiency of the pumping unit is an important


factor in water discharge, pressure head and energy costs.

The pumping unit is composed of three elements: The power unit, the transmission to
the pump (drive, gear head or belt) and the pump itself.
Pump Performance Terminology
Pump performance – Capacity and pressure. The capacity is expressed in volume
per time units, e.g.: cubic meters per hour (m3/h) and the pressure in meters (m.)
of head. In the imperial unit system it is designated as gallons per minute (gpm)
and feets of head. Generally, in centrifugal pumps – the most prevailing pumps in
water pumping, there is a trade-off between head and capacity. Increase in pumping
volume brings about the decrease of the head and vice versa.
Head is changing along the piping system because of gains or losses in pressure
due to differences in topography and the friction as water flows in the piping network.
The following terms are used when referring to lift or head:
a. Static suction lift - The vertical distance from the water surface in the
reservoir/well to the centerline of the pump's impeller;
b. Maximum suction lift - Pumps lift water with the support of atmospheric
pressure. The practical suction lift, at sea level, is ~10 m. Later on, the pump
imparts additional pressure to the water and discharges it from its casing;
c. Static discharge head — the vertical distance from the discharge outlet to
the point of discharge or liquid level when discharging into the bottom of a
d. Dynamic suction head — the static suction lift plus the friction in the
suction line. Also referred to as Total Suction Head;
e. Dynamic discharge head — the static discharge head plus the friction in
the discharge line. Also referred to as Total Discharge Head;
f. Total Dynamic Head (TDH) — the dynamic suction head plus the dynamic
discharge head. Also referred to as Total Head;
g. Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) – the head measured in the suction point;
h. Net Positive Suction Head required (NPSHr) - The minimum head
requirement in the pump inlet. The NPSHr is actually the minimum suction
pressure necessary to keep the pumped fluid in a liquid state and avoid
cavitation in the pump;
i. Net Positive Suction Head available (NPSHa) The head available at the
pump inlet. It has to exceed the NPSH required.


Pump Types
There is an extensive selection of pump types. Only a few of them are used in water

Fig. 7.3. Pump type classification According to the Hydraulic Institute (HI) Standards
All pumps may be divided into two major categories, based on the pattern in which
they transmit energy to the pumped fluid:
a. Kinetic (dynamic) pumps;
b. Positive displacement pumps.
• In kinetic pumps, continuously added energy increases the velocity of
the fluid. Later on, this velocity is converted into pressure. In centrifugal
pumps, energy is imparted to the fluid by centrifugal action, by impeller
or lifting action of a screw within a close-clearance bore.
• In positive displacement pumps, intermittently added energy directly
increases the pressure of the fluid. The reciprocating action of one or
several pistons, or a squeezing action of diaphragms, meshing gears,
lobes, or other moving elements, displaces the pumped fluid from the
suction inlet to the discharge outlet. These pumps have limited
capacities and are not suitable for pumping when large volume of water
is required for irrigation or drainage. They are used mainly for injection
of chemicals into irrigation systems and will be reviewed in the chapter
on fertigation.
Comparison of the Main Features between Kinetic and Positive
Displacement Pumps
Flow-rate and Pressure Head
The two types of pumps behave differently regarding pressure head and flow-rate:


a. The centrifugal pump's flow varies, depending on the system pressure

b. The positive displacement pump's flow is constant, regardless of the
system pressure (head). Generally, positive displacement pumps are capable
to generate higher pressure than centrifugal pumps.
Mechanical Efficiency
The pumps behave in different patterns considering mechanical efficiency:
a. In centrifugal pumps changes in system pressure (head), affects significantly
the flow-rate;
b. In positive displacement pumps, changes in system pressure have little or no
effect on the flow-rate.
Net Positive Suction Head - NPSH
Another difference relates to the Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH);
a. In a centrifugal pump, NPSH varies as a function of flow determined by
b. In a positive displacement pump, NPSH varies as a function of flow
determined by speed. Reducing the speed of the positive displacement pump
reduces the NPSH.
Pump Velocity
a. Since in centrifugal pumps the energy is imparted to the liquid by means of
centrifugal force, the pressure generated is proportional to the square of the
speed of the impeller;
b. A positive displacement pump is simply pushing the liquid against whatever
resistance that is put on its way. The speed at which it runs is irrelevant – the
pressure it can generate is only a function of how mechanically strong the
machine is.
Suction Lift of a Pump
The theoretical suction lift or suction head is equal to atmospheric pressure divided
by the density of the fluid being pumped. In case of plain water (cold), it is 10.33
meters or 33.9 feet.
Kinetic Pumps
Kinetic pumps are dynamic devices that impart the energy of motion (kinetic energy)
to a liquid by use of a rotating impeller, propeller, or similar devices.
Kinetic pumps are classified into two main groups:
a. Centrifugal / Turbine pumps;
b. Special pump types: centrifugal screw, rotating case, viscous drag and vortex
Water pumping is done mainly with pumps of the first group.


Centrifugal Pumps
The advantages of centrifugal pumps set them the pumps of choice in water delivery.
Compared with positive displacement pumps, the main benefits are smaller size and
lower weight. Centrifugal pumps attain much larger flows in a compact device,
without pressure and flow pulsations. They are much easier to control, unlike
positive displacement pumps in which flow-rate can only be controlled by varying the
speed, the flow-rate of a centrifugal pump can be adjusted simply by means of
discharge throttling.
Centrifugal pumps can be classified by impeller shape and its characteristics.
Impellers are sorted according to the major direction of flow with respect to the axis
of rotation.

a. Cutaway b. Pump components

Fig. 7.4. Centrifugal pump
With respect to type of impeller, all centrifugal pumps can be classified into three
a. Radial-flow pumps;
b. Axial-flow pumps;
c. Mixed-flow pumps.
Centrifugal pumps can also be classified into four major groups depending on their
design and application.

a. Volute pumps;
b. Turbine pumps;
c. Diffuser pumps;
d. Propeller pumps.

Centrifugal pumps
employ a rotating
impeller to move water
through a piping system. Fig. 7.5. Different flow patterns in centrifugal pumps
The rotating impeller From Grundfos Pump Handbook
increases water pressure by transformation of kinetic energy. As water is drawn into
the pump, the rotating impeller releases kinetic energy into the water. When the
water exits outward through the impeller vanes, the kinetic energy (velocity) is
converted into pressure.


Centrifugal pumps must be primed by filling them with water before they can be
activated. Water has to flow into the pump when pressure at the center (eye) of the
impeller is reduced below atmospheric pressure.
Volute pumps and Turbine pumps are the two main centrifugal pump categories
that control and maintain water pressure differently.
Volute Centrifugal Pumps
The primary difference between volute pumps and turbine pumps is the presence or
lack of diffusion vanes. In volute pumps there are no diffusion vanes, but the outer
casing is a spiral. This shape reduces water velocity (and eventual pressure) by
creating an equal flow of water as it moves around the spiral toward the discharge
nozzle. The spiral is called a volute.
Volute centrifugal pumps are used to pump from
reservoirs, lakes, streams and shallow wells.
They are also used as booster pumps in supply
and irrigation pipelines. The impeller converts
energy from the motor to the water by centrifugal
force. The rotation of the impeller develops
centrifugal forces that drive the water towards the
impeller's external edge. The impeller is
surrounded by a volute casing. The volute or
stationary diffuser ring converts the kinetic energy
into pressure energy and delivers the fluid to the
pump discharge outlet. The horsepower input is
proportional to the pumping water discharge and
the pressure level. Fig. 7.6. Water flow in volute pump
As the resistance of a system increases, the head
will also increase. This in turn, causes the flow-rate to decrease and will eventually
reach zero. A zero flow-rate is only acceptable for a short period without causing to
the pump to burn-out.
Centrifugal pumps are designed for either horizontal or vertical operation. Horizontal
centrifugal pumps are the most common in irrigation systems. They are relatively
cheap, require less maintenance, easier to install and more accessible for inspection
and maintenance than the vertical pumps.
Since centrifugal pumps must be "primed" - completely filled with water, before they
can operate, the suction line and the pump have to be filled with water and emptied
of air.
Vertical centrifugal pumps may be mounted in such a way that the impeller is
immersed continuously in the water. In this case, priming is unnecessary. There are
self-priming horizontal centrifugal pumps for special purposes. Self priming is
particularly essential where there are frequent electrical power outages. Self priming
is requested also with the new generation of control panels for center pivots, where
automatic restart is a programmable function.


Turbine Pumps
In a turbine pump, multiple diffusion vanes
surround the rotating impeller. As water is
released from the center (eye) of the impeller,
it spins outwards as the impeller rotates.
Around the impeller’s circumference are
constructed diffusion vanes - passageways
that widen gradually and open into a circular
or spiral casing. The main role of the diffusion
vanes is to gradually reduce the velocity of
water. The velocity is transformed into
pressure. Once in the outer casing, the water
circles around toward the outlet (nozzle),
where it exits the pump. Head over 300 m. is
readily developed in a two-stage turbine
Vertical turbines have vertical drive shafts
and are used to pump water from wells. The
impeller has tight axial clearance and pump
channel rings that decrease recirculation
head losses.
Deep Well Turbine Pumps
Deep well turbine pumps are used in cased
wells or where the water surface is deeper
than the practical limits of a volute centrifugal
pump. Turbine pumps are also used with
surface water systems. Since in this case, the
water intake is continuously below the water a. Motor on top b. Submersible
surface, priming is not needed. Turbine pump
efficiencies are comparable to or greater than Fig. 7.7. Deep-well vertical turbine pumps
most volute centrifugal pumps. They are usually more expensive than volute
centrifugal pumps and more complicated to inspect and repair.
There are two configurations:
a. The pump is connected with a vertical gear shaft to a motor on top;
b. Submersible motor in water-proof case.
The turbine pump has three main parts:
a. Head assembly;
b. Shaft and column assembly;
c. Pump bowl assembly.
The pump head is normally made of cast iron and designed to be installed on a
foundation. It supports the column, shaft and bowl assemblies and provides a
discharge outlet for the water. It may support an electric motor, a right angle gear
drive or a belt drive.
The shaft and column assembly provides the connection between the head and the
pump bowls. The line shaft transfers the power from the motor to the impellers and


the column that carries the water to the surface. The line shaft on a turbine pump
may be either oil or water lubricated.
a. Oil-lubricated pump has an enclosed shaft into which oil drips, lubricating the
b. Water-lubricated pump has an open shaft. The bearings are lubricated by the
pumped water. If the water contains fine sand, oil lubrication is a must, to
prevent abrasion of the bearings. If the water is for domestic or livestock use,
it must be free of oil and only a water-lubricated pump have to be used.
The impeller is enclosed by the pump bowl. Because of its limited diameter, each
impeller develops a relatively low head. In most deep well turbine installations,
several bowls are stacked in series one above another. It is called staging. A four-
stage bowl assembly contains four impellers; all attached to a common shaft and
creates four times the discharge head, compared with a single-stage pump.
Impellers used in turbine pumps may be either semi-open or enclosed. The vanes on
semi-open impellers are open on the bottom and they rotate with a close tolerance to
the bottom of the pump bowl. The tolerance is critical and has to be adjusted when
the pump is new.
During the initial break-in period, the line shaft couplings will self tighten. Therefore,
after about 100 hours of operation, the impeller adjustments should be checked. After
the break-in period, the tolerance must be checked and adjusted every three to five
years or more often if sand is suspended in the pumped water.
Installation of Vertical Turbine
Deep well turbine pumps must have
correct alignment between the pump and
the power unit. Correct alignment is
made easy by using a head assembly
that matches the motor and
column/pump assembly. The well bore
has to be straight and perpendicular.
The pump column assembly must be Fig. 7.8. Pump impellers
vertically aligned so that no component touches the well casing. If the pump column
touches the well casing, vibration will wear holes in the casing. A pump column out of
vertical alignment may also cause excessive bearing wear.
The head assembly must be mounted on a good foundation, at least 30 cm above
the ground surface. A foundation of concrete provides a permanent and trouble-free
Submersible Pumps
Submersible pumps are particularly advantageous in pumping from exceptionally
deep wells.
In a conventional vertical wet-pit pump, the motor is mounted on top at the surface, in
the open air, driving the pump via a line shaft. The deeper the pump is, the longer the
line shaft must be. Long shafts, particularly at high speed rotation, are susceptible to
problems of misalignment and the intermediate bearings are prone to wear when


there are any abrasive particles in the pumped water. Submerged motor drives the
pump directly. Pumps can be submerged in depth of 2 km and more.
Submersible pumps can be installed in caissons wider only slightly than the pump
itself. The limiting factor with regard to the minimum diameter is usually the
requirement for sufficient liquid circulation around the pump in order to keep the
motor cool.
In submersible pumps, enclosed impellers are used because the shaft from the
electric motor expands when it heats and pushes up on the impellers. The pump
curve for a submersible pump is similar to that of a deep well turbine pump with
motor on top.
Submersible motors are smaller in diameter and much longer than ordinary motors.
Because of their smaller diameter, their efficiency is lower than that of on-top motors.
Submersible motors are classified as dry or wet motors. Dry motors are hermetically
sealed with high dielectric oil inside for lubrication, to exclude water from the motor.
In wet motors the rotor and bearings are open to the well water and operate inside it.
Submersible pumps used for irrigation, need three phase electrical power. Electrical
wiring from the pump to the surface must be watertight with all connections sealed.
Submersible booster pumps can be mounted horizontally in a pipeline. Occasionally
they are used as booster pumps in the suction lines of volute centrifugal pumps,
where the water level fluctuates significantly along the season.
Pump Stages
The head generated by Volute and turbine pumps depends on the number of stages.

Fig. 7.9. Single-stage pump Fig. 7.10. Multi-stage pump

Single-stage Pump
a. It has one impeller keyed to the shaft. Its alignment is generally horizontal but
can be vertical also;
b. It is usually a low lift pump.
Multi-stage Pump
a. It has two or more impellers keyed to a single shaft and enclosed in the same
casing. Pressure is built up in steps;
b. The impellers are surrounded by guide-vanes and the water is led through a
by-pass channel from the outlet of one stage to the inlet of the next stage until
it is finally discharged into a wide chamber from where it is pushed on to the
delivery pipe;
c. Multi-stage pumps are used essentially for generation of high operating head
and the number of stages depends on the head required.


Solar Water Pumps and Solar Water Pumping Systems

DC powered pumps, are used in typical solar
electric systems that have an inverter available. DC
powered pumps are used for deep as well as
shallow well pumping, stock tanks, irrigation and
many other applications. DC pumps are different in
many properties from the AC pumps that are
ordinarily used in water delivery systems.
DC pumps come in a variety of types: small
pressure booster pumps, diaphragm and piston
positive displacement pumps for wells, booster
pumps, circulating pumps, groundwater sampling
pumps etc.
Fig. 7.11. Solar pumping system
These low-power pumps allow building a solar
pumping system for a deep well at a modest cost. They are cheaper than windmill
operated pumps, and have peak output during dry, sunny weather when water is
needed most. They can be installed and pulled by hand. They can pump from wells
of very low yield that conventional pumps may suck dry in minutes. Pumps are
available of low capacity of 120 l. per hour.
Solar energy operated pumps require a backup battery or dedicated controllers, if
they are to be powered directly by Photo Voltaic (PV) modules without battery
Variable Speed Drives
For years, the common means for prevention of
excessive water pumping beyond the requested
amount, were throttling by valves or release of the
excess water to reservoirs for re-pumping. These
two techniques are energy wasteful and pose
hazard of damage to the water system by
excessive pressure.
Nowadays, Variable Speed Drives (VSDs),
known also as Variable Frequency Drives
(VFDs), are extensively used in water pumping.
They control the discharge by changing the
velocity (rpm) of the impeller/turbine according to Fig. 7.12. VFD (Variable-Frequency
water demand and keep the pump operating at Drive) controlls a set of 3 pumps
high energetic efficiency. It also protects the pump
from mechanical damage by excessive pressure and increases its mechanical
reliability. The old fashion valve throttling is expensive, contributes to higher energy
and maintenance costs, and impairs control loop performance. Employing a throttled
control valve, less than 50% open, on the pump discharge outlet, may accelerate
component wear and slow valve response. Since variable frequency drives allow
pumps to run at slower speeds, the Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) of the
pump is extended.


Establishing an Efficient Pumping Plant

The efficiencies of individual pumps vary among types, manufacturers and models.
The minimum acceptable pump efficiency is in the range of 75-85%. Once the
operating pressure (head) and system capacity (in m3/h) have been determined,
pump characteristic curves should be used to select the most efficient pump for the
specific requirements.
Power-unit Efficiency. Power-unit efficiency is important in pumping plant
performance. As mentioned before, power sources are of three types: (a) internal
combustion engines (either direct drive engines used solely for irrigation or tractors
equipped with a power takeoff to drive pumps); (b) electric motors (c) solar panels.
Power-unit efficiency is the efficiency with which chemical energy stored in the fuel
(for internal combustion engines) or electrical energy (for electric motors) is
converted to mechanical energy to drive the pump. Where electricity is available, it is
the most efficient power source. The efficiency of electric motors ranges from about
80% for motors under 7.5 hp. to over 90% for motors of 75 hp. or higher.
Internal combustion engines are much less efficient. Diesel engine efficiencies range
is 25-37%. The difference in operating costs among various types of power units and
pumps over the lifetime of the pumping plant, must be weighed against any savings
in initial investment.
The Pump Efficiency (η)
The efficiency of a pump is determined by its hydraulic and mechanical performance.
It is defined as the ratio of the useful power delivered by the pump (Water
Kilowatts) to the power supplied to the pump shaft (brake horsepower). The
efficiency of the pump is expressed as percentage or decimal fraction.
Maintaining Irrigation System Efficiency
Well-designed irrigation systems with properly sized pumping plants will normally
meet or exceed performance standards during initial use. However, over the lifetime
of the system, mechanical components of the system wear, reducing the overall
effficiency of the system. The common causes of low overall effficiency are
discussed below.
Internal Combustion Engines: Each percentage decrease in engine efficiency
increases fuel consumption by 3-5%.
Pump engines should be tuned-up at the beginning of each irrigation season to
ensure effficient performance. Air and fuel filters should be changed at
manufacturers' recommended intervals.
Electric Motors: A buildup of dirt or oil, obstruction of cooling vents, worn or dragging
motor bearings, and voltage surges caused by lightnings, can cause electric motors
to overheat. Overheating, often leads to shorted wires in the winding and is the most
common cause of low motor efficiency. Voltage surges can also damage or cause
misalignment of phases in three-phase motors, resulting in low motor efficiency.
Misaligned shafts between motor and pump and over-tightened packing glands or
seals can also reduce efficiency. Electric motors should be protected from rain and
direct sunlight.


Matching System Components: Often, irrigation systems are altered from their
original design, resulting in mismatching of components. Alterations such as adding
or deleting emitters or laterals are often made without making corresponding
adjustments to the pumping plant. A change in the depth of water in deep wells
where the static head has declined, can alter the pumping conditions so that the
pump no longer operates in the desired efficiency range.
The Pumping Unit Efficiency
The overall "wire-to-water" efficiency of a pumping plant is the relationship between
the energy consumed (in kWh) and the amount of water being delivered (m3/h) at a
given pumping head (m.). The greater the overall efficiency of the pumping plant, the
lower the overall pumping costs will be.
The efficiency of the pumping unit depends on the efficiency of its 3 components: the
power unit (electric motor or internal combustion engine), the pump and the
transmission between them. The efficiency is the ratio of the output energy to the
energy of input to the system. The output and the Input are expressed in terms of
Water Kilowattes (WKW) of power being generated by the pump.

(Eq. 7.1)

Flow is expressed in m3/h
TDH (Total Dynamic Head, another term for pressure) at the Best Efficiency Point
(BEP) on the pump curve is expressed in m. of water head.
WKW = m3/h Χ TDH/360
As mentioned before, the efficiency of electric motors is 75% - 95%. Internal
combustion engines are much less efficient. Diesel engines efficiency is 25% - 37%.
The efficiency of the transmission system (gears, shafts, pulleys, etc.) that transmit
power to the pump can approach 95% – 97%.
The efficiency of the pump itself is in the range of 75% - 85%. Efficiency under 70%
commits checking and repairing the pump.
Thus, the potential efficiency of an electric powered pumping plant if correctly
designed, installed, and maintained is in the range of:
(75% - 85%) x (95% - 97%) x (75% - 85%) = 60% - 70%
Referring to the example in the curve at right, and
putting in the numbers :
m3 / HR X TDH / 360 = 70 x 75 / 360 = 14.58 WKW.
The curve shows a 60% efficiency so:
14.58 water kilowatts / 0.60 efficiency = 24.3 Kilowatts
If this value is lower than shown on the pump
performance curve, the efficiency of the pump is
Fig. 7.13. Pump efficiency curve
As an example:


If the pump performance curve showed a requirement for a 30 Kilowatt input, the
actual efficiency would be:
14.58 water horse power / 30 Kilowatts required = 48.6 % actual efficiency.
A pump can operate over a wide range of flow and pressure combinations. That is,
the same pump may be able to withdraw 250 m3/h at 20 m. head pressure or 125
m3/h at 30 m. head. However, each combination of flow and pressure (the
combination is termed the “operating condition”) will result in a different pump
efficiency. E.g., at 240 m3/h and 20 m. head, the pump may be operating at 80%
efficiency. However, at 120 m3/h and 30 m. head, it is operating at only 65%
efficiency. These differences in efficiency are due to the physics of water flow
through an individual pump, while a specific flow-rate may result in more or less
turbulence than another.
Power Units
The pump drive transmits power from the power generating unit to the pump. The
line shaft of electric-driven pump is connected directly to the motor shaft,
eliminating the need for a pump drive. When the pump is driven by an internal
combustion engine, the pump drive is a right-angle gear drive, that may change the
RPM of the pump. The efficiency of a right-angle gear drive is about 95%. Belt
drives may vary in efficiency from 85% to 95%.
Calculation of the power requested on the pump shaft

(Eq. 7.2)

N = the requested power (HP);
Q = the pump discharge - m3/h;
H = total required head (lift+friction losses+topographic losses+working pressure)
m. (1 m. = 0.1 bar);
η = the pump efficiency (decimal fraction).

Conversion of the HP. Units to KW units as it is customary with electric motors is

done according to the ratio: 1 HP = 0.7457 KW.
Cavitation can damage pumps, valves and other accessories. Pump cavitation is the
formation of cavities on the back surface of an impeller, resulting in loss of contact
between the impeller and the water being pumped (Walker, 1972). Cavitation occurs
when the local static pressure is below the vapor pressure of the fluid.
After the water enters a pump, its velocity increases, causing decrease in the
pressure head within the pumping unit. If the head falls too low, the water will
vaporize, forming bubbles in the liquid. These bubbles collapse violently as they
move to areas of higher pressure. The collapse of the bubbles occurs at sonic speed
ejecting destructive micro jets of extremely high velocity, up to 1000 m/s, strong
enough to cause severe wear of the pump components, particularly the impellers.
Pressure reduction occurs due to:
a. inadequate submergence of the pump water intake;


b. too high impeller speed that creates extremely low pressure behind the
c. constrained pump intake route;
d. high water temperatures which decrease the pressure needed to vaporize the
As mentioned before, the pressure required to operate a pump satisfactorily and
avoid cavitation is called Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH). The head available at
the pump inlet has to exceed the NPSH required (NPSHr). The required NPSH is
specified by the pump manufacturer.
Cavitation is a common problem in pumps and control valves - causing serious wear,
and damage. In pumps, the impeller surfaces and pump bowls will pit and wear.
Cavitation reduces the life-time expectancy of the components. This happens when
the fluid accelerates in a control valve or around a pump impeller.
Pump Curves
Pump manufacturers provide for each
pump a set of curves from which The
performance of the pump can be
In selecting a pump, one of the concerns is
to optimize pumping efficiency. It is good
practice to examine several performance
charts at different velocities to learn if a
specific model is more efficient than others.
Whenever possible, the lowest pump
speed should be selected, as this will
decrease wear of the rotating components.
The available curves are: Performance,
Efficiency, Horsepower¸ NPSH
Requirement and System curve.
Fig. 7.14. A Scheme of pump curves
Performance Curve
A performance curve is a plot of Total Head vs. flow-rate for a specific impeller
diameter and speed. The plot starts at zero flow. The head at this point corresponds
to the shut-off head of the pump. Starting at this point, the head decreases until it
reaches its minimum. This point is sometimes called the run-out point and represents
the maximum flow of the pump. Beyond this, the pump cannot operate.
Efficiency Curves
The pump's efficiency varies throughout its operating range. This information is
essential for calculating the motor power.
The B.E.P. (Best Efficiency Point) is the point of highest efficiency of the pump. All
points to the right or left of the B.E.P have a lower efficiency. The impeller is subject
to axial and radial forces, which get greater the further away the operating point is
from the B.E.P. These forces manifest themselves as vibration dependent on the
speed and construction of the pump. The point where the forces and vibration levels


are minimal is at the B.E.P.

Horse-power Curves
The horse-power curves are shown
on the chart (fig. 7.15), depicting the
power required to operate the pump
within a certain range. For example
(fig. 7.16.), all points on the
performance curve to the left of the
2 hp curve will be compatible with a
2 hp motor. All points to the left of 3
hp curve and to the right of the 2 hp Fig. 7.15. An example of pump curves plotted on
curve will fit to a 3 hp motor. The one sheet
horsepower can be calculated from
data of the Total Head, flow and
efficiency at the operating point.
N.P.S.H. Requirement Curves
The pump manufacturer specifies
the minimum NPSH required
(NPSHr). in order for the pump to
operate at its designed capacity.
The NPSHr becomes higher as flow
increases, and lower as flow
decreases. Fig. 7.16. Horse-power curve
The meaning is that more pressure head is required at the pump suction for high flow
than for low flow. Since NPSH is a head term, it is independent of the fluid density
and is expressed as an absolute fluid column height.
System Curve
The system curve is a plot of the total
head vs. the flow for a given system. The
higher the flow, the greater the head
required. The shape of the system curve
depends on the type of system being
The system curve is superimposed on the
pump performance chart. The Total Static
head is constant and the friction head,
equipment head and velocity head are flow
dependent. The calculation of the total
head at different flow-rates creates a plot of
total head vs. flow that is called the system Fig. 7.17. Critical points on the pump curve
The operating point is the point on the system curve corresponding to the flow and
head required. It is also the point where the system curve intersects the pump
performance curve. The design system curve is usually calculated with some extra
flow capacity.


Pump and Well Testing

Pump testing is an important testing procedure. It is typically done when the pump is
disconnected from the irrigation system. A flow-meter, pressure indicator and valve
are installed on the pump exit.
The pump is started and the valve is gradually partially closed, until the design
system pressure is attained. The system is allowed to run for a period of 15 minutes,
and then the valve is fully opened and closed again in order to obtain enough points
to draw a pressure/flow curve. The static water level should be recorded at each flow
point. The net positive suction pressure of the pump should be determined to ensure
that the pump is immersed deep enough in the well to prevent cavitation. It is
recommended that pumps and wells will be tested every 2 years when are operated



In pressurized water supply and irrigation systems, Water delivery and distribution is
done by means of pipes and tubes.
Actually, a pipe is a hollow cylinder of a specified length. Most pipes have circular
cross-section. Pipes may be also of rectangular cross-section, but those pipes are
used in construction and not for water delivery. Apart from water delivery, pipes are
used for conveying different fluids – oil, gas, slurry, industrial liquid compounds and
in some circumstances also powders.
The terms pipe and tube are sometimes used interchangeably. In most of the world
the common term is pipe. In the USA, there is a distinction between pipes that are
manufactured to international or national standards and are specified by outer
nominal diameter and schedule that indicate the wall thickness and tubes that are
made to custom sizes, in a broader range of diameters and tolerances and are
specified by outer diameter (OD), inside diameter (ID) and the derived wall thickness.
In pipes, the schedule indicates the wall thickness that designates the allowed
working pressure. In tubes, the working pressure is defined more explicitly by the
class definition of the allowed working pressure in bars or kilopascals (KPa).
Pipes are made of a variety of materials:
Metals: cast iron, ductile cast iron, carbon steel, galvanized steel, wrought steel,
stainless steel, aluminum and copper.
Concrete, ceramic and compound materials: reinforced concrete, ceramic, asbestos
cement (excluded, due to its carcinogenic impact).
Plastic: PolyVinyl Chloride (PVC), UPVC (Unplasticised PVC), CPVC (Chlorinated
PVC), PolyEthylene (PE), PolyPropylene (PP), Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP).
Pipe materials
Iron, Steel and Copper
Cast iron was in extensive use in the early years of pressurized irrigation. Due to its
vulnerability to corrosion, its life expectancy time-length was relatively short. Pitting
and rust accumulation on the inner wall surface decreased the wall smoothness and
increased friction head losses in the flowing liquid. Ductile cast iron had improved
pipe performance but corrosion remained a severe disturbance. Carbon-steel further
improved pipe functioning. Later on, in order to avoid corrosion, the inner wall surface
was coated by reinforced cement that kept wall smoothness and prevented
corrosion. Steel pipes are expensive and are used mainly in water supply networks.
In underground installed pipes, the outer wall surface is coated with asphalt, to avoid
damage to the outer surface by corrosive chemical elements that exist in the soil.
Stainless steel is too expensive to be used in irrigation and water supply networks.
Copper is used mainly in residential and industrial plumbing. In irrigation systems,
small diameter copper tubes are utilized in hydraulic control devices of automated
Galvanized tin pipes were used in the past for hand-move irrigation; later, they were
replaced by aluminum pipes.


The use of aluminum pipes for irrigation commenced after WWII. They replaced the
galvanized tin pipes used in hand-move irrigation. Their low weight and sturdiness
eased the operation of hand-move systems. High quality pipes were manufactured
from corrosion resistant aluminum known as alclad aluminum. Aluminum pipes are
manufactured in two technologies.
a. From aluminum flat sheets that are rounded and welded;
b. By extrusion. In this process, seamless pipes are produced.
Pipes made of asbestos-cement were in wide-scale use in water supply networks
and as mainlines for irrigation. The use of these pipes is now prohibited because it
was found that asbestos fibers are carcinogenic, endanger workers in the production
line and may disintegrate by some chemicals inherent in the water and endanger the
Concrete pipes are used mainly in drainage and sewage systems.
Plastic Materials
After the introduction of aluminum pipes that were used mainly in hand-move
irrigation, began the production of pipes made from plastic materials for use as
replacement to galvanized iron pipes as laterals and single emitter extensions. They
also replaced carbon-steel pipes in water supply networks and distributing mains,
sub-mains and manifolds in the irrigated parcels.
Plastics are solid materials comprised of one or more polymeric substances that can
be shaped by molding or extrusion. Polymers, the basic ingredient of plastic
materials, are a broad class of materials that include natural and synthetic
substances. In professional terminology, polymers are frequently defined as resins.
For example, a PolyEthylene (PE) pipe compound consists of PE resin combined
with colorants, stabilizers, anti-oxidants and other ingredients required to protect and
maintain the quality of the material during the fabrication process and the operation in
the field.
Plastic materials are classified into two basic groups: thermoplastics and thermosets,
both of which are used for the production of plastic pipes.
Thermoplastics include PolyEthylene (PE), PolyPropylene (PP), PolyButylene and
PolyVynil Cloride (PVC). These materials can be re-melted by heat. The solid state of
thermoplastic materials is the result of physical forces that immobilize polymer chains
and inhibit them from slipping past each other. When heat is applied, these forces
weaken and allow the material to soften or melt. Upon cooling, the molecular chains
stop slipping and are held firmly against each other in the solid state. Thermoplastics
can be shaped during the molten phase of the resin and therefore can be extruded or
molded into a variety of shapes, such as pipes, flanges, valves, sprinklers and micro-
sprinklers components, drippers and other accessories.


Thermoset plastic materials are similar to thermoplastics prior to a chemical reaction

(“curing”) by which the polymer chains are chemically bonded to each other by new
cross-links. That is usually performed during or right after shaping of the final product.
Cross-linking is the random bonding of molecules to each other to form a giant three-
dimensional association. Thermoset resins form a permanent insoluble and infusible
shape after applying heat or a curing agent. They cannot be re-melted after shaping
and curing. This is the main difference between thermosets and thermoplastics. As
heat is applied to a thermoset component, degradation occurs at a temperature lower
than the melting point. Thermosetting resins can be combined with reinforcements to
form strong composites. Fiberglass is the most popular reinforcement and fiberglass-
reinforced pipes (FRP and GRP) are a common form of thermoset-type pipes.
Polyethylene (PE) is the most prevalent material in pipes and laterals in pressurized
irrigation systems. There are four types of PE, classified by material density:
Type I – Low Density (LDPE), 910 – 925 g/l;
Type II – Medium Density (MDPE), 920 – 940 g/l;
Type III – High Density (HDPE), 941 – 959 g/l;
Type IIII – High Homo-polymer, 960 and above g/l.
Two percent, by weight, of carbon black agent are added to increase pipes’
resistance to the detrimental impact of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sun radiation.
Another classification custom relates to the working pressure that the pipe
withstands (PN). Common grades of PN used in irrigation are: 2.5, 4, 6, 10, 12.5 and
16 bars (atm). Certain thin-walled laterals withstand lower PN: 0.5 – 2 bar. The
pressure tolerance depends on pipe material density and wall thickness. Tolerance
data published by the manufacturers relate to standard temperature of 20 C0. At
higher temperatures, the tolerance decreases significantly. Hence, pipes are tested
at twice the designated working pressure.
Plastic pipes are designated according to their external diameter, in mm. In the USA
and some other countries, pipe diameter is marked in imperial inch units (“). 1” = 25.4
mm. Pipe wall thickness is designated in mm units (in the USA by mil units. Mil =
1/1000 of inch).
1 mil = 0.0254 mm.
Table 8.1. PE (PolyEthylene) pipes for agriculture
ND (Nominal Applications PN - m
PE type
LDPE 6 mm Hydraulic command tubing 40 – 120
LDPE 4 – 10 mm Micro-emitter connection to laterals 40 – 60
LDPE 12 – 25 mm Thin-wall drip laterals 5 – 20
LDPE 12 – 25 mm Thick-wall drip laterals 25 – 40
LDPE 16 – 32 mm Micro and mini emitter laterals 40 – 60
HDPE 32 – 75 mm Sprinkler laterals 40 – 60
HDPE 40 – 140 mm Main lines and submains 40 – 100
HDPE 75 – 450 mm Water supply and delivery networks 60 - 160
Laterals are commonly made of LDPE (PE – 32 grade) while delivering and
distributing pipes of diameters greater than 32 mm are mostly made of HDPE.


HDPE pipes are further classified according the grade of the material: PE-63, PE-80,
PE-100. The higher the grade, the higher the pipe quality and pressure tolerance.
Table 8.2. LDPE pipes internal (inner) diameter and wall thickness - mm
PN  25 m 40 m 60 m 80 m 100 m
OD ↓
mm ID Wall ID Wall ID Wall ID Wall ID Wall
thickness thickness thickness thickness thickness
12 9.8 1.1 9.6 1.2 9.2 1.4 8.6 1.7 8.0 2.0
16 13.2 1.4 12.8 1.6 12.4 1.8 11.6 2.2 10.6 2.7
20 17.0 1.5 16.6 1.7 15.4 2.3 14.4 2.8 13.2 3.4
25 21.8 1.6 21.2 1.9 19.4 2.8 18.0 3.5 16.6 4.2
32 28.8 1.6 27.2 2.4 24.8 3.6 23.2 4.4 21.2 5.4
40 36.2 1.9 34.0 3.0 31.0 4.5 29.0 5.5 26.6 6.7
50 45.2 2.4 42.6 3.7 38.8 5.6 36.2 6.9 33.4 8.3
Adapted form Plastro brochure
ND = Nominal Diameter
OD = External (Outer) Diameter. In plastic pipes, mostly equivalent to the ND.
ID = Internal (inner) Diameter
Table 8.3. HDPE pipes internal (inner) diameter and wall thickness - mm
PN 25 m 40 m 60 m 80 m 100 m 160 m


mm ID Wall ID Wall ID Wall ID Wall ID Wall ID Wall
thickness thickness thickness thickness thickness thickness
12 8.6 1.7
16 12.8 1.6 11.6 2.2
20 16.8 1.6 16.2 1.9 15.4 2.8
25 21.8 1.6 21.1 1.9 20.4 2.3 18.0 3.5
32 28.8 1.6 28.2 1.9 27.2 2.4 26.2 2.9 23.2 4.4
40 36.8 1.6 35.2 2.4 34.0 3.0 32.6 3.7 29.0 5.5
50 46.8 1.6 46.0 2.0 44.0 3.0 42.6 3.7 40.8 4.6 36.2 6.9
63 59.8 1.6 58.2 2.4 55.4 3.7 53.6 4.7 51.4 5.8 45.8 8.6
75 71.2 1.9 69.2 2.9 66.0 4.7 64.0 5.5 61.4 6.8 54.4 10.3
90 85.6 2.2 83.0 3.5 79.2 5.5 76.8 6.6 73.6 8.2 65.4 12.3
110 104.6 2.7 101.6 4.2 96.8 6.6 93.8 8.1 90.0 10.0 79.8 15.1
125 118.8 3.1 115.4 4.8 110.2 8.1 106.6 9.2 102.2 11.4 90.8 17.1
140 133.0 3.5 129.2 5.4 123.4 9.2 119.4 10.3 114.6 12.7 101.6 19.2
160 152.0 4.0 147.6 6.2 141.0 10.3 136.4 11.8 130.8 14.6
180 172.2 4.4 166.2 6.9 158.6 11.8 153.4 13.3 147.2 16.4
Adapted form "Plastro" brochure

PVC Pipes
PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride) is a rigid polymer. Addition of plasticizers renders flexibility
to tubes made of soft PVC. PVC pipes are sensitive to UV sun radiation. Soft and
flexible, they are used mainly in gardening and landscape. In agriculture and water
supply systems, rigid PVC pipes are mainly used for water delivery and distribution.
PVC pipes are installed only underground to avoid damage from sun UV radiation.
Currently, un-plasticized PVC (UPVC) pipes are manufactured with improved UV and
pressure surges tolerance. Rigid PVC pipes are manufactured in discrete 4 – 8 m


long segments and have to be attached to each other, in the field. The working
pressure of rigid PVC pipes is 60 – 240 m. (6 – 24 bar).
Table 8.4. PVC Pipes for agriculture

PVC type ND Applications PN - m

Soft PVC 6 mm Hydraulic command tubing 40 – 80

Soft PVC 6 – 10 mm Micro-emitters connection to laterals 40 – 60
Soft PVC 12 – 25 mm Tapes and thin-wall drip laterals 5 – 20
Rigid UPVC ½” – 4” Risers 40 – 100
Rigid UPVC 63 – 1000 mm Supply networks, main lines, submains 40 – 240
When PVC pipes are installed in heavy or stony soil, it is recommended to pad the
trench with sand to prevent damage to the pipe wall by swelling soil pressure and
contact with sharp protrusions of stones.
Table 8.5. Internal diameter and wall thickness of PVC pipes

PN→ 60 m 80 m 100 m

OD - mm ID - mm Wall thickness - ID - mm Wall thickness - ID - mm Wall thickness -

mm mm mm
63 59.0 2.0 58.2 2.4 57.0 3.0
75 70.4 2.3 69.2 2.9 67.8 3.6
90 84.4 2.8 83.0 3.5 81.4 4.3
110 103.2 3.4 101.6 4.2 99.4 5.3
140 131.4 4.3 129.2 5.4 126.6 6.7
160 150.2 4.9 147.6 6.2 144.6 7.7
225 210.2 6.9 207.8 8.6 203.4 10.8
280 262.8 8.6 258.6 10.7 253.2 13.4
315 295.6 9.7 290.8 12.1 285.0 15.0
355 333.2 10.9 327.8 13.6 321.2 16.9
400 375.4 12.3 369.4 15.3 361.8 19.1
450 422.4 13.8 415.6 17.2 407.0 21.5
500 469.4 15.3 461.8 19.1 452.2 23.9

Lay-flat Hoses
Flexible PVC lay-flat hoses can be used as mainlines and sub-mains as well as
feeding pipes in mechanized irrigation systems. The hose is impregnated with
protecting agents against UV radiation. When the water is shut-off, the hose lays flat
on the ground and can be crossed-over by tractors and other farm machinery. The
lay-flat hoses can be laid-out on the soil surface or in a shallow trench. These hoses
are available in diameters of 75 – 200 mm.
Fiberglass Pipes
In addition to UPVC and HDPE pipes, reinforced fiberglass pipes are used to deliver
water under high pressure from the water source to the irrigated area, as a
substitution for steel and asbestos-cement pipes.


GRP (Glass Reinforced Polyester) fiberglass pipes are manufactured in diameters of

300 – 3600 mm and PN grades of 40 – 250 m. They are particularly useful in delivery
of reclaimed water.
External and Internal Pipe Diameter
The internal diameter (ID) of a pipe can be calculated by deducting twice the wall
thickness from the external diameter (OD). In most cases, the designated nominal
pipe diameter (ND) is the external diameter. Friction head losses in water flow in
pipes relate to their internal diameter. It is imperative to check whether the
designated diameter is nominal (mostly external) or internal, when using nomograms,
on-line calculators and design software.
Connectors (Fittings)
Connectors are made of metal or plastic materials. They may be two-sided straight-
through or angular units, T or Y shaped triple outlets, four-sided crosses or multi-
outlet splitters.
Aluminum Couplers
Aluminum couplers are used for connecting two aluminum pipes. In some couplers
there are outlets for sprinkler risers. Their most prevalent use is in hand-move

a. Hermetic couplers b. Detached band coupler c. Elbow

Fig. 8.1. Aluminum hermetic and detached band couplers
Hermetic couplers are used to connect pipes in main supply lines and sub-mains
that are laid in the field at least for one whole season.
Dual band couplers are widely used. They are manufactured in diameters of 1.5, 2,
3, 4, 5 and 6".The coupler is attached to the pipe by means of two clamps and two
Rubber seals are embedded at both the inlet and the outlet of the coupler to
prevent leakage during irrigation and to facilitate drainage after water shut-off.
There are distinct seals for high and for low pressure.
The couplers are reliable, easily detached from the pipe for transportation on
trailers, symmetrical in construction and easy to assemble. In towlines, the couplers
are affixed to the wheels or to the slide supports. Drainage of the pipe after water
shut-off can be accomplished through a drain valve that is mounted in the middle of
the pipe.

Fig. 8.2. Aluminum single latch couplers


Single latch couplers are manufactured in 1, 1.5, 2, 3, and 4" diameters. They are
permanently fixed by screws at the end of the pipe. They are used mainly in hand-
move and tow systems, due to their convenient dismantling.
In each style of couplers there
are different models such as
starter elbows for connecting
the lateral to the hydrant;
elbows; reducing adapters for
changing diameters; end
plugs; etc.
Adapters made of Al-Pb metal
alloy should be installed as an
isolating interface between Fig. 8.3. Valve adapters Fig. 8.4. Adapter made
aluminum couplers to of Al-Pb metal alloy
components made of other metals to prevent the fusion of the metal with the
For hand-move laterals in high-canopy crops, like maize, there are quick couplers
that facilitate fast disconnecting of the riser from the lateral.
Risers are made of galvanized iron, aluminum or U.P.V.C. One or both edges are
threaded. The common risers for sprinklers are of ½", ¾” and 1” diameter.

Fig. 8.5. Aluminum lateral assembly

Po lyp ropy le ne C oup le rs

Fig, 8.6. Plastic and metal connectors


Their functions are identical to those of aluminum couplers. They are manufactured
in diverse forms and sizes.
There are two main groups:
external and internal couplers. In
the external type, the pipe is
inserted into the coupler and is
held by one or more grooved
rings. The internal type is inserted
inside between two pipe
segments. There is also a
combination of the two patterns -
external and internal fasteners in
one unit. The external type is the
most prevalent form used in
sprinkler irrigation, while in drip
irrigation, internal connectors are
more prevalent.
These couplers are cheap,
manufactured from rigid plastic
materials such as polypropylene,
which provide strength and Fig. 8.7. Lock fastened polypropylene connectors
Sprinklers are attached to the laterals in three modes:
a . On a riser fastened into a saddle fitting, mounted straight on the lateral. The
saddle has to secure the vertical position of the riser;
b. By means of a tube and a vertical support that allows certain flexibility in
spacing. This type of connection ensures the vertical position of the sprinkler
independently of the position of the lateral;
c. Directly on a saddle.
Couplers have diverse forms like elbows, "T", angle, etc.
Quick bayonet couplers are used for connection of risers to aluminum and plastic
pipes, to valves and other diverse water outlets.

a. Polypropylene b. Aluminum
Fig.8.8. On-line saddles Fig.8.9. Bayonet couplers



An important advantage of pressurized irrigation over surface irrigation is the ease and
convenience of regulation and control of the given water amount.
The most basic level of regulation is accomplished by:
a. Selection of competent equipment according to the requirements of water flow
capacity and working pressure grade of pipes, water distribution pattern of emitters,
b. Manual opening and shutting-off of the water flow.
Supply Pipelines
The supply pipeline delivers
the water from the source to
the irrigated plot. The pipes
are made of coated or non-
coated steel or plastic
materials like P.V.C.,
Polyethylene, Polypropylene
and fiberglass. The diameter
of the supply pipelines ranges
from 3” (75 mm) to 14” (350 Fig. 9.1. Water supply network in a cooperative village
mm) diameter. The pipes have to resist pressure surges. The working pressure ranges
from 80 to 200 m. (8 – 20 bar). Modern water supply networks are monitored and
controlled by sophisticated equipment that facilitates efficient water supply and billing,
when applicable.

More advanced levels of control

employ automatic valves and
controllers, pressure and flow
regulators, air-release and
vacuum relief valves, check
valves, computers and
communication devices.
The Control Head
The control head is composed
of instrumentation and
accessories that manage the
irrigation and the fertigation
process. A basic control head
may contain the valve and a
filter, if needed. The more
sophisticated control heads Fig. 9.2. Typical control head
contain a computerized controller, fertilizer injector, pressure regulator, air-release valve, etc.


Regulation and Control Appliances

Valves control the flow of the water in water supply and irrigation systems. Valves are
used for on/off control, regulation of pressure, flow-rate and prevention of back-flow.
There are diverse types of
valves assigned for
miscellaneous service

Valve Actuators
Valves can be operated
manually or automatically by
means of mechanical,
hydraulic or electrical
Globe Valves
The globe valve is the most
prevalent valve used in
irrigation systems. Its name
Fig. 9.3. Valve types
stems from its globular
appearance. In addition to
on/off tasks, globe valves are
used for throttling and flow
control. They demonstrate
linear flow response to partial
closing. They can be kept
open in any degree from fully
open to fully closed.
Fig. 9.4. . Manual actuators

a. Schematic view b. Strait-flow body c. Y body

Fig. 9.5. Globe valve
The water flow in globe valves is controlled by a rising-shaft. The construction of the
valve drives the water to make two 90° turns when passing through the fully open


Hence, pressure losses in the globe valve are higher than in a fully open gate and
ball valves. Significant pressure loss is the main drawback of this valve type.
The major components of globe valves are:
a. The body;
b. The bonnet;
c. The valve seat and valve plug, or trim;
d. The valve spindle (stem) which connects the plugging disk to the actuator;
e. The sealing assembly between the valve stem and the bonnet.
The principal pattern of globe valve operation is the perpendicular movement of the
disk away from the seat. When the disk approaches gradually to the seat ring, the
valve is gradually closing. This work pattern provides the globe valve good throttling
capability for flow regulation.
Generally, globe valve yields much less seat leakage than
gate valves. The disk-to-seat ring contact is better at right
angle and that ensures the tight sealing in shut-off mode.
Types of Globe valves
Globe valves are manufactured in three forms:
a. Line valve with straight flow pattern – The connections
(flanges or threads) are along the same line;
b. Y valve - the connections are in the same line,
however the valve disc and the valve plate together Fig. 9.6. Angular valve
are at an angle and the outward shape is of the English letter “Y”;
c. Angular valve – The inlet and the outlet have a 900 angle between them.
Most globe valves are built with a single seat. In large valves, delivering high volume
of water, substantial force is requested on the actuator for shut-off. If that force is not
available (with some electric or hydraulic actuators) a modified double seat valve is

Fig. 9.7. Single-seat globe valve Fig. 9.8. Double-seat globe valve
Adapted from Control Valves by Spirax Sarco Adapted from Control Valves by Spirax Sarco

The double-seat valve has two valve plugs on a common spindle, with two valve
seats. The valve seats can be kept smaller and the forces are partially balanced.
Although the differential pressure is trying to keep the top valve plug off its seat, it


is also trying to push down and close the lower valve plug, so, the force needed
for shut-off is smaller than in single-seat valve.
Globe valves are built from bronze, cast iron, steel and plastic materials. They are
operated by manual or hydraulic actuators.
Advantages of Globe Valves
a. Long service life;
b. Very little valve lift is required to attain full flow (unlike gate valves);
c. A change in direction of the fluid flow can be done (unlike gate valves) in the
angular valve type.
Drawbacks of Globe Valves
a. High head losses caused by the diverted water flow;
b. Large valves require considerable power to operate;
c. Relatively heavy, compared with other valves of the same flow-rate;
d. Large opening necessary for the disk assembly;
e. Cantilevered mounting of the disk to the stem.
Angle and "Y" Valves
Angle and "Y" valves have less pressure losses than direct-flow globe valves. In the
angle valve there are fewer angles in the water passageway, compared with the
direct-flow globe valve and the water makes only one 90° turn. In the "Y" valve, the
water has to turn twice, as in the direct-flow valve, however, the angles are of 45°
only. The flow path is nearly as free as in the gate valve.
Gate Valves
The gate valves are
used mainly for
on/off service. They
are not suitable for
gradual opening
and closing tasks.
A disk or wedge
attached to the
valve spindle
regulates the water
flow. The common
type has a rising-
spindle that
facilitates visual
indication how far
the valve is open,
since the threaded
a. Side view b. Cutaway
portion of the
spindle is exposed. Fig. 9.9. Gate Valve
The on/off action is slow. Faster action can be achieved by sliding the spindle up or
down with support of a mechanical lever.


Since most of the shut-off activity takes place when the valve is almost closed, the
flow control profile is not linear. That poses difficulties to regulate the water flow in a
partially open position.
Ball Valves
The ball valve is compact and employs a spherical flow control element. It is
operated in 90° rotations. When fully opened, the ball valve has a full direct flow
pattern with minimum head losses. Due to the non-linear flow nature in partial
closing, ball valves are used only for on-off tasks and not for flow regulation unless
specifically designed for throttling.

a. Side view b. Diagonal view

Fig. 9.10. Ball valve cutaway

Butterfly Valves
In a butterfly valve, the
flow-control element is a
disk pivoted on an axis
in the valve casing. The
disk is turned parallel to
the flowing water when
the valve is fully open,
resulting in small friction
losses. Butterfly valves
are simple and compact,
and have good throttling
capability. The flow
response to the shut-off
of the flow control
a. Cutaway b. Main components
element is not linear.
Fig. 9.11. Butterfly valve
Butterfly valves offer
economy, particularly in larger sizes and in terms of flow capacity per invested
money. Big butterfly valves require large or high-output actuators (if are actuated
hydraulically or electrically). Soft-seat assembly is obtained by means of a rubber
liner or by an adjustable soft ring in the body or on the face of the disk.


Piston Valves
Piston valves have a piston-shaped closure member that
intrudes into or withdraws from the seat bore. The sealing
takes place between the lateral faces of the piston and the
seat bore. A fluid-tight contact between these faces is
attained by a packing that forms part of the valve bore or
the piston.
When the valve is being opened, flow cannot start until the
piston has been completely withdrawn from the seat bore.
When the valve is being closed, the piston tends to wipe
away any solids that had been deposited on the seat.
Piston valves may handle fluids that carry solids in
suspension. If damage occurs to the seating, the piston
and the seat can be easily replaced. Fig. 9.12. Piston valve
Like globe valves, piston valves allow good flow control. If
precise flow adjustment is required, the piston may be fitted with a needle shaped
extension. Piston valves are also used for stopping and starting flow when flow
resistance due to tortuous flow occurs.
Diaphragm Valves
Diaphragm valves are flex-body valves in which the valve is composed of rigid and
flexible sections. The flexible section is consisted of a diaphragm which, in
connection with an actuator, represents the closure member. In diaphragm valves the
flow passageway is not obstructed by moving parts and is free of crevices.

Fig. 9.13. Diaphragm valves Fig. 9.14. Diaphragm valve components Adapted
from Valve Types by Valvias

The seat is a rigid body section and may consist of:

a. A weir across the flow passageway, or
b. The wall of a straight-through flow passageway.
The weir in the flow passageway is designed to reduce flexing of the diaphragm to a
minimum, in order to guarantee long diaphragm life, while providing a smooth and
streamlined flow passageway. The short stroke of the valve permits the use of
plastics such as PTFE for the diaphragm. The back of the diaphragm is lined with an
elastomer, which supports a uniform seating stress during valve closure.
Since the diaphragm area is large compared with the flow passageway, the fluid
pressure imposes a correspondingly high force on the raised diaphragm.


Diaphragm valves with a straight-through flow passageway require a more flexible

diaphragm than weir-type diaphragm valves.
In weir-type diaphragm valves, the water is separated from the shaft and shaft collar
by the flexible diaphragm. The diaphragm is forced against the weir to close the
valve. The fully open valve has only small pressure losses.

Fig. 9.15. Diaphragm valve working pattern

Control Valves – Functioning and Actuation
In addition to simple tasks of water opening, shut-off and flow throttling, valves
accomplish more complicated tasks like: flow-metering, flow and head regulation,
backflow prevention, air-release from the pipes, fertilizer injection, filter flushing, etc.
Since the mid-fifties, many valves are controlled by programmed controllers and
computers. The operation instructions actuate the valves by means of hydraulic or
electric actuators. There are also small diameter control valves that are actuated
mechanically by the inherent water flow in the valve.

Fig. 9.16. Control valves actuators

These control valves are combinations of valves and actuators. The most prevalent
valves are of the flexible diaphragm type that is controlled by an electric valve
(solenoid) or hydraulic actuator. Piston valves are used in smaller scale. Power to the
actuators is transmitted as an electrical current through wires, through wireless
devices or as hydraulic pressure through small-diameter tubes. The controllers are
classified as normally open (NO) and normally closed (NC) groups. Normally Open
means that the valve remains open when the power source is off. The normally
closed type remains closed when the power source is off. The normally closed type is
safer since when the power supply is impaired, the water is closed. On the other
hand, this type has greater pressure losses.


Electric Control of Hydraulic Valves

The driving power of the control element can be hydraulic pressure, activated by
electric current delivered to the actuator. The flow control element is a piston that
shuts and opens the flow path in the valve. The piston actuator can also serve as a
flow regulator.
The solenoid valve, which is
commonly used in irrigation
systems, employs an
electromagnetic force to drive
the piston directly or to
activate the piloting action
that opens the valve.
Conversion of electric pulses
into mechanical energy by
which the actuator closes or
opens the water is done by
means of solenoids.
Solenoid actuated valves
provide for automatic open- Fig. 9.17. Cutaway of solenoid valves
close valve positioning. Most solenoid actuated valves have a manual override that
allows manual operation of the valve. Solenoids position the valve by attracting a
magnetic slug attached to the valve stem. In single solenoid valves, spring pressure
acts against the motion of the slug when power is applied to the solenoid. In these
valves, the power on the solenoid either opens or closes the valve. When power on
the solenoid is removed, the spring returns the valve to the opposite position. Two
solenoids can be used in one valve to apply both opening and closing by switching
power to the appropriate solenoid.

a. Fail-closed (Normally Closed) b. Fail-open (Normally Open)

Fig. 9.18. Scheme of solenoid operation
Single solenoid valves are designated fail open or fail closed, depending on the
position of the valve when the solenoid is de-energized. Fail open solenoid valves
are opened by spring pressure and closed by energizing the solenoid. Fail closed


solenoid valves are closed by spring pressure and opened by energizing the
solenoid. Double solenoid valves typically fail "as is." That is, the valve position does
not change when both solenoids are de-energized. Modern solenoid valves offer fast
operation, high reliability, long service life, and compact design.

Fig. 9.19. Fail-closed (NC) solenoid valve – components and working pattern
In one working procedure, the solenoid is acting directly on the main valve. In other
cases, a small, fully functioning solenoid valve known as a pilot is used to actuate a
larger valve. While the second type is actually a solenoid valve combined with an
hydraulically actuated valve, they are sold and packaged as a single unit referred to
as a solenoid valve. Piloted valves require much less power for being activated, but
they are noticeably slower. Piloted solenoids usually need full power at all times to
open and stay open, where a direct acting solenoid may only need full power for a
short period of time to open it, and then only low power to hold it open.
Hydraulic Control of Valves
The structure of an hydraulic controller or actuator is similar to that of the electrical
control valve but the power is transmitted by a pressure change above the diaphragm
or piston actuator. This change of pressure is transmitted through the hydraulic
control tubing or by partial diversion of water flowing through the valve. Most of the
hydraulic control valves are normally open.

a. Blow-out b. Working pattern

Fig. 9.20. Hydraulic control valve


Functionally, hydraulic valves, like the electrical ones, fall into two categories:
Normally Open (N.O.) and Normally Closed (N.C.).
a. Normally Open (N.O.) valve stays open until the control chamber is filled with
water under the system pressure. When the chamber is full, the valve shuts-off;
b. Normally Closed (N.C.) valve is kept closed by the water pressure in the mainline.
In case of a rupture in the command line, the closure is secured by pressure of a
spring. The valve is opened when a tiny valve at the top of the control chamber
opens, releasing water from the control chamber into the atmosphere.
Normally Closed hydraulic valves have higher head losses, but they are safer to use,
as the valve remains closed even if the command tube is torn or plugged.
Check valves are used to prevent the back-flow of water in irrigation and water
supply networks.

a. Check-valve b. Check-valve cross-section c. Dual back-flow check-valve

Fig. 9.21. Check valves
The control element has a variety of forms: ball, disk lift, tilting disk, flipper or a
swinging disk. The water passageway is kept open by the pressure of the water
flowing in the ordinary direction. It blocks the passage for back-flow by the gravity
force or by spring action when the pressure downstream is higher than upstream.
The pressure caused by back-flow or the weight of a water column in the pipe
presses the control element against the seat to seal the passageway and prevent
flow in the reverse direction.
Pressure Relief Valves
Pressure relief valves protect the irrigation network from excessive pressure. They
are opened quickly and release small amounts of water to relieve excess pressure in
the system. They can be closed by means of a spring-loaded disc or hydraulic
pressure. In some types of valves, the spring can be adjusted to a predetermined
pressure limit. Excess pressure partially opens the valve and releases some water.
Fast Pressure Relief Valves are automatic control valves designed to provide a
solution to the typical problems associated with spring loaded relief valves when
constant drifting of relief adjustment occurs.
The valve is comprised of accurate relief pressure setting that remains constant,
opening to full capacity on minimum pressure rise in the pipe line. Regulated rate of
closure provides smooth closedown without causing pressure surges.


Fig. 9.22. Pilot-controlled hydraulic pressure relief valves

The Pilots can be grouped to 3 sets:
Pressure Reducing Pilot Valves
It is a direct acting pilot valve, actuated by a pressure
responsive diaphragm, which seeks to reach equilibrium
between hydraulic and set spring forces. When used in a
pressure reducing circuit, the pilot-modulate closes as
downstream pressure rises above the set point. An
internal restriction device acts as an upstream flow
restrictor. Fig. 9.23. Pilot valves
Pressure sustaining pilot valve
This is a 2-way direct acting pilot valve, actuated by a pressure responsive
diaphragm, which seeks to reach equilibrium between hydraulic and set spring
Fast Pressure Relief Pilot Valve
This pilot integrates all principal functions of a 2-Way control circuit in a single
assembly. The pilot opens as upstream pressure rises above the set point.
Pressure Regulators
Pressure regulators are used where low and constant pressure is necessary for the
proper function of pressure sensitive components, such as laterals and emitters.
They are used in systems prone to pressure fluctuations in order to maintain constant
pressure downstream of the regulator. Pressure regulators are also used in harsh
topography conditions for equalizing the pressure head in emitters. There are two
types of pressure regulators. Simple mechanical devices regulate the pressure
against a spring, while in the more sophisticated devices the pressure is controlled
hydraulically by a diaphragm or piston.
The structure of the hydraulically controlled pressure regulators, is similar to that of
the diaphragm and spring-loaded relief valves.


a. Pressure regulator–blow-out b. Six unit assembly c. Hydraulic controlled pressure regulator

d. Pressure regulators of different capacities

Fig. 9.24. Pressure regulators
The water flow is throttled Table 9.1. Flow-rate of spring actuated pressure regulators
by the action of a spring
at the top of the Model Flow-rate – m3/h
diaphragm and the Min. Max
counter-pressure of the
Low flow-rate 0.11 3.0
water on the lower face of
the diaphragm. The water (one spring) 0.8 5.0
from the high-pressure (2 Springs) 1.6 10.0
side of the valve is
diverted into a chamber 2" X 4 (4 Springs) 3.2 20.0
above the diaphragm to
2" X 6 (6 Springs) 4.8 30.0
compensate for the
compression of the spring 3" X 10 (10 Springs) 8.0 50.0
as the upstream pressure
changes. This action throttles the controlling valve and keeps the pressure at the
preset level.
Air-release Valves
Trapped air is a critical problem in irrigation and water supply networks and may
cause severe damage to certain components of the system. Air intrudes into the
system when pumping is primed or when the water is shut-off by the main valve and
the local valves remain open. The air enters through the emitters into the drained
network. At the start of the irrigation event, the flow of air through the water-meter
may bias the metering and in extreme cases may heat and melt the impeller blades.


Another effect of trapped

air in pipelines is the water
hammer caused by the
compressed air that may
burst the pipes if the
pressure surge surpasses
the working pressure of the
system. Prevention of
trapped air damage can be
attained by the use of air-
release valves. The valves
should be installed in the
higher points in the
irrigation system, where
the trapped air is
accumulating in the
pipelines. Fig. 9.25. Cross section of air-release valves
The air-release valve acts
by means of a float. When the pipeline is empty or partially full with water, the float is
lying down leaving the orifice in the top of the casing open, enabling the flow of air
outside and inside. After the system had been filled with water, the float takes its
upper position and seals the aperture.
There are two basic types of air-release valves:
Kinetic Air Valve
This valve is designed to release large amounts of air under low pressure. It is useful
at the beginning of the irrigation event when large amounts of air have to be released
from the system in a short time. It is also used to enable the high volume back-flow of
air into the network after the water shut-off, in order to avoid a vacuum in the
pipelines. This valve is not functional at high pressure conditions, when the system
has been completely filled with water.
Automatic Air Valve
This valve functions in low as well as in high-pressure conditions, but it can release
only small volume of air. Its main function is to release the small amounts of air that
are liberated from the water due to changes in temperature and pressure during the
irrigation term.
Combined Air Valve
This valve incorporates the two air valve types in the same housing and can fully
answer the changing demands for air-release from irrigation networks as well as the
suction of air when water is shut-off.
Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers
These are small devices, ½” – 1” in diameter that break the vacuum at water shut-off
by allowing air intrusion into the pipeline when water drains from the irrigation system
and the pressure in the pipelines falls below the atmospheric pressure.


Air relief valves can also introduce

air into the irrigation system when its
pressure equals or falls below the
atmospheric pressure and function
as vacuum breakers.
Valve Capacity
Water flowing through a valve loses
energy by the friction with the valve
walls and its other components. As a. Flow state b. Non-flow state
the free passageway cross-section
Fig. 9.26. Atmospheric vacuum breaker
area is larger, wall smoothness is
higher and the bends in the flow way are fewer, the capacity of the valve will be
By convention, the flow factor (Kv) designates the hourly flow-rate that creates head-
loss of 10 m. (1 bar).

(Eq. 9.1)

Kv – Flow Factor (m3/h at 1.0 bar pressure drop);
Q – Flow-rate (m3/h);
Dp – Pressure drop (bar);
S – Specific gravity of the fluid (for water = 1.0).
7.6. Automation
In modern irrigation systems, automation is an essential constituent of the
operating system. It saves manpower and facilitates precise and on-time
application of water and nutrients.
Automation relies on four basic components: sensing and measuring devices;
control and regulation appliances; input and output tools; and communication
between the different components. Time and quantity controllers are the two
basic tools of automation.
Automation systems can be classified according to the extent of control:
a. P oi nt automation means an automatic device mounted directly on a
valve, exclusively controlling this valve with no relevance to other valves
or systems;
b. Loc a l automation: Several valves in the plot that are controlled and
coordinated by one unit;
c. Ce ntr a l automation: A number of local automation units that are
connected to and controlled by a main central unit.


Automation can be activated at diverse levels of sophistication:
a. Shut-off of water flow. Water opening is done manually;
b. Time-based automatic opening and shut-off of the water;
c. Irrigation starts in preset time, shut-off occurs after a preset water amount
had been delivered;
d. As above, plus feedback and registering of the delivered water amount;
e. Control of irrigation combined with fertilizer application (fertigation), with
or without registering of water and fertilizer amounts;
f. Sequential operation of valves, one after another, in the plot;
g. Irrigation control that relies on information obtained from monitors and
sensors. E.g.: Temperature, wind, rain, soil moisture, water head etc;
h. Control of water sources in correspondence with irrigation water demand;
i. Integrated control of water sources and irrigation;
j. Integrated design, operation and control of irrigation systems.

a. Waltman flow-meter b. Flow-meter cross-section c. Flow-meter with electric output

Fig. 9.27. Flow-meters
The flow-meter is the basic appliance for the monitoring and control of water
application in pressurized irrigation systems. It is the only means that facilitate
irrigation control in quantitative terms.
The common flow-meter consists
of a casing containing a
horizontal or vertical impeller.
The impeller is rotated by the
water flow and transmits its
rotational motion to a measuring
scale mounted on top of the
casing. The scale is calibrated
and counts the actual water
quantity that passed through the
casing. The flow-meter displays
the readings of the delivered
water amount visually or, by
means of an electric output Fig. 9.28. Hydrometers – cross-section From Bermad Brochure


device, sends the information to irrigation controllers, computers or data-loggers.

Metering-valves (Hydrometers)
The metering-valve is a combination of a water meter with hydraulic valve. The
desired volume of water to be applied is dialed in. The valve is closed automatically
after the preset volume of water has been delivered. The actuator in the metering-
valve can be a diaphragm or a piston. A diaphragm is less sensitive to dirt existent in
the water, but can be torn by pressure surges and may wear due to chemical
The hydrometer can be operated manually or controlled by a remote computer or
controller, by means of hydraulic, electric or wireless communication.
Control Patterns
Two basic types of control patterns that are applied
in irrigation systems:
a. Open control loop systems that implement
only a preset action;
b. Closed control loop systems that collect
feedback from sensors, make decisions and
apply the decisions on the irrigation system.
Open-control Loop Systems
In open control loop systems, decisions are taken by
the operator who presets the controller according to
the desired performance. The devices that require
external manual intervention are referred to as open
loop systems.
In time-based open loop control systems, the Fig. 9.29. Hydrometer – manual and
irrigation duration is preset. The basic control remote-controlled dial From Bermad
parameters are irrigation timing, intervals and
watering time-span. A combination of time and amount-control employs the clock to start
the irrigation and terminates the irrigation after the preset volume of water has been
applied. Open loop control systems are inexpensive, readily available and flexible but
require frequent manual resetting to attain efficient water application.
Close-control Loop Systems
In a close-control loop, the operator presets the general layout. The control system makes
the decisions when and how much water to apply. Information is sent in real-time to the
controller from one or more sensor units. Close loop controllers can acquire environmental
parameters, such as soil-moisture, temperature, radiation, wind-velocity and relative
humidity. The data are compared to the preset program and the decision is made whether
irrigation should be applied or not. The decision can be based on the measurement of soil-
moisture and calculation of the water consumption of the plants.
Irrigation Timers
An irrigation timer is based on a clock unit that activates one or more units of the irrigation
system at preset times. Irrigation timers may provide several of the following functions:


a. A c l o c k / t i m e r measures the time for the irrigation schedule;

b. A c a l e n d a r s e l e c t o r allows presetting the days in which the system
has to be operated;
c. S t a t i o n t i m e s e t t i n g allows the presetting of start time, day and hour
and duration of application for each station;
d. M a n u a l s t a r t allows the operator to start the automatic cycle,
overriding the preset schedule;
e. M a n u a l o p e r a t i o n of each station allows the operator to manually
start the irrigation cycle without changing the preset schedule;
f. M a s t e r s w i t c h controls the activation of the whole irrigation system;
g. S t a t i o n s k i p is used to exclude specified stations from the next
irrigation cycle;
h. M a s t e r valve controls back-flow prevention equipment and
automatically terminates irrigation in case of a failure in the system;
i. P u m p s t a r t l e a d connects the pump start solenoid to the actuator of
each station. Thus the pumping control is synchronized with the irrigation
The timers can be electromechanical or electronic. Timers were used mostly in
residential irrigation. Due to cost decrease of more sophisticated small electronic
controllers, they are gradually excluded of use.
Electromechanical Controllers
Electromechanical controllers are based on an electrically powered clock and
mechanical switching to activate the irrigation valves. They are reliable and are
not affected by spikes in the power supply. In case of power outage, the
programmed schedule will not be erased. However, the scheduling options are
limited, compared with electronic controllers.
Electronic Controllers
Electronic controllers rely on solid state and integrated circuits to actuate the
clock/timer, memory and control functions. Some of these systems are sensitive
to the trustworthiness of the power supply and to spikes, surges and brownouts.
These controllers are modular and contain many options at a relatively low cost.
Time-based devices are widely used in home-gardens, nurseries and
propagation houses. Irrigation lasts for relatively short periods, and lack of
precision in water amount, due to pressure fluctuations, is not crucial. Improved
accuracy can be maintained by keeping constant pressure with the combination
of a booster pump and pressure regulators.
Computer-based Irrigation Control Systems
A computer-based control system consists of a combination of hardware and
software that manages both irrigation and fertigation by a closed control loop.
The system monitors the measured variables, compares them with the target
status, makes decisions about the actions to be taken and carries them out.


A sensor is closing an electrical circuit response to change that occurs in a
specific measured parameter. There are two basic types of sensors:
a. continuous;
b. discrete.
Continuous sensors transmit a continuous electrical signal, such as voltage,
conductivity, capacitance, or any other measurable electrical current.
Continuous sensors are used where values taken by a state variable are required and an
on/off state is not sufficient, for example, to measure pressure fluctuations in the system.
Discrete sensors are basically mechanical or electronic switches that indicate on/off
states. Discrete sensors are useful for indicating thresholds, such as the opening and
shut-off of devices. They can indicate when a threshold of a state variable has been
reached. Examples of discrete sensors are a float switch in a storage tank and a switching
tensiometer that detects if soil moisture is above a pre-defined threshold.
The variables measured in computer-based control systems are: Flow-rate, pressure, soil-
moisture, air temperature, wind velocity, solar radiation, relative humidity, electrical
conductivity and the pH level of the irrigation water.
A/D Interface
Since computer systems work internally with digits, the electrical signals sent from the
sensors have to be converted from analog to digital data. The conversion is accomplished
by Analog-to-Digital (A/D) interfaces. Discrete signals resulting from switch closures and
threshold measurements are registered in memory. Continuous electrical (analog) signals
are converted to binary numbers of the sensed variable. Conversion accuracy is affected
by the resolution of the conversion equipment.
Computer Types
The A/D conversion hardware is directly connected to the computer system. The
computer system may be a PC or a dedicated programmed controller. Smartphones are
also being harnessed to control irrigation systems.
Functions of the Central Computer
The fast development and price drop of microcomputers, laptops and smartphones
enables high sophistication in automatic control of irrigation. The irrigation computers
and controllers use industry standard microprocessors as well as standard memory
boards and terminals. This configuration enhances the integration of irrigation
scheduling, operation and control at the same unit. Conditional operation, relating to
the feedback information that is transmitted from the local units and from sensing
units in the field, is now a common routine, as well as the integrated management of
the whole irrigation system, from water source to the last end-valve in the field.
Apart from point automation, in which the automation control unit is mounted directly on
the end-valve, in all other automation systems, a communication link connects sensors
with the control unit to the end-valve. In some circumstances, a multi-stage
communication linking is necessary.


Signals between the control unit and the end units can be sent as hydraulic or electric
pulses. The electric pulses can be transmitted by wire or wireless.
In the past, in certain circumstances, short range, hydraulic communication was favored
over electric communication. The fast development and price reduction of electronic
devices in the last decade shifted the priority to electronic communication.
The drawbacks of hydraulic communication are topography interference, vulnerability to
mechanical damage and air penetration. Another drawback of hydraulic communication is
the one-way communication pattern that does not enable transmission of feedback
information back to the main unit.

Fig. 9.30. Modern field controller From Galcon Brochure

Electric pulses can be 82transmitted by cables or by wireless devices. Cable
communications are prone to mechanical damage.
Due to cost reduction, improved credibility and elimination of broadcasting interference,
the wireless communications are nowadays favored over cable communications.
Direct operation of the end-valves by electric pulses takes place only in home-
gardens and nurseries, where valves are usually of small diameter. In wide-
diameter valves, the actuation of the valve is hydraulic. The electric signal is
converted by means of a small solenoid that controls operating water supply to
the hydraulic valve.
Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA)
In the last decade, Supervisory
Control And Data Acquisition
(SCADA) software applications
in Water & Irrigation systems
are increasingly used. The
SCADA system is a remote
control and status indicator of
the water distribution equipment
that provides early warning of
system malfunction. When
failure occurs, there is
immediate detection of water
leakages and pressure Fig. 9.31. SCADA control system Adapted from "Motorola"


fluctuations. This enables prompt response to changes in demand, maintenance of

adequate pressure, flow-rates, pump-functionality and overall system performance.
Sophisticated SCADA systems support various communication infrastructures:
a. Radio Communication Channels: conventional VHF (136-174 MHz),
conventional UHF (403-470 MHz), 800/900 MHz, Microwave, Digital Radio,
Cellular Networks, Satellite Systems, Wi-Fi (WLAN) systems, Spread
b. Wire Line: point-to-point, multi-drop, auto-answer/dial-up operation over PSTN
c. Ethernet (TCP/IP): Direct connection to a 10baseT Intranet that will be
provided by the user;
d. Serial Communication: RS-232 and RS-485 Communication to an external
DTE/DCE device.
The use of advanced
communication protocols,
sophisticated RTUs (Remote
Terminal Units), contemporary
control center software
packages and utilization of the
internet, improves the overall
performance of the Water
Distribution system by
a. Enhanced control and
monitoring of pump & Fig. 9.32. RTUs connected to field-unit (FU) by cable Adapted
valve stations (as well from Motorola Brochure
as other stations and output types);
b. Prompt access to data for managers and operators, wherever they are located
(at a station, the control room or any other place) from the control center’s
alarms and reports;
c. Graphical User Interface (GUI), which provides a user-friendly and intuitive
interface with the control constituents;
d. Full monitoring and control of field elements (valves, pumps and other I/O
status/failures etc);
e. Equipment’s performance:
1. Water supply regime;
2. Other conditions and controlled elements;
3. Reports and historical data.
f. Water supply (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.)
1. Water pressure, low, level, quality etc;
2. Pump operation, valve operation, etc;
3. Power consumption (overall/per pump).


g. Alarms
1. Pump failures (overload, temperature, etc.);
2. Power supply failures;
3. Sudden pressure changes, water quality variations, etc.
Due to the miniaturization of the electronic components, the wireless broadcasters,
transmitters and receivers, the recently developed field units are compact and
The introduction of smartphones that communicate with the central controller as well
as with the field stations brought about dozens of applications that simplify the
implementation of the SCADA tasks.
Field Units
The field units are the end points of the automation system. They govern several
RTUs that directly control the valves, fertigation device, etc; or connected to sensors
of soil moisture, chemicals in soil solution and climate. Field Units (FU) that can
connect several RTUs enable higher level of control. When many RTUs and/or FUs
are connected to one control center, Field Interface Unit (FIU) can be used as the
communication interface unit between the control center and the RTUs or FUs. It will
be located at the control room and connected to the computer/server via a serial line.
The FIU communicates with the RTUs and the FUS over the available project’s
communication links (radio, line etc).
Many types of I/O (Input/Output) modules
are available: Digital Input, Digital Output,
Analog Input, Analog Output, Mixed Digital
and Analog Inputs and Outputs etc.,
enabling simple connection to diverse
measuring and control devices such as
hydraulically or electrically operated valves,
water meters, flow and level meters, rain
gauges, EC/pH sensors, flushing filters etc.,
as well as other devices (relays, general
alarm contacts, analog sensors etc.).
Internet Mediated Communication
In the last decade, the internet provided new
capabilities for SCADA communication.
Using wireless internet communication
enables central and local control, monitoring
Fig. 9.33. Internet mediated SCADA
and data acquisition from any point on the
network Adapted from Motorola Brochure
globe, without distance limits.
The introduction of smartphones, increased the effectiveness of the internet
mediated communication. Smart phones using dedicated applications are replacing
the old fashion direct cell phone communication as well as old long range radio
broadcast networks.



Irrigation water quality is defined by its physical, chemical and biological
characteristics. The introduction of micro-irrigation, in particular drip irrigation, posed
new challenges for water treatment and filtration. The narrow water passageways in
the micro-emitters are exceptionally sensitive to irrigation water quality and are prone
to clogging. Although the water passageways in conventional sprinklers are much
wider than those of the micro-emitters, the utilization of the new developed filters and
the adoption of strict water treatment, improved the performance of sprinkler irrigation
systems too.
Water pumped from ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, canals and dam reservoirs,
contains high loads of impurities. Water pumped from sand aquifers contains great
amounts of suspended sand.
Sand and silt separation is often performed as a pre-treatment in settling ponds and
tanks or by vortex sand separators.
a. Physical Quality Parameters:
1. Suspended solid mineral particles;
2. Organic matter;
3. Live zooplankton.
b. Chemical Quality Parameters:
1. Salt content;
2. The concentration of precipitate-forming ions;
3. pH level;
4. Nutrition elements content.
c. Emitter Clogging Factors
1. Particulate matter;
2. Biological living organisms and their debris;
3. Chemical precipitates;
4. Combinations of the above mentioned factors.
Poor system design and management increase the hazard of emitter clogging.
Prophylactic water treatments against clogging are comprised of sedimentation,
filtration and complimentary chemical treatments.
Particulate Matter
Micro-emitters are clogged by particles of sand, limestone and other debris too large
to pass through the narrow water passageways. Clogging may also occur when small
particles stick together to form larger aggregates. Even tiny particles such as
suspended clay, which would not cause problems as discrete particles, can initiate
clogging if they flocculate to form larger aggregates. Sprinklers are prone to clogging
by relatively big solid particles but suspended organic matter can stuck to some
components and upset the rotating motion. Suspended sand particles in the water
can cause wearing of the shaft and metallic nozzles in sprinklers.
Biological Substances
Emitters are prone to clogging by particles of organic matter that block the water
passageways. Clogging may be induced by secretions of organisms such as algae


and microscopic bacteria. Certain algae are small enough to pass through filters and
emitter passageways as discrete entities, but may flocculate in pipelines to form
aggregates large enough to clog emitters. Bacteria are small and do not cause
clogging; however, they can precipitate compounds containing iron, sulfur and other
chemical secretions that clog the emitters. Some bacteria secrete slime that acts as
an adhesive platform for the buildup of aggregates composed of clay, algae and
other small particles.
Iron and sulfur bacterial slime is a widespread problem. Iron-precipitating bacteria are
nourished by the dissolved ferrous iron in irrigation water. These bacteria stick to the
surface of suspended soil particles and oxidize the dissolved iron. The oxidized iron
precipitates as insoluble ferric iron. A slime called ochre is created and stick to other
substances that exist in the irrigation network. This slime can clog the emitters.
Specific bacteria that oxidizes hydrogen sulfide, converting it into insoluble elemental
sulfur, creates sulfur slime - a white or yellow stringy deposit, created by oxidation of
hydrogen sulfide that is present mainly in shallow wells. The slime clogs emitters
either directly, or by acting as an adhesive agent for small particles.
Chemical Precipitates
Chemical clogging of emitters, frequently results from precipitation of compounds
containing one or more of the following cations: calcium, magnesium, iron and
manganese. These materials may precipitate from the solution and form scales that
partially or fully clog emitters. Precipitation can be triggered by changes in pH,
temperature, pressure, water flow velocity and reaction with ions that are injected into
the irrigation water by fertigation and by exposure to atmospheric oxygen.
Table 10.1. Relative clogging potential of micro-emitters by water contaminants
Water characteristic Minor Moderate Severe
pH <7.0 7.0-8.0 >8.0
TDS (Total dissolved solids) - ppm <500 500-2000 >2000
Suspended solids - ppm <50 50 -100 >100
Manganese - ppm <0.1 0.1-1.5 >1.5
Iron - ppm <0.2 0.2-1.5 >1.5
Hydrogen sulfide - ppm <0.2 0.2-2.0 >2.0
Bacteria population - per ml <10,000 10,000-50,000 >50,000
After Blaine Hanson. 1997

Water Hardness
Water containing substantial concentrations of Ca++, Mg++ and Fe++ is regarded as
“hard water”. Hard water can precipitate insoluble carbonates in the irrigation system.
Water “hardness” is expressed as a calcium carbonate concentration equivalent
in mg/l units. Hardness is calculated by measuring the content of the above
mentioned Cations, summing up their concentrations expressed in meq/l and
multiplying by 50 (the equivalent weight of calcium carbonate).
Calcium equivalent weight ≈ 20
Calcium concentration in the water: 120 mg/l ≈ 120/20 = 6 meq/l
Magnesium equivalent weight ≈ 12
Magnesium concentration in the water 60 mg/l ≈ 60/12 = 5 meq/l
Total: 6 meq/l + 5 meq/l = 11 meq/l
Water hardness = 11 meq/l X 50 = 550 mg/l Calcium Carbonate Equivalent


Similar reactions precipitate magnesium bi-carbonate.

The most prevalent precipitate from hard water is calcium carbonate. However, when
fertigating with fertilizers that contain phosphorous and sulfur, calcium phosphate and
calcium sulfate (gypsum) may also precipitate.
Iron and Manganese in Water
Iron is often dissolved in groundwater as ferrous bi-carbonate. When exposed to air,
or to activity of iron bacteria, the iron is oxidized, precipitates and can plug micro-
Manganese is occasionally present in irrigation water, but at lower concentrations
and with lower activity as a clogging factor than iron.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)
Organic matter suspended in the water is decomposed by microorganisms that
consume oxygen along the process. The quantity of oxygen consumed by these
organisms in breaking down the organic matter is designated as the Biochemical
Oxygen Demand or BOD. BOD is a consistent indicator for clogging hazard of micro-
emitters by suspended organic matter.
Raw sewage and low-quality reclaimed water have high levels of organic
contamination and consequently high BOD values.
Because of the narrow water passageways in micro-emitters and the slow water-flow
velocity, micro irrigation systems are susceptible to clogging much more than
conventional sprinklers. As mentioned before, prevention of clogging necessitates
high-level filtration and complimentary chemical and physical water treatments.
Filtration is accomplished in two different patterns: surface filtration, by screen filters
and depth filtration, by disc and media filters.
Screen (Strainer) Filters
Screen filters' features are defined by filtration degree,
filtration surface area and filtration ratio.
Filtration degree is designated in microns or mesh
number. The filtration degree in microns indicates the
diameter of the biggest ball-shaped particle that can
pass between the screen wires.
Mesh number counts the number of wires along 1"
(25.4 mm) length of the screen. The two concepts are
not fully inter-convertible.
Perforation width may differ between two screens with
the same mesh number due to different wire thickness.
Approximate conversion from one designation mode to
another is done with a rule of thumb: mesh number x
microns ≈ 15,000. Fig. 10.1. Screen filter From
"Netafim" Brochure
Screen perforation is 120 Mesh.
What is the filtration degree in microns?
15,000/120 = 125 micron


When selecting the filtration Table 10.2. Screen perforation examples

degree, the dimensions of the Mesh No. Hole size – Wire thickness -
water passageways in the microns microns
emitter and the character of 40 420 250
water impurities should be 50 300 188
considered. When the 80 177 119
impurities are suspended 100 149 105
inorganic solids (sand, silt, 120 125 86
chemical precipitates), the
155 100 66
maximum perforation diameter
200 74 53
should be 25%-30% of the
micro-emitter's water passageway or sprinkler's nozzle diameters. When the
impurities are organic and biological materials, the maximum perforation diameter
should not exceed 10%-20% of the water passageway diameter in the emitters.
Screen filters are most suitable for water with inorganic impurities, while high loads of
organic and biological impurities commit depth filtration with disc or media filters,
otherwise the impurities may clog the screen.
There is wide selection of
screens. In selecting screen
type, water quality and
emitter water passageway
structure have to be
considered. Perforated steel
screen is the sturdiest
structure but its effective
filtration ratio is the lowest. It
Perforated steel Wedge wire Woven wire
is used mostly in filters that
are installed to protect the Fig. 10.2. Screen patterns
pumping unit when the
pumped water contains coarse soil particles, gravel and stones.
Woven wire is the most prevalent type of screen. Its effective filtration ratio is the
highest, but the structure is the least robust. Wedge wire's strength is intermediate
but is only rarely used.

Fig. 10.3. Head losses in clean screen filters Adapted from "Odis" brochure


One of the main disadvantages of screen filters is the fast accumulation of dirt on the
screen's surface. The accumulated dirt increases the head losses and may trigger
collapse of the screen. Monitoring the pressure difference between the filter inlet and
outlet is necessary to scrutinize excessive dirt accumulation on the screen. The filter
has to be flushed and cleaned when the pressure difference between inlet and outlet
approaches 5 m. (0.5 bar).
Disc Filters
Disc filters are suitable for filtration of water containing mixed, inorganic and organic
impurities. The casing is made of metallic or plastic materials. The filtering element
is a stack of grooved plastic rings, tightened firmly by a screw on cap or by a spring
that is compressed by a water-piston. Water is filtered as it flows from the perimeter
into the stack inner space through the grooves. The intersections of the grooves
provide in-depth filtering. Coarse particles are trapped on the external surface of the
stack. Finer particles and organic debris stick to the inner grooves. Disc filters have
a higher dirt-retention capacity than screen filters. The definition of the filtration
degree is identical to that of screen filters and is usually indicated by the color of the

Fig. 10.4. Disc filter

Media Filters
Media filters protect emitters when using water with a high organic load from open
water resources or reclaimed water. Wide-body (0.5 – 1.25 m/ in diameter), media
tanks, are made of epoxy-coated carbon-steel, stainless steel or fiberglass.
Table 10.3. Sand particle size and mesh-equivalent

Fig. 10.5. Media filters

The filtering media are of 1.5 - 4 mm size mm basalt, gravel, crushed granite
particles or fine silica sand of 0.3 – 1.5 mm effective size. The organic impurities
adhere to the surface of the media particles. The accumulated dirt should be back-


flushed routinely in order to eliminate excessive head losses. The filtration degree is
defined equivalently to that of screen and disc filters.
Sand Separators
High loads of sand and
other solid particles
should be removed
before getting to the
main filtration system.
There are two methods
of sand separation.
The traditional practice
was based on
sedimentation of the
solid particles by
slowing-down water flow
in closed settling tanks or
open basins. Closed Fig. 10.6 Hydrocyclone sand separator - working pattern
tanks conserve the water
pressure while the use of open settling basins requires re-pumping of the treated
water into the irrigation system.

Fig. 10.7. Hydro-cyclone sand separator – head-losses and optimal flow-rates From "Odis" brochure
Centrifugal (vortex) sand separators deposit sand and other suspended particles
heavier than water by means of the centrifugal force created by tangential flow of
water into a conical container. The sand particles thrown against the container walls
by the centrifugal force settle down and accumulate in a collecting chamber at the
bottom. The collector is washed out manually or automatically. Clean water exits
through an outlet at the top of the separator. Each separator has an optimal flow-rate
range in which the most of the suspended particles are removed without excessive
head-losses. At lower flow-rates, more sand remains suspended in the water.


Filter Characteristics
Disc filters' reliability is higher than that of screen filters. Collapse of the filtration
element in disc filters is uncommon. In screen filters, the screens are prone to be
ripped due to corrosion (if are made of metallic materials) and to collapse by
pressure surges. The screen-supporting frame has to withstand pressure surges.
Capacity and Head-losses
Water loses pressure as it flows through a filter. The extent of head-losses depends
on the filter design, filtering degree, the flow-rate and the level of dirt accumulation.
Normally, for a specific filter type and size, the finer the filtration degree, the lower the
nominal discharge. This is due to faster dirt accumulation and higher head-losses.
Key Screen Filter's Attributes
a. Diameter: Designates the diameter of the water inlet and outlet;
b. Filtration Area: The total surface area of the filtration element. The required
filtration area for moderately dirty water is 10 - 30 cm2 for each 1 m3/h of flow-
rate for sprinkler irrigation and 25 - 60 cm2 for micro-emitters;
c. Perforation Area: The total open area of perforations;
d. Effective Filtration Ratio: The ratio between the perforation area and the
filtration area;
e. Filter Ratio: The ratio between the perforation area and the inlet cross-section
The higher the above mentioned parameters, the higher the filter capacity. The
nominal capacity of other types of filters is defined according to the permissible head-
Table 10.4. Nominal filter capacity – examples

Make Filter type & diameter Filtration grade - Capacity m3/h

Odis 2” screen 60-400 15-25
Arkal 2” disc 100-400 25
Arkal 2” disc 75 16
Arkal 2” disc 25 8
Amiad 3” screen 80-300 50
Amiad 3” disc 100-250 50
Odis 4” screen 60-400 80
Netafim 4” gravel 60-200 60-120
Netafim 6” sand separator 140-230
Nominal filter capacity designates the flow-rate at a head loss of 2 m (0.2 bars) in a
clean filter. As dirt accumulates, the head loss increases. Filter cleaning is required
when the head-loss amounts to 5 m. (0.5 bars). As mentioned before, a minimal-
head-loss of 1.5 m (0.15 bar) is required for acceptable sand separation by hydro-
cyclone sand separators but the recommended head-loss range in these separators
is 2.5 - 5 m (0.25 - 0.5 bar). Dirt accumulation capacity is the lowest in screen filters,
higher in disc filters and the highest in media (sand and gravel) filters.


Flow Direction
The direction of the water flow through the filtration element is an important feature.
In disc filters, water flows from the perimeter inwards. This pattern exposes to the
flowing water the greater external surface area of the disc stack that is capable to
retain a much greater quantity of coarse particles than the smaller inner surface area.
In screen filters, flow from inside-out is more suitable for self-cleaning mechanisms
and is less vulnerable to screen collapse by pressure surges. Some models of
screen filters have two filtering elements: an external preliminary coarse strainer that
traps the coarse particles, and an internal finer screen for final filtration. In these
Filters, flow direction is from the perimeter inwards. Some filter designs employ
nozzles in the inlet to induce tangential flow of water that drives the dirt to the distal
end of the filter, where it is flushed-out intermittently or trickles out continuously.
In media filters, water enters from the top and exits from the bottom after crossing the
filtering media that lies on a perforated plate. Back-flushing is accomplished in the
opposite direction – from the bottom upwards. To facilitate proper back-flushing, the
media fills no more than 2/3 of the tank volume, so that it can be lifted and agitated
during the back-flushing process.
Filter Cleaning
As mentioned before, filters have to be cleaned routinely before contaminants
accumulation causes excess head losses or collapse of the filtration element. Filters
can be cleaned manually or automatically.
Manual Cleaning
Conventional screen filters have to be disassembled. Each component has to be
flushed. The integration of the screen and its supporting frame has to be checked.

a. Disassembled b. Rotating brushes (BrushAway) c. Rotating suction nozzles

screen Filter (ScanAway)
Fig. 10.8. Manual cleaning of screen filters From Netafim and Amiad Brochures
Torn screens have to be replaced. Some screen filters are equipped with mechanism
that enables manual cleaning without disassembling the filter.
In disc filters, the discs, that are fastened in the stack have to be relieved and
separated from each other, prior to flushing. The best way of cleaning conventional
disc filters is to flush the stack with water from a hose, after the release of its
fastening knob. The separation of the discs by the water flow enables the removal of
the impurities from the discs' grooves.


Fig. 10.9. Manual hose flushing of a disc-filter Fig. 10.10. Continuous flushed circulating-
Automatic Flushing and Cleaning
Diverse automatic cleaning mechanisms have been developed. The cleaning
process is either continuous or pulsating.
Continuously self-flushing screen filters maintain a flow of filtered water without the
build-up of head losses. The dirt is continuously removed from the screen by a
tangential, downward spiraling water flow, which flushes the debris into a collecting
chamber at the bottom of the casing. The accumulated dirt is drained manually,
constantly by a bleeder, or is automatically released when a preset pressure
differential between the water inlet and outlet had been built.
In most of these filters, the pressure differential is monitored and the self-cleaning
process is activated when the preset pressure differential had built-up. In some
filtering systems, the intervals between flushing events is controlled by a timer.

a. High-capacity automatic filter b. Compact automatic filter

Fig. 10.11. Automatic screen filters with scanning nozzles
The cleaning process is carried-on for a preset time length. The cleaning and
flushing mechanism is powered by the inherent pressure of the system or by an
electric motor. Rotating brushes or sucking nipples clean the screen. For coarse
screens, of over 200-micron filtering degree, brushes are sufficiently efficient while
for finer screens under 200 microns, cleaning by rotating suckers is more effective.


Fig. 10.12. Automatic flushing of disc-filter Adapted from "Arkal" brochure

Automatic flushing of disc filters requires the release of the discs in the stack. The
Spin-Kleen mechanism combines release of the stack tightening-screw, back-
flushing by water counter-flow, and spinning of the relieved discs by the water stream
that flushes the dirt from the grooves to a draining valve that opens automatically.
Media filters are flushed automatically by back-flow from the bottom that floats the
accumulated dirt and releases it out through the drain valve on top. The reverse-flow
is activated automatically when the preset pressure differential has been reached.
Automatic flushing of media and disc filters requires counter-flow of filtered water. To
meet this requirement, filters operate in arrays and the flushing of filters is sequential,
one after another.

Fig. 10.13. High-capacity media-filter array Fig. 10.14. Back-flushing of media-filters

Filter Location
Sand settling tanks are installed ahead of the pump while sand separators are
installed just downstream of the pump or upstream the control head.


In highly contaminated water, multi-stage filtration is required. An automatic screen,

disc, media filter or a filtration array of several filters should be installed at the
pumping site or the main control head. Additional backup control screen or disc filters
should be installed at the head of each irrigating sector.
With moderately contaminated well water, one filtration stage at each zonal valve
may be sufficient and backup filters are not needed.
Supplementary Water Treatments
With micro-emitters, in addition to filtration, complementary chemical treatments
should be performed on the irrigation water to prevent the clogging of the emitters.
Oxidation and acidification are the prevalent complementary treatments. Oxidation
decomposes organic matter, prevents formation of slime by sulfur and iron bacteria,
blocks development of algae and eliminates infestation by pathogens. Acidification
eliminates chemical precipitation and dissolves built-in precipitates in the irrigation
Chlorine, the common oxidizing agent appears in three forms:
a. Solid tablets containing 90% chlorine.
b. Liquid sodium hypochlorite (NaOCI) containing 10% chlorine.
c. Gaseous chlorine. This form is cheap and efficient but is unsafe in use and
commits strict pre-caution safety measures in application.
When ferrous iron is present in the water, one ppm (part per million) of chlorine is
required per each ppm of iron, for killing the iron bacteria and precipitating the iron
from the water. When hydrogen sulfide is present in the irrigation water, 9 ppm of
chlorine are needed per each ppm of sulfur to kill the sulfur bacteria, prevent slime
growth and precipitate the sulfur from the water. The precipitates formed in these
processes, must be blocked by the control filters at the zonal irrigation control heads
to prevent clogging of the emitters.
Effective chlorinating decomposes organic materials and blocks the development of
algae and plankton in the laterals and the emitters. 1 - 2 ppm of residual chlorine
detected at the distal ends of the laterals indicate adequate chlorination. To maintain
these residual levels, chlorine concentration in the water at the injection point should
range between 3 – 15 ppm, depending on the impurity load and duration of injection.
Levels higher than 15 ppm can harm the diaphragms in certain hydraulic valves and
pressure compensated drippers.
Acidification of water is required when "hard" water containing high concentrations of
bi-carbonates is used for irrigation with micro-emitters. The injected acid neutralizes
the transient hardness and immerse calcium-carbonate precipitates. Acid can be
applied with ordinary fertigation equipment or by a specific metering pump. The
common acidifying agents are sulfuric, nitric, hydrocloric and phosphoric acids.
Chlorination of acidified water is more effective than chlorination of alkaline water,
reducing the chlorine requirement. Hence if both chlorination and acidification are
done simultaneously, acidification will be applied first, followed by chlorination.
Mixing concentrated acid with chlorinating agents is forbidden since it can induce
toxic chemical reactions.


Commonly, chemical treatments are implemented upstream from the filtration

system. The impurity load is reduced and the decomposed material is trapped in the
filters. The narrower the water passageways in the emitters, the greater the need for
chemical treatments. When, as mentioned before, the oxidation of iron and sulfur
bacteria forms solid particles, they have to be blocked by control filters in the
irrigation zonal heads.


Fertigation is the application of nutrition elements via the irrigation water by injection
of fertilizer solutions into the irrigation system. Contemporary fertigation technology
emerged at the sixties of the 20th century, following the wide-scale introduction of
commercial drip irrigation. Prior to that era, direct application of nutrition elements to
the water had been implemented only in hydroponics growing systems. Later-on, it
was realized that crops benefit of fertigation in all pressurized irrigation technologies
and in some circumstances, although rarely, in surface irrigation too.
The combined application of water and fertilizers through the irrigation system
increases the efficiency of fertilizer utilization, raises yield, improves produce quality
and minimizes environmental pollution caused by excess fertilization.
Advantages of Fertigation
a. Improved efficiency:
1. Uniform distribution with irrigation water;
2. Better synchronization with crop demands;
i. Adjustment of amounts and ratio between nutrients along the growing season;
3. Deeper penetration of the nutrients into the soil;
4. Avoiding nutrient losses from soil surface.
b. Avoiding soil compaction by mechanical fertilizer spreaders;
c. Avoiding damage to canopy and yield by these spreaders;
d. Reduction of fertilizer losses;
e. Additional functionality:
1. Application of herbicides and pesticides via the irrigation system.
Limitations and Risks in Fertigation
a. Hazard of Back-flow of nutrient solution into drinking water supply networks;
b. Only completely soluble fertilizers are applicable;
c. Hazard of corrosion, precipitate-formation and clogging in the irrigation
d. Use of dangerous acids and inflammable agents;
e. Costly investment in accessories and storage facilities;
f. Incorrect application may cause damage to crop, nutrient losses by leaching;
beneath the root-zone and contamination of underground water resources;
g. Hazard of foliage and fruit scorching in overhead irrigation;
h. Large storage volumes are needed for nutrient solutions;
The Different Aspects of Fertigation
a. Technology;
b. Chemical aspects;
c. Physiological aspects;
d. Environmental aspects;
e. Economical aspects.


Beside the technological aspects, Fertigation has additional aspects to be considered

when choosing the type of injector, the pattern of injection, the fertilizers and the
Most important are the chemical nature of the fertilizers and their interactions with
irrigation water and soil solution. Fertigation has also physiological impact on the
crop, due to continuous nutrients supply in the optimal amounts and ratio between
the chemical elements. The environmental impact of fertigation has two aspects: On
the one hand, decrease of contamination by surplus fertilizer and on the other the
potential environmental damage as a result of malfunctioning fertigation systems.
Economical considerations determine the choice of technology and fertilizers.
Fertigation Technologies
A variety of technologies have been developed for injection of fertilizers into the
irrigation system.
Patterns of Injection
Fertilizer Concentration
a. Decreasing along time (Fertilizer batch-tank);
b. Uniform – pulsating (piston and diaphragm pumps);
c. Uniform – constant (venturi, internal mixing pumps, mixers).
Energy Sources
a. Inherent pressure of the irrigation system;
b. External energy sources:
1. Electricity;
2. Solar;
3. Internal combustion engines.
Injector Types
a. Pressure differential – in batch-tanks;
b. Venturi (suction);
c. Fertilization pumps.
Fertilizer Batch-tank
Throttling the water-flow in the
control head creates pressure
differential that diverts a fraction of
the irrigation water through a tank
containing the fertilizer. A gradient
of at least 1 – 2 m. (0.1 – 0.2 bars)
is required to redirect an adequate
stream of water through a
connecting tube of 9 – 12 mm
diameter. The tank, made of
corrosion-resistant enamel-coated
or galvanized cast iron, stainless
steel or fiberglass, has to withstand
the irrigation network working
pressure. The diverted water is Fig. 11.1. Fertilizer batch-tank From "Odis" brochure


mixed with solid soluble or liquid fertilizers. When solid fertilizers are used, the
nutrient concentration remains more or less constant, as long as a portion of the solid
fertilizer remains in the tank. Once the solid fertilizer had been fully dissolved,
continuous dilution by the water, gradually decreases the concentration of the
injected solution. With fertilizer solutions, The fertilizer concentration in the irrigation
water is decreasing all along the duration of application.
Fertilization batch-tank Advantages
a. Simple construction and operation;
b. Low cost (of small units);
c. Extensive field experience;
d. No need of external energy source;
e. Good mobility;
f. Wide dilution ratio.
Fertilization batch-tank Limitations
a. Head losses by throttling;
b. High cost of large units;
c. Non-uniform nutrient concentration during the application process;
d. Fertilizer replenishment is needed prior to each application;
e. Integration with automation is problematic;
f. The tank and the accessories have to withstand the main-line's working
Venturi Injector
Suction of the fertilizer solution is created by
water flow through a constricted passageway.
The high flow velocity of the water in the
constriction reduces the water pressure head
below atmospheric pressure and the fertilizer Fig. 11.2. Venturi injector Courtesy "Netafim"
solution is sucked from an open tank into the
constriction by means of a thin diameter tube.
Venturi devices are made of corrosion-resistant
substances such as copper, brass, stainless
steel and plastic materials. The injection rate
depends upon the pressure loss, which ranges
from 10% to 35% of the irrigation system's
pressure and is determined by the injector type
and operating conditions. Venturi devices
require extra pressure to allow for the
necessary pressure-loss. Maintaining a
constant pressure in the irrigation system
guarantees uniform nutrient concentration in the
irrigation water along the application period.
The customary head-losses can reach 33% of
the inlet pressure. Double-stage Venturi Fig. 11.3. By-pass Venturi installation
injectors create lower pressure-losses Courtesy "Netafim"
downward to 10%. The suction-rate depends on the inlet pressure, pressure loss and
the diameter of the suction tube. It can be adjusted by valves and regulators. Suction
rates vary from 0.1 l/h to 2000 l/h. Venturi injectors are installed in-line or on a by-


pass. In greenhouses, the water flow in the bypass may be boosted by an auxiliary
pump that guarantees adequate and constant operation pressure.
Venturi Suction Injector Advantages
a. Simple to operate, easy to install, no moving parts;
b. Wide-range of flow-rates (in different models);
c. Low cost of small devices, The solution is sucked from an open tank;
d. Good mobility;
e. Constant suction-rate (in constant pressure regime);
f. Easy integration with automation;
g. Cheap, open to the atmosphere tanks;
h. Corrosion resistant.
Venturi Suction Injector Limitations
a. High head-losses;
b. Sensitivity to pressure fluctuations;
c. Narrow discharge-range of each model.
Injection Pumps
Fertilizer pumps are driven by electricity, internal combustion engines, tractor PTO or
hydraulically by the inherent water pressure in the irrigation system.
Pump Injectors Advantages
a. Uniform nutrient concentration along the fertigation process;
b. Easy control of amount and concentration of the nutrient solution;
c. Convenient integration with automation;
d. No pressure losses;
Pump Injectors Limitations
a. High initial cost;
b. Complicated operation;
c. Wear of moving parts;
d. Suitable only with fertilizer solutions;
e. Some models need external power source;
f. Some models emit surplus driving-water outside.
Hydraulic Pumps
Versatile devices, reliable and feature low operation and maintenance costs. A
diaphragm or piston movement injects the fertilizer solution into the irrigation system.
Water-driven diaphragm and piston pumps combine precision, reliability and low
maintenance costs.
Hydraulic Pump Types
a. Piston pumps;
b. Diaphragm pumps;
c. Internal-mixer pumps.


Fig. 11.4. Piston (left) and diaphragm (right) hydraulic pumps Fig. 11.5. No-drain
From "Amiad" Brochure Internal-mixer hydraulic
Fig. 11.6. The pump's piston pump From "Dosatron" brochure

Injection Control
Hydraulic pumps used in fertigation can be automated by
employing pulse transmitter that is mounted on the pump.
The movement of the piston or the diaphragm's spoke
sends electric signals to the controller, In which they are
converted to the delivered water volume. Measurement
can also be performed by small fertilizer-meters installed
on the injection tube. Fertilizer-meter is a modified water-
meter, corrosion resistant and precise in measurement of
small solution quantities. The controller allocates fertilizer
solution according to a preset program. Fig. 11.7. Fertilizer solution
In greenhouses, simultaneous application of a multi- meter with pulse
nutrient solution is routine. When the distinct chemical transmitter From "Arad" Brochure
compounds in the fertilizers are incompatible and cannot be mixed in a concentrated
solution, due to the risk of decomposition or precipitation.
Two or three injectors are installed in-line
one after another, in the control- head.
The application ratio between the
injectors is coordinated by the irrigation
In high-income crops grown in
glasshouses on detached growing
media, the irrigation water is mixed with
fertilizers in a mixing chamber (mixer).
Centrifugal Pumps
Centrifugal pumps are used when
exceptional high capacity is needed or Fig. 11.8. Mixer array From "Odis" brochure


the fertilizer solution is turbid.

Roller Pumps
Roller pumps are used for precise injection of small amounts of nutrient solutions.
Their life-span is relatively short, due to bearings' corrosion by the injected
Electric Pumps
Electric Pumps Advantages
a. Precise and reliable;
b. Suitable for extremely low dosage;
c. Conveniently integrated with automation;
d. Wide range of flow-rates.
Electric Pumps Limitations
a. Need of external energy source;
b. Fails in blackout occasions. Fig. 11.9. Electric pump

Price reduction of solar panels that generate electricity, enables the use of electric
pumps also when electricity supply is not available.
Electric pumps are inexpensive and reliable. Operation costs are low and they are
readily integrated into automatic systems. A wide selection of pumps is available,
from small low-capacity to massive high-capacity pumps. The operating pressure is
10 - 100 m. (1 – 10 bars).
Electric piston pumps are exceptionally precise and suitable for accurate mixing in
constant proportions of several stock solutions.
Variable speed motors and variable stroke length allow for a wide range of dosing
from 0.5 to 300 L/h with the same pump.
Injection Site
Injection at the Main Control-head - the most convenient and cost-effective
Injection at Sub-main Heads - a common practice in field crops.
Injection at the Control-head of Each Block – more expensive than the
above-mentioned alternatives.
Control and Automation
Dosing patterns:
Quantitative Dosing: a preset amount of fertilizer is injected into the irrigation
system during each water application. Injection may be initiated and controlled
automatically or manually.
Proportional Dosing: maintains a constant predetermined ratio between the
irrigation water and the fertilizer solution. Pumps inject the fertilizer solution in a


pulsating pattern. Venturi injectors apply the fertilizers continuously and in constant
Avoiding Corrosion Damage
Most fertilizer solutions are corrosive. Accessories exposed to the injected solution
should be corrosion-resistant. The injection device and irrigation system must be
thoroughly flushed after fertilizer injection.
Back-flow Prevention
Whenever the irrigation system is connected to a potable water supply network, strict
precautions should be taken to avoid Back-flow of fertilizer-containing irrigation
Back-siphonage occurs when low pressure in the supply line is created by an
excessive hydraulic gradient in undersized pipes in the supply line, a break in the
supply line, pump or power failures.
Back-pressure occurs when the pressure in the irrigation system is higher than in
the water supply network. This happens when booster pumps are used for increasing
the pressure in the irrigating area or when the irrigated area is topographically higher
than the local water supply storage tank.
An atmospheric vacuum breaker can be installed beyond the last valve to allow air
entry downstream when pressure falls. A pressure vacuum breaker has an
atmospheric vent valve that is internally loaded by a spring. This valve is unsuitable
for fertigation systems operated by an external source of energy. Vacuum breakers
are effective only against back-siphonage and do not prevent back-pressure.
A dual check valve assembly has two
check valves in tandem, loaded by a
spring or weight. The device is
installed upstream from the injection
system and is effective against Back-
flow caused by both back-pressure Fig. 11.10. Tandem back-flow preventer
and back-siphonage.
A reduced pressure Back-flow preventer is also consisted of two internally loaded
check valves separated by a reduced pressure zone. When pressure downstream is
higher than the pressure upstream, water is released to the atmosphere and does
not flow backwards.
Many fertilizers are corrosive. Some of them may be toxic, carcinogenic or
inflammable. Dealing with fertilizers commits caution measures.
a. When dealing with fertilizers, one has to wear protective clothes and to use
goggles, gloves and boots;
b. When diluting acids, the acid has to be poured slowly into a great amount of
water, to avoid heating and boiling of the solution. Water will be never
poured into the acid;


c. Some of the fertilizers are inflammable. No weeds and garbage are allowed in
the injection site and storage vicinity;
The Chemical Aspects of Fertigation
The Nutrition Elements
Fifteen chemical elements are regarded as essential nutrition elements for plants.
Three of them: oxygen, carbon and hydrogen are acquired from the atmosphere
(CO2) and from cleavage of water (H2O) molecules. These elements are the main
constituents of the organic matter in the plants.
The rest 12 elements are classified in two groups, related to their content in plant
Recently, Since the beginning of using desalinated water and inert artificial growing
beds in agriculture, deficiency symptom of sodium, chlorine and nickel, appeared.
The amount of these elements in ordinary agriculture on natural soil and irrigation
water is sufficient for crop requirement. Actually, Sodium and chlorine, frequently
exist in excessive levels that cause salinity damage to crops.
Table 11.1. The nutrition elements
Carbon (C), Oxygen (O), Hydrogen (H) – Incorporated from the air and from the water
Nitrogen (N) Zinc (Zn)
Phosphorous (P) Manganese (Mg)
Potassium (K) Copper (Cu)
Calcium (Ca) Molybdenum (Mo)
Magnesium (Mg)
Sulfur (S)
ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS: Sodium (Na), Chlorine (Cl), Nickel (Ni)

Content of the Nutrition Elements in Plants

The average concentration (per dry weight) in plants, indicates the amount of the
nutrients requested for adequate growth and development.
Table 11.2. Average content of nutrition elements in plants – per dry weight


Carbon 44.0% Nitrogen 1.5% Iron 100 ppm

Hydrogen 6.0% Phosphorous 0.2% Manganese 50 ppm
Oxygen 44.0% Potassium 1.0% Zinc 20 ppm
Calcium 0.5% Boron 20 ppm
Magnesium 0.2% Copper 6 ppm
Sulfur 0.1% Molybdenum 0.1 ppm
Chlorine 0.2% Nickel 0.5 ppm


Interaction between Fertilizers and Irrigation Water

When fertilizer solution is injected into the irrigation water, the cations and anions that
compose the fertilizer react with the cations and anions inherent in the water. Some
reactions may create insoluble compounds that precipitate and may clog filters and
emitters. That mostly happens with phosphoric fertilizers injected into calcium and
magnesium rich water (hard water) of high pH level.
Irrigation water contains dissolved chemical elements. The most prevalent are:
chlorine (as chloride Cl-), sodium (Na+), calcium (Ca++), magnesium (Mg++), bi-
carbonate (HCO3-), sulfur (as sulfate SO4=) and iron (Fe++). These chemical ions may
interact with the nutrition elements, creating precipitations or decomposing nutrient
compounds. The injected nutrition elements may also change the pH of the water.
Interactions between Fertilizers
When fertilizers are mixed in water they may interact with each other. Four patterns
of interaction may occur:
1. Precipitation;
2. Decomposition;
3. Antagonism;
4. Synergism.
Antagonism and synergism may occur between ions. Generally, ions of the same
type of electrical charge (+ or -) are antagonistic to each other and compete in uptake
by roots and in bio-reactions in the plant. The most prevailing examples: high level of
potassium induces magnesium deficiency and vice versa. Similar impact is created
by excess ammonium that interferes with magnesium and calcium uptake. Excess
iron interferes with manganese absorption and vice versa.
Between ions with different sign, may Table 11.3. Electric charges of nutrients
exist synergism – positive impact on
each other. For example, simultaneous CATIONS ANIONS
presence of potassium and nitrate in Ammonium NH4+ Nitrate NO3-
solution increases the uptake of both Potassium K+ Phosphate H2PO4-
ions. Calcium Ca++ HPO4=
Chelates of iron, zinc and manganese Magnesium Mg++ Sulfate SO4=
may decompose when mixed with acid Iron Fe++ Molybdate MoO4=
fertilizers. Fe+++
Zinc Zn++ Borate B4O7=
The chemical aspects have to be
Manganese Mn++
considered when nutrient application
Copper Cu++
with fertigation is scheduled.
Sodium Na+ Chloride Cl-


Fertilizers Used in Fertigation

Fertilizers are chemical compounds. A fertilizer may contain a single nutrient or more
than one nutrition element. In chemical terms, there are simple fertilizers, made of
one chemical compound (may contain more than one nutrient – example: potassium
nitrate KNO3). Compound fertilizers are composed of more than one chemical
compound, example: Urean is composed of urea and ammonium nitrate CO(NH2)2 +
NH4NO3. The Urean is a compound fertilizer, although it contains only one nutrient –
Fertilizers can be characterized according to the below presented characteristics.
a. Nutrients content and forms;
b. State of the matter;
c. Solubility;
d. Reaction (pH);
e. Interaction with irrigation water;
f. Contribution to salinity;
g. Hygroscopicity;
h. Volatilization;
i. Color.
Nutrients content and Forms
By convention, fertilizer manufacturers designate fertilizers according to the content
of the primary essential nutrition elements: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in
percent per weight in order from left to right: NPK. In this practice, Ammonium sulfate
is designated as 21-0-0 (it contains also 24% of sulfur that is not accounted) and
potassium nitrate – 13-0-46. It is worthwhile to mention that regarding phosphorous
and potassium the given values are not of the pure element, but of its oxide. For
phosphorous – P2O5 and for Potassium – K2O. Fertilizers containing all the three
NPK elements are regarded as complete fertilizers.
Some nutrients appear in different chemical forms. This fact has to be considered.
The different forms have different impact on uptake rate, solution pH, precipitation
and volatilization. Nutrient form can influence transport and biochemical reactions in
the plant. Nitrogen appears as Ammonium cation – NH4+, nitrate anion – NO3- and
urea – neutral molecule CO(NH2)2.
State of the Matter
Commercial Fertilizers appear in three states of matter:
a. Solid;
b. Solution;
c. Liquefied gas.
Fertilizers used in fertigation are manufactured in two states of matter: soluble solids
and solutions.
Solid Fertilizers:
Solid fertilizers are available in granular or powdery form. Solid fertilizers for
fertigation have to be completely soluble. They can be simple or compound.
Ammonium sulfate is an example of a simple fertilizer. Compound fertilizers can be
complete or non-complete. Complete fertilizers include nitrogen, phosphorus and


potassium, for example - 20-20-20, 18-18-18. They may also include additional
nutrients such as magnesium and microelements. Non-complete fertilizers include
just one or two of the NPK elements, such as mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP), or
mono-potassium phosphate (MKP).
Fertilizer Solutions.
These are true solutions, compatible with all fertigation technologies. Liquid fertilizers
can be simple, or compound. For example, nitric acid and phosphoric acid are simple
fertilizers. Compound fertilizer solutions, can be complete, for example 7-3-7, 5-3-8.
or non-complete, for example ammonium phosphate 8-24-0. Sometimes they may
include additional nutrients such as magnesium and microelements.
Table 11.4. Cardinal fertilizers used in fertigation

Compound SoM* Formula N-% P2O5 K2O Ad.**

Ammonium sulfate Solid (NH4)2SO4 21 0 0 24% S
Ammonium nitrate Solid NH4NO3 34 0 0
Ammonium nitrate aq. Liquid NH4NO3 21 0 0
Nitric acid 60% aq. Liquid HNO3 13 0 0
Urea Solid CO(NH2)2 46 0 0
Urea aq. Liquid CO(NH2)2 21 0 0
Urean aq. Liquid NH4NO3+CO(NH2)2 32-35 0 0
Urea phosphate Solid CO(NH2)2+ H3PO4 17 44 0
Urea phosphate aq. Liquid CO(NH2)2+ H3PO4 aq. 7 18 0
Calcium nitrate Solid Ca(NO3)2 15.5 0 0 19% Ca
Calcium nitrate aq. Liquid Ca(NO3)2 7.5 0 0 10.7% Ca
Calcium magnesium nitrate Solid Ca(NO3)2+ Mg(NO3)2 13.5 0 0 7% Ca
3.6% Mg
Potassium nitrate Solid KNO3 13 0 46
Potassium nitrate aq. Liquid KNO3 4 0 12
Potassium chloride Solid KCl 0 0 61 47% Cl
Potassium chloride aq. Liquid KCl 0 0 15 11.5% Cl
Potassium sulfate Solid K2SO4 0 0 51 18% S
Mono-ammonium- Solid NH4H2PO4 12 61 0
Di-ammonium-phosphate Solid (NH4)2HPO4 18 46 0
Phosphoric acid 85% aq. Liquid H3PO4 0 61 0
Mono-potassium-phosphate Solid KH2PO4 0 52 34
Di-potassium-phosphate Solid K2HPO4 0 40 52
Magnesium nitrate Solid Mg(NO3)2 11 0 0 9.6% Mg
Magnesium nitrate 70% aq. Liquid Mg(NO3)2 6.3 0 0 5.8% Mg
Magnesium sulfate Solid MgSO4 0 0 0 9.1% Mg
14% S


* SoM = State of the matter

** Ad. = Additional chemical elements
The fertilizers listed in the table, are the most prevailing chemicals used in fertigation
discretely or mixed. They are the building blocks for hundreds of fertilizers found in
the market with diverse nutrient concentrations and properties.
Some of the compound fertilizers, contain, in addition to macro elements also micro-
elements. The metallic micro-elements: iron, zinc, manganese and copper, mostly
appear as chelates. Chelate is an metalo-organic compound, composed of a ligand -
the organic constituent, tied to metallic cation by strong coordinative bonds. The
metal is enveloped by the ligand, protected from precipitation and oxidation. The
chelate is highly soluble, easily moves in soil solution, in the plant and uptaken by the
root. In this structure, the metals are better available to the plant than as in mineral
compounds. Chelates are sensitive to some environmental states - pH, temperature
and sunlight.
Iron is the most prevalent microelement in deficiency. It can be applied as ferrous
sulfate (FeSO4) or in a chelated form. Ferrous sulfate contains about 20% iron. When
applied to soil of pH above 7.0, its iron quickly oxidized to Fe3+ and precipitates as
iron oxide.
Iron chelates stabilize the iron and protect it from oxidation and precipitation. they
consist of three components:
• Fe cations;
• An organic complex, such as EDTA, DTPA,
EDDHA, amino acids, humic-fluivic acids,
citrate, etc.;
• Sodium (Na+) or ammonium (NH4+) cations. Fig. 11.11. Iron chelation
Different chelates hold iron ions in different
strengths at different pH levels. They also defer in
their susceptibility to iron replacement by
competitive cations. At high concentrations, calcium
or magnesium cations may replace the chelated
metal ion.
Fe-EDTA (Fe-Ethylene Diamine Tetra Acetic acid)
is stable at pH below 6.0. Above pH of 6.5, nearly
50% of the iron is unavailable. Therefore this
chelate is ineffective in alkaline soils. EDTA is highly
Fig. 11.12. Iron chelate stability in
stable chelate of other micro-elements - zinc,
changing pH levels
manganese and copper, even in high pH levels.
Fe-DTPA (Fe-Diethylene Triamine Pentaacetic Acid) is stable in pH levels of up to
7.0, and is not as susceptible like EDTA to iron replacement by calcium.
Fe-EDDHA [Fe-Ethylene Diamine-N,N'-bis(2-Hydroxyphenylacetic Acid)] is stable at pH
levels as high as 11.0. It is the most stable iron chelate
The solubility of chemicals in water is temperature dependent. Commonly, the higher
the temperature, the higher the solubility.


The data in Table 11.4. demonstrates the solubility at different temperatures. In

wintertime, some liquid fertilizers become over-saturated, due to temperature
decrease and some excess salt precipitates out. The fertilizer solutions should be
diluted before the advent of the temperature drop, by dilution with 20% water. The
dilution decreases the nutrients concentration in the solution and the injection rate
have to be increased accordingly.

Table 11.5. The influence of temperature on the solubility of fertilizers (grams of fertilizer in 1
liter of distilled water)

Compound Formula 00C 100C 200C 300C

Urea CO(NH2)2 680 850 1060 1330
Ammonium nitrate NH4NO3 1183 1580 1950 2420
Ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4 706 730 750 780
Calcium nitrate Ca(NO3)2 1020 1240 1294 1620
Potassium nitrate KNO3 130 210 320 460
Potassium sulfate K2SO4 70 90 110 130
Potassium chloride KCl 280 310 340 370
Di-potassium-phosphate K2HPO4 1328 1488 1600 1790
Mono-potassium-phosphate KH2PO4 142 178 225 274
Mono-ammonium-phosphate NH4H2PO4 227 295 374 464
Di-ammonium-phosphate (NH4)2HPO4 429 628 692 748
Magnesium chloride MgCl2 528 540 546 568
Magnesium soleplate MgSO4 260 308 356 405

Fertilizer Reaction (pH)

Fertilizer solutions have a pH range from 4 to 9 (Table 11.5.). Those having a pH
ranging between 6.6 and 7.3, are regarded neutral, those having a pH ranging
between 3.5 and 6.5, are regarded slightly acid, while those having a pH below 3.5,
like phosphoric and nitric acids are regarded strongly acidic.
Table 11.6.: pH and EC of some fertilizers at the Table 11.7. pH ratings
concentration of 1 g/l of distilled water
Fertilizer pH EC Rating pH range
Potassium chloride 6.5 1.67 Moderately acid 3.5-6.0
Ammonium sulfate 5.4 1.06 Slightly acid 6.1-6.5
Urea 8.0 0.001 neutral 6.6-7.3
Liquid ammonium nitrate 6.6 0.87 mildly alkaline 7.4-7.8
Potassium nitrate 8.5 1.0 Moderately 7.9-8.4
Mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) 4.0 1.0 alkaline
Mono-potassium phosphate (MKP) 4.5-5.0 0.75 Strongly acid 8.5-9.0


The pH value of solid fertilizers is measured in solutions prepared by dissolving one

gram of the fertilizer in one liter of distilled water. The pH values of solid fertilizers are
used for comparison of fertilizers' impact on the ph of irrigation water, soil solution
and corrosivity.
Interaction of the Injected Chemicals with Irrigation Water
Injected fertilizers, acids, bio-acids and chlorine, may react with the irrigation water
and create new compounds that may precipitate solids in the irrigation system.
• Common sources of chlorine used in micro irrigation are oxidizing agents that
raise water pH. This may result in precipitation of calcium and magnesium
carbonates, iron oxide (rust), etc.
• Mixing of chelates with acid solutions of a pH lower than 3.5, is precluded. The
chelates will decompose and lose their protective capacity for the metals.
• Phosphate-containing fertilizers react with the metals, creating compounds of
low solubility which will precipitate, losing the availability of the metals to the
• Polyphosphate-containing fertilizers react with calcium and magnesium cations,
forming precipitates that clog filters and emitters.
• In calcium-rich water, sulfate-containing fertilizers precipitate gypsum. Since the
solubility of gypsum decreases with a rise in temperature, the problem is
aggravated in summertime.
• Alkaline solutions, like urea, precipitate lime (calcium carbonate) from water rich
in calcium and bicarbonate (HCO3-) ions. To avoid, or at least minimize, the
precipitation which might clog emitters, it is recommended to add acid to the
• In some humid regions, irrigation water contains heavy metals and organic
matter which react with fertilizers in solution, creating precipitates in the
irrigation systems.
For these reasons, the "jar test" is recommended. The chemicals to be injected
should be dissolved in a sample of the irrigation water, both at the temperature of the
water at the source and at the temperature which might be attained in the laterals
(particularly important for on-surface polyethylene laterals). Stock solutions of the
chemical should be mixed in a glass jar with a water sample at the planned
concentration in the irrigation water and allowed to settle overnight. Any observed
precipitate or turbidity, indicates potential emitter clogging risk. Acid addition or using
a different fertilizer should be considered.
• Corrosion of metallic components in the irrigation and injection system can be a
serious problem. Most chemicals, both solids and liquids, are corrosive. All the
parts that come in contact with the injected chemicals, should be made of
corrosion resistant materials. The problem is aggravated in mixing tanks
where fertilizer solutions are concentrated.
• The injection appliances and the irrigation system should be thoroughly flushed
after each injection of chemicals.
Contribution to Salinity
With the exception of urea, all the liquid fertilizers are salt solutions that increase the
salinity of the irrigation water. Salt concentration in irrigation water is measured by


means of an electric resistance bridge. The electrical conductivity (EC) of the solution
is measured between two standard electrodes having an area of one square
centimeter each, the distance between them being one centimeter.
EC expresses ionic activity. There is a direct relation between the concentration of
dissolved salts, expressed in milliequivalents/liter and the EC of the solution. Each
10 milliequivalents of salt per liter contribute one decisiemens per meter (dS/m to
EC). Values of EC are determined in solutions of one gram of liquid fertilizers
dissolved in one liter of distilled water. The increase in EC versus the increase in the
fertilizer solution concentration is not linear.
The EC of an irrigation water sample can be used to estimate the potential for soil
salinity problems. Soils are regarded saline when the EC is higher than 4 dS/m. Salt-
sensitive crops may suffer in soil EC values of 2 dS/m or somewhat below,
depending upon management practices.
Hygroscopicity (Moisture Absorption):
Solid fertilizers have the propensity to absorb moisture from the atmosphere,
resulting in formation of clods. Some manufacturers add to solid fertilizers, additives
to prevent this phenomenon. Most of these additives are insoluble in water and may
clog the filters and/or the emitters, when such fertilizers are injected into the irrigation
Fertilizers containing urea and/or ammonium may vaporize nitrogen to the
atmosphere due to ammonia volatilization. These fertilizers should be stored in
sealed containers. Acidification of the solution may reduce nitrogen volatilization.
Color Table 11.8 Equivalent weights – gr.
The color of most solid Cations Anions
fertilizers is white to gray. Most Ca++
20.04 -
Cl 35.46
liquid fertilizers are colorless.
Liquid fertilizers containing Mg++ 12.16 SO4- 48.03
phosphoric acid have a Na+ 23.0 HCO3- 61.0
yellowish to brown color, K+ 39.1 NO3- 62.0
depending on the NH4+ 18.0 H2PO4- 97.0
concentration of the acid.
Table 11.9. Conversion Factors
From To Multiply by From To Multiply by
P2O5 P 0.44 CaO Ca 0.71
P P2O5 2.3 Ca CaCO3 2.5
PO4 P 0.33 NO3 N-NO3 0.23
P PO4 3.076 N-NO3 NO3 4.4
K2O K 0.83 NH4 N-NH4 0.82
K K2O 1.2 N NH4 1.28
CaCO3 Ca 0.4 Mg MgO 1.66
Ca CaO 1.40 MgO Mg 0.60


Physiological Aspects of Fertigation

An important advantage of fertigation is the capability of synchronization of nutrient
supply with crop demand. That is related to the amounts and the ratio between
nutrition elements.
Hundreds of laboratory and field
experiments accomplished by
researchers and extension
workers yielded nutrient
consumption curves for most of
the important crops in different
growth conditions – climate,
growing bed, season, etc. In
consumption curve, the optimal
nutrient consumption is plotted
versus the crop age. Fig. 11.13. Nutrient consumption curves of greenhouse
tomatoes From "Haifa" user guide
Additional advantage of
fertigation is the continuous supply of nutrients into the rhizosphere. The supply of
the growth hormones - the cytokinins, from the roots to the canopy, affect the rate of
cell division and expansion. Temporary decrease in the supply of these hormones
due to water or nutrient deficiency, decrease enzymes activity, shoot elongation and
fruit expansion rates.
In Field experiments in orchard,
it was found that continuous high
and balanced nutrient availability
in the root-zone, brought-about
to increased number of fruits per
tree, enlarged leaf area and
higher mineral leaf content that
resulted in bigger fruit size and
higher yield.
In harsh soil conditions –
inadequate aeration and high
sodium content, frequent drip
irrigation (5 times a day) with Fig. 11.14. Frequent fertigation in mango (right) vs.
continuous, balanced fertigation, control (left)
enabled Mango trees to overcome the difficulties, to grow normally and yield high
weight of fruits.
The Impact of The Applied Nitrogen Form on The Plant
Nitrogen appears in fertilizers in three chemical forms:
a. Nitrate - NO -;
b. Ammonium; - NH4+
c. Urea - CO(NH2)2.
Nitrogen is the building block of amino acids, proteins and the chlorophyll. Plants can
absorb nitrogen either as Nitrate (NO3-) or Ammonium (NH4+). Since in fertigation,
nutrient supply is frequent, the plant absorbs most of the nitrogen in its genuine form
in the fertilizer, apart from urea that is converted into ammonium in the soil solution.


The ratio between Ammonium and Nitrate is of a great significance, and affects both
plants and soil/medium. For optimal uptake and growth, each plant species requires
a different ammonium/nitrate ratio. The correct ratio to be applied varies with
temperature, growth stage, pH in the root zone and soil properties.
The two nitrogen forms are metabolized differently:
Ammonium metabolism consumes much more oxygen than metabolism of Nitrate.
The ammonium is metabolized in the roots, where it reacts with sugars. These
sugars have to be delivered from their production site in the leaves, down to the
Nitrate is transported up to the leaves, where it is reduced to ammonium and then
reacts with sugars. At higher temperatures the plant's respiration is increased,
consuming sugars faster, making them less available for ammonium metabolism in
the roots. At the same time, at high temperatures, Oxygen solubility in water is
decreased, making it less available as well. Therefore, at high temperatures, lower
Ammonium/Nitrate ratio is imperative.
At lower temperatures, ammonium nutrition is beneficial. Oxygen and sugars are
more available at the roots. Additionally, the transport of Nitrate to the leaves is
restricted at low temperatures.
The ammonium/nitrate Ratio affects the pH level in the Root Zone. Since electrical
balance in the root cells must be maintained, for each positively charged ion that is
taken up, a positively charged ion is released into the soil solution. The same occurs
with negatively charged ions.
When the plant takes up ammonium (NH4+), it releases a proton (H+) to the soil
solution. That decreases the pH level around the roots. When the plant takes up
Nitrate (NO3-) it releases bicarbonate (HCO3-), which increases the pH around the
This phenomena is especially important in soil-less media, where the roots may
easily affect the medium pH because their volume is relatively large compared with
the medium's volume. To prevent rapid changes in pH, an appropriate
Ammonium/Nitrate ratio have to be kept according to the cultivar, temperature and
the growing stage.
In order to fully benefit of fertigation advantages the applied fertilizer amount, the
ratio between the nutrition elements, fertilizer concentration in the injected and the
time- length of application have to be precisely calculated.
For that purpose we can use several simple equations as is depicted downward:
a. Injector Discharge
Eq. 11.1

ID - Injector discharge (l/h);
A - Plot area (Ha.);
FD - Fertilizer dose (L/Ha.);
T - Application duration (h);


b. Conversion of Nutrient Amount to Quantity of Commercial Fertilizer

Eq. 11.2

Qc - Quantity of commercial fertilizer (kg);
NU - Nutrient amount (kg);
P% - Percentage (per weight) of the nutrient in the commercial fertilizer (%).
Nu = 50 kg. N
The fertilizer used is ammonium sulfate that contains 21% N

c. Conversion of Weight of Liquid Fertilizer into Volume

Measuring quantities of liquid fertilizer by volume is often more convenient than by

Eq. 11.3

Vc - Volume of the liquid commercial fertilizer (l) to be applied;
Qc - Quantity of commercial fertilizer in weight units (kg);
Sd - Specific density of the liquid fertilizer (kg/l).
Qc - The weight of ammonium nitrate to be applied = 250 kg.
Sd - The Specific density of the ammonium nitrate solution = 1.27 kg per liter

d. Combination of Two Fertilizers

Simultaneous application of two or more nutrients requires mixing two or more
commercial fertilizers

Eq. 11.4

Qa - Quantity of fertilizer a (kg) to be applied;
Qb - Quantity of fertilizer b (kg) to be applied;
Nu1 - Quantity of nutrient 1 (kg) to be applied;
Nu2 - Quantity of nutrient 2 (kg) to be applied;
Nu1a% - Concentration of nutrient 1 in fertilizer a (% weight);
Nu2a% - Concentration of nutrient 2 in fertilizer a (% weight);
Nu2b% - Concentration of nutrient 2 in fertilizer b (% weight).


Nu1 = 50 kg N
Nu2 = 50 kg K2O
Fertilizer a = KNO3 (13-0-46):
Nu1a% = 13 (13% N)
Nu2a% = 46 (46% K2O)
Qa = 50kg/46% (50/46 x 100) = 108.7 kg.
That amount of KNO3 contains:
Nu1a (N) = 108.7 kg x 13% = 14.1 kg. N
Nu1b (N) needed in the complementary fertilizer = 50 kg – 14.1 kg = 35.9 kg.
Fertilizer b = NH4NO3 (21-0-0)
Qb = 35.9 kg/21% = 35.9 / 21 x 100 = 170.8 kg.
e. Required Dilution Ratio
The required dilution ratio is calculated for adjusting the ratio between the quantity of
irrigation water applied and the amount of the injected fertilizer solution.

Eq. 11.5

Dr - Dilution ratio
Fnc - Final nutrient concentration in irrigation water w/v (mg/l)
Nuc - Nutrient concentration in fertilizer stock solution w/v (%)
Fnc = 50 mg/L N
Nuc = 26.7% N = 267 g/L = 267,000 mg/L



Water Head
In pressurized irrigation systems, water is maintained under pressure. The water
pressure is a key factor in these systems' performance. For sake of convenience in
calculation, the term head, is preferred in dealing with pressure in irrigation systems.
Water head is actually the potential (or the free energy) that the water retains to
accomplish work. The work done is mostly the delivery of water from one point to
another through the irrigation network. The water potential is related to a reference
point. By definition, the reference point is the atmospheric pressure at sea level at
standard ambient temperature (250C).
Pressure can be expressed in different unit systems.
Table 12.1. Pressure and water potential units


Pressure / water potential Bar =100 Centibars 0.99 Atm.
Pressure / water potential Atmosphere (Atm) ≈100 Centibars 1.01 Bar
Pressure / water potential Kilopascal (kPa) = 1000 Pascal 0.01 Bar=1 Centibar
Head Meter =100 cm 0.1 Atm. ~ 0.1 Bar
Pressure / water potential PSI ≈0.068 Atm. ≈0.68 m

As mentioned before, for simplicity and convenience in irrigation systems design, the
preferred unit is the dynamic head, expressed in meters (m) height of water column.
This unit designation incorporates the effects of topography and friction losses in pipes
on the dynamic head, at each point of the irrigation system. Water dynamic head can
be referred to as the hydraulic potential energy of the water.
Water flowing in pipes loses energy by friction with pipe walls and other components of
the irrigation system. The friction losses are classified in two categories:
a. Longitudinal Friction Losses (hf): arise from the friction of the water with the
pipe walls. The losses accumulate along the pipe;
b. Local Losses (ht): are created by the turbulence that occurs by sudden
changes in the flow direction and pattern, as in abrupt change in pipe
diameter, the flow through a valve or a filter, bends in the pipeline, etc. These
losses are local but have to be taken into account and added to the
longitudinal losses.
The total water head, measured at a specific point of the irrigation system, is
composed of three ingredients:
Elevation Head (z)
Elevation head is derived from the topographic position, the relative height of a given
point above or below a point of reference. For example, if the main valve in the plot is
positioned 5 m. higher than the distal end of the plot, the measured static head at the
distal end will be 5 m higher than the static head measured at that valve. Static head is
the pressure measured at a point in the water system when no water flow is taking

Dynamic Head
The dynamic head is the head measured in a certain point in the irrigation system,
when water flow. The requested total dynamic head at the water source, is the sum of
the operating pressure, the friction head-losses within the irrigation system, the
topographic difference between the water source and the last emitter and the pumping
lift, if applicable. In a properly designed irrigation system, the total dynamic head
should be the same in each concurrently irrigating subunit to ensure uniform water
distribution in the irrigated sub-plots.
Velocity Head
Flowing water has kinetic energy (velocity head) represented by V2/2g where V is the
velocity expressed in m/sec and g is the gravitational constant 9.81 m/sec2.
The velocity head can be expressed in m. units. Squaring V by itself (V x V = V2)
results in units of m2/sec2 which divided by g in m /sec2 units, expresses velocity head
in the same units as dynamic head, namely the virtual height of water column in m.
As mentioned before, head-losses result from friction between the pipe walls and the
water as it flows through the system. Obstacles - turns, bends, expansions and
contractions, etc., along the water flow route, increase head-losses.
The extent of head-losses is a function of the following variables:
a. Pipe length;
b. Pipe diameter;
c. Pipe wall smoothness;
d. Water flow-rate (discharge);
e. Water viscosity.
Friction Losses
As mentioned before, there are two types of friction losses:
Major (longitudinal) losses: losses in water flow along straight pipes.
Minor (local) losses: are created by the flow at bends and transitions in different
accessories. If the flow velocities are high through many bends and transitions in the
system, the minor losses can build-up and become substantial losses.
Longitudinal Friction Losses
The calculation of friction head-losses in pipes is based on the following data:
a. The friction coefficient (for convenience - C) of the pipe, which is a constant
value for a specific pipe and depends on the smoothness or roughness of the
inner surface of the pipe wall;
b. The internal pipe diameter d, the greater the diameter, the smaller the friction
losses in a given flow-rate;
c. Flow-rate Q, the greater the flow-rate, the greater the friction losses;
d. Pipe length L, the greater the length, the greater the friction losses.

The common equation used to calculate friction losses of water flow along a pipe is
known as the Hazen-Williams equation.
(Eq. 12.1)

J (‰) = head-loss (m. per 1000 m. length);
Q = flow-rate (m3/h);
C = friction coefficient (indicates inner pipe wall smoothness, the higher the C
coefficient, the lower the head-losses);
D = inner pipe diameter (mm), the wider the diameter, the lower the head-losses for a
given flow-rate.
The Hazen-Williams equation is valid in a narrow range of temperatures and flow
patterns. The friction coefficient C that depends on the smoothness of the internal
surface of the pipe wall may, decrease along time, due to corrosion in non-coated steel
pipes and accumulation of precipitates in all types of pipes.
In small diameter laterals, the Darcy-Weisbach equation gives more accurate results
in calculating head-losses. Most commonly it takes the following form:


Hf = Head-loss – m.;
FD = Darcy-Weisbach friction factor;
L = Pipe length – m.;
V = Flow velocity – m/sec;
D = Inner pipe diameter – m.;
g = gravitational acceleration (9.81 m/sec2).
Table 12.2. Friction coefficients

Pipe material FD - mm (Darcy-Weisbach) C (Hazen-Williams)

PVC and PE 0.0015 - 0.007 140-150

Asbestos-cement 0.3 130-140
New steel 0.045 – 0.09 110-120
5 year old steel 0.15 – 4.0 80-90
Steel with internal concrete 0.3 – 1.0 110-120
Concrete 0.3 – 5.0 90-100

Both the Hazen-Williams and Darcy-Weisbach equations include a parameter for the
smoothness of the internal surface of the pipe wall. In Hazen-Williams, it is the
dimension-less C coefficient and with Darcy-Weisbach - the roughness factor fD,
expressed in mm. In Hazen-Williams equation, as the C coefficient is higher, head-
losses will be lower. On the opposite, in the Darcy-Weisbach equation, higher values of
the friction factor fd indicate higher head-losses.
The head-losses can be expressed graphically by the slope of the Piezometric line along
the length of the flow path. In the category of friction losses, the Piezometric line declines
gradually and is depicted as a straight, sloping line, descending in the flow direction. An
abrupt, vertical decline of the Piezometric line expresses local losses.
There are no local losses at all
in section (1) - (2) of the pipe
shown in Fig. 12.1. The only
head-loss in this section is the
friction loss. This loss is
expressed by the incline of the
Piezometric line along the
section; the value of the head- Fig. 12.1. Graphic presentation of friction head
loss hf equals the drop of the
energy line in section (1)-(2). As there are no changes in the values of C, d and Q, the
value of the friction loss per a length unit is constant and increases uniformly in the flow
direction along the pipe. The friction loss per longitudinal unit (the hydraulic gradient) is
commonly expressed by the letter J. Its value is calculated by:

From Fig. 12.1., it is explicit that J is indeed the incline of the Piezometric line. It is
usually expressed in percentage (%), per-mil (0/oo), or in the form of a decimal fraction.
Example: if in Fig. 12.1
L = 100 m . , E1 = 101.5 m . , E2 = 100.0 m , Then:

J is the hydraulic gradient and is absolutely independent of the slope of the pipe!
Minor (local) Head-losses
Minor head-losses are expressed as an equivalent length factor that adds a virtual
length of straight pipe of the accessory's diameter to the length of the pipe under
Specific cases of local pressure losses:
Emitter Connecting Tubes Disturbance to Water Flow in Lateral
Some micro-emitters are connected to laterals by means of small diameter tubes with
barbed or screwed protrusions.
These protrusions disturb water flow in
the lateral and induce increased head-
losses. The rate of disturbance to the
flow is designated by the coefficient Kd.
The range of Kd is 0 – 2.00 (and
sometimes higher). As this value is
higher, head-losses increase. The Fig. 12.2. Feeding micro-tube connection
value of Kd depends on the size and
nature of the protrusion and the inner cross section of the lateral.
Head-losses in the Connecting Tubes
Micro-sprinklers and micro-jets are occasionally connected to the laterals by small
diameter micro tubes of 4 – 8 mm ND. The smaller cross-section may generate
considerable head-losses in relatively short tubes of 50 – 100 cm. Decrease of
pressure below the requested operation pressure may distort the optimal distribution
pattern of the emitters. To preclude excessive head-losses, emitters with a flow-rate
higher than 30 l/hour will be connected to the lateral with tubes having a minimum ND
of 6 mm.
Head-losses in Valves and Accessories
As mentioned before, head-losses in accessories are often designated as the losses in
equivalent length of a virtual pipe having the same diameter as the accessory.
Nomograms of head-losses as a function of flow-rate appear in commercial brochures
and manuals.
Certain producers designate a flow
factor to valves and similar
accessories. This value indicates the
flow-rate that creates head-losses of 10
m. (1 bar) while flowing through the

Kv – flow factor, m3/hour flow-rate with
head-loss of 1 bar;
Fig. 12.3. Head-losses in hydraulic valves
Q – flow-rate, m3/hour; (example)
∆p – pressure drop, bars.
Kv = 50; What is the head-loss when Q = 30 m3/h
Manipulation of Eq. 12.04: ∆p = (Q/Kv)2
∆p = (30/50)2 = (0.6)2 = 0.36 bar = 3.6 m.
Total Dynamic Head (TDH)
The total dynamic head that has to be created by the pump is the sum of the pumping
suction lift (the difference between water surface height at the source, and pump
height), the requested operating pressure in the emitters, and friction losses within the
irrigation system.
The energy consumed per pumped unit of irrigation water depends on the total
dynamic head output of the pump and its pumping efficiency. As mentioned above, the
total dynamic head depends on:
a. The vertical distance that the water is lifted;
b. The pressure required in the emitters' inlets;
c. The friction losses that are created by the water flow from the water
source through the pipelines and accessories such as valves and filters.
Pumping system efficiency depends upon the pump maintenance level, its power unit
effectiveness, and the efficiency of power transmission between them.

The power input required by the pump is calculated with the formula below:

(Eq. 12.5)

N = required input - HP;
Q = pump discharge – m3/h;
H = total dynamic head – m;
η = pump efficiency – expressed as a decimal fraction.
Q = 200m3; H = 150 m; η = 0.75.
N = 200 X 150/(270 X 0.75) = 148 HP
When measuring pressure, it should be recalled that the pressure gauges are
calibrated to read 0 (zero) at atmospheric pressure (about 1 bar). This is
important in the operation of devices such as Venturi suction injectors.
Operating Pressure
The operating pressure is the pressure required at the emitters to guarantee effective
performance and uniform water distribution. The range of the appropriate operating
pressure of the emitter is defined and published by the manufacturer in the user
operating manual. The type of emitter and its operating pressure have to be taken into
account in irrigation system design and irrigation scheduling. The design of the
distributing pipelines has to guarantee the appropriate operating pressure in the
The term ‘working pressure’ (PN) refers to the maximal allowed pressure in a
component of the irrigation system (pipe, filter, etc.) that will not result in damage to the
element by excessive pressure.
There are different procedures for calculation of head-losses. In the past, slide rulers
and nomograms were routinely used. Nowadays, most system designers use specific
software and on-line calculators.
Head-losses in distributing pipes with multiple outlets differ from head-losses in non-
distributing pipes. When using m. (meters) as head units, head-loss values are
expressed in % or ‰ of pipe length. The actual head-losses are obtained by
multiplying the percentage/ per-mil value by the pipe length (in m. units).
Christiansen friction factor (F) is used to calculate the head-losses in pipes with
multiple outlets such as distributing mains and sub-mains, manifolds and laterals. This
factor accounts for the decrease in flow along the lateral and depends upon the
number of outlets (N) and the exponent (m = 1.76) of the flow-rate (Q) in Hazen-
Williams equation. The formula for calculating this factor is as follows:
(Eq. 12.6)
For a lateral with more than 10 emitters, F ≈ 0.40 can be used regardless of the friction
loss formula utilized. The head-loss due to friction in laterals is then determined by:
(Eq. 12.7)

Where: Table 12.3. Multiple
Hf is the head-loss due to friction in the lateral; outlets factor F

Hp is the head-loss due to friction of the same flow-rate in a non- Number. F

distributing pipe of the same diameter and length. of outlets
As mentioned before, in laterals where connecting tubes are 1 1.00
inserted, molded inside or nailed with the stem protruding into
the inner cavity of the lateral, the protrusions disturb the water 5 0.410
flow and increase the head-losses. These additional head- 10 0.384
losses are designated by Kd – the disturbance coefficient. The
values range from zero to 2.0 and higher. When these values 20 0.373
are high, the disturbance to flow and the derived head-losses 40 0.368
are substantial and commits a shorter lateral length.
100 0.366
Hydraulic Characteristics of Emitters
Pressure variations affect differently the flow-rate of various emitter types. The effect
depends on design and construction. The relationship between the operating pressure
and the flow-rate of the emitter is calculated using the following equation:
(Eq. 12.8)

Q = emitter flow-rate – l/h;
k = emitter discharge coefficient – depends on the configuration of the water path in
the emitter and the units of pressure and flow-rate;
P = Pressure at the emitter's inlet – m.;
x = emitter discharge
exponent. Table 12.4. Effect of the emitter discharge exponent on
The emitter discharge pressure – flow-rate relationship
exponent, determined by the
Exponent 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8
water passageway pattern,
indicates the relationship Pressure Flow-rate change - %
between the pressure and the change - %
flow-rate of the emitter. The 10 3.9 4.8 5.9 6.9 7.9
range of emitter exponents is 0 20 7.6 9.5 11.6 13.6 15.7
– 1. in most sprinklers the
30 11.1 14.0 17.1 20.2 23.3
exponent is roughly 0.5.
40 14.4 18.3 22.3 26.6 30.9
The larger the emitter 50 17.6 22.5 27.5 32.8 38.3
exponent, the more sensitive is
the flow-rate to pressure variations. A value of 1 means that for each percentage
change in pressure, there is an identical percentage change in flow-rate. An exponent
value of 0 (zero) means that the emitter's flow-rate is not affected by pressure
changes. That happens in compensated emitters above the regulating pressure
Calculation of Head-losses
As mentioned before, slide rulers, tables, nomograms, hand-held and on-line
calculators as well as specific software can be used to calculate head-losses.

Technical Data
Manufacturers publish tables and nomograms showing the head-losses in their
products. Sprinkler and micro-emitters producers provide detailed technical data in
catalogs or on-line, about the flow-rate - pressure relationships of their emitters. Valve
producers use the Kv Flow Factor that designates the discharge of the valve in m3/h
units at 10 m (1 bar) head-loss.
These data should be used for determining lateral length and the pressure required at
the lateral inlet. In taking decisions, the rule of maximum allowed flow-rate difference
below 10% between emitters in a simultaneously irrigated area has to be followed.
Manufacturers provide tables indicating the acceptable lateral length in a plateau and
selected slopes for a given emitter and lateral combination that keeps the head
difference in the allowed range of ± 5% around the average flow-rate.
Pressure Measurement
An adequate pressure regime in the irrigated area is
a prerequisite for optimal irrigation. Each type of
emitter has its appropriate pressure range in which
the water distribution is satisfactory. Deviation from
the allowed range, decreases the efficiency of water
application. The pressure can be measured at fixed
points with mounted pressure gauges or by portable
pressure gauges that are fitted to measure the
pressure in sprinkler nozzles. Another device is a
portable pressure gauge, equipped with a needle that
can be inserted into particular nipples that have been
installed on specific accessories in the irrigation
system like elbows, plugs, fertigation devices, etc.
Fig. 12.4. Pressure measurement
Calculation of Longitudinal Head-losses
The calculation of the predicted head-losses is essential in the design of a new
irrigation system. It is particularly important in the comparison of the actual
performance of the irrigation system with the designed performance.
The discharge of the emitter is related to the pressure according to the formula:

(Eq. 12.9)

Q = Emitter discharge, m3/h;
P = Pressure in the emitter inlet, bar;
d = Nozzle's nominal diameter, mm;
C = Coefficient dependent on the emitter's structure. Its average value is 0.9.

Table 12.5. Head-losses in non-distributing aluminum pipes, m. head per 100 m. of pipe length
(without outlets)
Discharge Nominal Diameter
m 3/h 2” 3” 4” 6” 8”
2 0.32 0.02
3 0.71 0.09 0.01
4 1.24 0.16 0.03
6 1.89 0.23 0.05
8 3.54 0.44 0.09
10 5.69 0.72 0.17
15 13.32 1.66 0.39 0.03
20 20.95 2.62 0.63 0.07 0.01
30 49.50 6.07 1.40 0.19 0.04
35 63.00 7.82 1.82 0.23 0.05
40 9.70 2.28 0.30 0.06
45 11.71 2.78 0.37 0.08
50 14.39 3.36 0.44 0.10
55 17.02 3.94 0.51 0.12
60 21.18 4.90 0.60 0.15
80 34.50 8.05 1.06 0.26
90 44.60 10.42 1.36 0.33
100 12.90 1.68 0.40
120 19.31 2.58 0.58
150 29.90 3.89 0.92
180 5.02 1.20
200 6.23 1.50
250 9.18 2.19
300 14.60 3.48
350 18.90 4.51
400 5.11
425 6.14
450 6.85

The calculation of head-losses can be carried out with the Hazen-Williams formula. In
the past, tables, nomograms, slide-rules and computer software were used to
determine head-losses. Today the determination is done with specified software, with
online calculators and smart phone applications
L = 500 m., Q = 60 m3/h, d = 6”
It is found in the table above that at flow-rate of 60 m3/h in 6” aluminum pipe, the head-loss
is 0.6 m. per 100 m. length (0.6%). The head-loss in 500 m. length will be 0.6 X 500/100 = 3
Head-losses in Laterals
The results obtained from the tables and the nomograms relate to a pipe without
outlets. Discharge of water from outlets along the pipe decreases the accumulating
total head-loss in the pipe, compared with a non-distributing pipe. The calculation of
the head-losses along the pipe can be done incrementally between the outlets.
A shortened procedure facilitates the calculation of the head-losses in laterals by the
multiplication of the head-loss value in non-distributing pipes by the F coefficient. As
mentioned before, the value of the F coefficient depends upon the number of outlets
along the pipe and the distance of the first emitter from the inlet to the lateral. This
procedure is valid if the discharge of each emitter and the intervals between the
emitters along the lateral are uniform.
In table 12.6, (a more detailed version of Table 12.6. F Coefficient in laterals
table 12.3), the F coefficient in laterals is Number of X= X = 1/2
presented. X=1 indicates that the distance
Emitters 1
between the sub-main/manifold and the first
1 1.0 1.0
emitter is equal to the intervals between the 2 0.625 0.500
emitters along the lateral. X=1/2, indicates 3 0.518 0.422
that the distance between the sub-main and 4 0.469 0.393
the first emitter is half of the distance 5 0.440 0.378
between the emitters along the lateral. 6 0.421 0.369
7 0.408 0.363
Example: 8 0.398 0.358
9 0.391 0.355
L = 114 m. distance from the sub-main to the 10 0.385 0.353
first sprinkler 6 m. Intervals between sprinklers 11 0.380 0.351
– 12 m. d = 2”, Sprinkler discharge – 1.5 m3/h. 12 0.378 0.349
What will be the head-loss in the lateral? 13 0.373 0.348
14 0.370 0.347
The number of sprinklers along the lateral is 15 0.367 0.346
10. 114m. – 6m. of the initial section = 108m. 16 0.365 0.345
108m./12m. (The interval between the 17 0.363 0.344
sprinklers) = 9 segments = 10 sprinklers. 18 0.361 0.343
19 0.360 0.343
The total nominal discharge of the lateral: 1.5 20 0.359 0.342
m3/h X 10 = 15 m3/h. 22 0.357 0.341
24 0.355 0.341
The head-loss in non-distributing 2” lateral will 26 0.353 0.340
be (from table 10.5): 28 0.351 0.340
30 0.350 0.339
For 100 m. length 13.32 m. 40 0.345 0.338
For 114 m . length: 1 3 . 3 2 m . X 114/100 50 0.343. 0.337
=1 5 . 1 8 m. 100 0.338 0.337
>100 0.333 0.335
From table No. 10.6, the F coefficient for 10
emitters (third column, X=1/2) = 0.353. The
actual head-loss along the lateral is:
1 5 . 1 8 m . X 0.353 = 5.36m.
The F coefficient range is from 0.5 for two
outlets to 0.33 for more than 100 outlets.


Pressure and Topography

The topography in the field affects the pressure head in the irrigation system.
Elevation of 1 m. in topographic height decreases the pressure by 1 m. (0.1 atm.).
Downward decline of 1 m. increases the pressure by 1 m.
The head slope along the pipe can be expressed in %. That facilitates the calculation
of the combined effect of friction in pipes and topography in each point in the field.
Nomograms and Slide-rulers
In the past, the common practice of head-loss determination had been accomplished
by the use of nomograms, slide-rulers and manual calculators. Today, due the
advance in tech science, these assignment can be done with online calculators and
dedicated applications of smart phones.

Fig. 12.5. Slide-ruler for head-loss calculation in pipes

Head-losses in PVC and PE Pipes
The calculation procedure of head-losses in PVC and polyethylene pipes is the same
as that of aluminum pipes. Since the plastic pipes are designated by their nominal
external diameter, it is necessary to know the wall thickness. Knowing the external
diameter and wall thickness facilitates the calculation of the internal diameter and the
net cross-section area of the pipe. These values are required for the calculation of
head-losses according to the Hazen-Williams formula and for the use of the common
head-loss nomograms and calculators, in which the internal diameter is the related
As mentioned before, in plastic pipes, as the nominal working pressure is higher, the
wall thickness has to be greater and hence the internal diameter and the free cross-
section will be smaller.
For example, in PE pipes of 50 mm, with working pressure of 4, 6 and 8 bars, the
greatest internal diameter is in the grade 4 pipe and the smallest is in the grade 8
pipe. For the same flow-rate, the higher head-losses will occur in the 8-grade pipe
and the lower in the 4-grade pipe. Two distinct nomograms are given on page 236 for
the most prevalent PE pipe diameters of rigid (high density) and soft (low-density) PE
Calculation example: (using the Hazen-Williams nomogram)
The head-loss of a 3" aluminum sprinkler lateral with 16 sprinklers, positioned 12 m apart,
has to be calculated. The nominal (average) sprinkler flow-rate (discharge) is 1.5 m3/h; the
length of the lateral is 186 m. The friction coefficient [C] of the pipeline is 120.


The cumulative discharge
of 16 sprinklers with an
average discharge of 1.5
m3/h per sprinkler is 24
m3/h. A line is drawn in
the "Nomogram for The
Determination of the
Hydraulic Gradient in
Pipes" (to the right), from
the point A of 24 m3/h on
the flow-rate (Q) scale,
through the point
indicating the pipeline
diameter (D) = 3" on the
diameter scale. The drawn
line meets the axis of the
nomogram in point B.
Second line is drawn from
the point C that indicates
120 on the C coefficient
scale through the crossing
point B, which is already
marked on the nomogram
axis. The line is stretched
to the J (head-loss) scale.
The point D on the J scale
indicates head-loss of
43‰, namely 43 m. per
1000-m length of the pipe.
For a 186 m long non-
distributing pipeline the
Fig. 12.6. Nomogram for the determination of the hydraulic
head-loss is 43 x 186/1000
gradient in pipes
= 8 m.
But the sprinkler lateral is a distributing pipeline. We have to multiply 8 by the F coefficient.
The first sprinkler is mounted on the end of the first aluminum 6 m. long pipe, the distance
from the sub-main to this sprinkler is a half of the distance between the sprinklers along the
lateral that is 12 m.
From Table 10.6. F Coefficient in laterals, in the X=1/2 column, it is found that F coefficient
for 16 outlets on the lateral is 0.345.
Multiplication of this value (0.345) by 8 m. (the head-loss in 186 m. of non-distributing
lateral, depicted from the nomogram) indicates head-loss of 2.76 m. in the lateral.
8 x 0.345 = 2.76 m.



The soil has two fundamental functions for growing plants.
a. The substrate in which the plant is anchored by means of its root system.
b. A source of water and nutrients.
Optimized irrigation has to provide water in equal amounts to each plant in the
irrigated area. In pressurized irrigation, two patterns of water distribution on the soil
surface prevail.
a. Uniform coverage of the irrigated soil surface;
b. Localized wetting of the soil surface in such a way that each plant receives
equal amount of water.
The first pattern is implemented with sprinkler irrigation of field crops, some types of
vegetables and overhead irrigation in orchards.
The second pattern is common in under-canopy irrigation in orchards and in drip
In order to optimize the irrigation design and management, certain soil properties
have to be carefully taken into account.
Soil Properties
Soil Texture
Optimal water application has to be adjusted to soil properties. The soil has been
created by disintegration of rocks into tiny soil particles. The soil preserves its
crumbled shape and porosity, with particles that vary in size and are classified
according to international conventions.
Table 13.1. Soil classification according to particle diameter

Fraction Diameter in mm.

Clay <0.002
Silt 0.002 - 0.05*
Fine sand 0.05* - 0.2
Coarse sand 0.2 - 2.0

*In the American Texture definition code, fine sand diameter is in the range of 0.05 – 0.2 mm. In the International
classification code the range is 0.02-0. 2 mm.
Different soil types differs by the ratio between these fractions of particle size. The
soil texture is defined accordingly: soil with a high content of large particles is
defined as light soil and that with a high content of particles of the fine clay fraction is
defined as heavy soil. According to this classification, twelve soil types have been
characterized and named, corresponding to the ratio between the different soil
fractions. The soil texture determines the water holding capacity and the water - air
ratio in the soil environment. Heavy soils with a high proportion of fine particles have
high water holding capacity, but drainage rate is low and the soil is prone to surface


runoff and insufficient aeration. In light soil with a high content of coarse particles,
aeration is adequate but the water holding capacity is low.

Fig. 13.1. Visual illustration of soil particle diameter (American classification code)
The method of classification is demonstrated in the Soil Texture Definition Triangle,
which is presented in Fig. 13.2.

Fig. 13.2. Soil texture triangle Adapted from Soil Monitoring Made Easy


Soil Structure
In most soil types, apart from sandy soil, the soil
particles are aggregated in clumps. Each of them
is composed of many discrete particles. The forms
of the aggregates are irregular. Between the
discrete particles as well as between the
aggregates exist voids. The voids are classified in
two groups according to their width: micropores
and macropores. The boundary between the two
groups is 0.06 mm. Below that value, the voids are
designated as micropores and over that value – Fig. 13.3. Aggregates and voids
The soil aggregates are arranged in diverse patterns that determine the soil structure.
The soil structure is an important factor
in suitability of land to agricultural
cropping. It affects the pattern of the
root system development, water
movement in the soil and water-air ratio
in the soil.
Soil - Water Relationship
Water States in Soil
Fig. 13.4. Soil structure – aggregate arrangements
The distinctive states of water in the
soil are designated according to water content.
When water is poured on the soil, either as rain, or by irrigation, it infiltrates through
the soil surface and percolates downward, driven by gravity. At that point of time the
soil is saturated, namely, most of the soil pores are filled with water.
Field Capacity
After the rain or irrigation were finished, water continues to drain from the upper soil
layers downwards, driven by gravity. The time-length of the drainage process,
depends on the structure, texture and other properties of the soil. Water drains from
the larger pores where it is replaced by air. The water state in the end of the
drainage process in designated as field capacity.
Depletion of Soil Moisture
Due to evaporation from the soil surface and uptake of water by plants, the moisture
stored in the soil after its wetting, is gradually depleted.
Wilting Point
The soil-moisture content at which the plant fails to absorb water and does not
recover its turgor, is designated as the Permanent Wilting Point, expressed as
percentage weight per weight (w/w) or volume per volume (v/v) of the soil.
Factors Affecting the Differences in Water Depletion
a. Climate: temperature, radiation, relative humidity, wind, etc.;


b. Plant: The characteristics of the root system and the leaf area index (LAI);

Sand Clay
Fig. 13.5. Water-air ratio in two soil types, 12 hours after irrigation
Available Water Capacity (AWC)
The available water capacity is the difference between field capacity (θfc) and the
wilting point (θwp):
(Eq. 13.1)

Table 13.2. AVC in different soil textures – W\W %

The available water is the fraction of Soil texture Θfc Θwp AVC
soil water that can be extracted
from the soil by the roots. The Coarse sand 10 5 5
amount of water available to the Sand 15 7 8
plants differs in diverse soil types Loamy sand 18 7 22
and textures. It is not recommended Sandy loam 20 8 12
to allow the soil moisture Loam 25 10 15
decreasing to the wilting point, Silty loam 30 12 18
since this may cause irreversible Silty clay loam 38 22 16
damage to the plants. Clay loam 40 25 15
Silty clay 40 27 13
Water Movement in the Soil Clay 40 28 12
Water movement in the soil takes Table 13.3. Available water in different soil textures
place in different dimensions.
Available water in 0 - 100 cm. depth
a. Downwards – driven by
Sand 450 m3/ha
Sandy loam 1250 m3/ha
b. All directions – driven by Silty clay 1450 m3/ha
capillarity (adhesion forces Heavy clay 1550 m3/ha
between water molecules
and the surface area of soil particles and cohesion between the water
c. Upward – driven by suction of the drying upper soil layers.
Essentially, the driving force of water movement is the difference in water potential.
Water potential is the inherent free energy attained by the water in certain point, that
is capable to perform work. The work done can be the relocation of water from one
point to another.


As mentioned before, water potential units are bars, atmospheres or kilopascal

Soil water potentials are mostly negative pressures (tension or suction).
Water flows from a higher (less negative) potential to a lower (more negative)
potential point.
The water potential reflects how much energy plants have to spend in water
The Components of the Water Potential
(Eq. 13.2)

a. ψt = Total soil water potential;
b. ψg = Gravitational potential (force of gravity on the water);
c. ψm = Matric potential
(force exerted on the water
by the soil matrix – soil
water “tension”);
d. ψo = Osmotic potential
(due to the difference in
salt concentration across a
membrane, in plant roots,
cells, vascular tubes).
The matric potential, ψm,
normally has the greatest
effect on the uptake of water Fig. 13.6. Water potential values in the different water
from the soil to plants. states in the soil
Soil Water Retention Curve
a. That is the curve of matric potential (tension) vs. water content;
b. Less water → higher
c. At a given tension, finer-
textured soils retain more
water (due to the larger
number of micro-pores).
Determination of the
Water Status in the Soil
The determination of the water
amount that has to be applied by
irrigation can be done with
different methods:
Climatic indicators are Fig. 13.7. Water retention curves in different soil
correlated to the rate of evapo- textures


transpiration of the plant. A common practice is the measurement of the evaporation

rate of water from a Class A pan. The daily water consumption of the crop can be
determined by the multiplication of the measured evaporation rate in mm/day by the
Crop Coefficient.
Another climatic method for the determination of crop water requirements is the
using of Penman equation, in which climatic factors such as temperature, sun
radiation, wind velocity, etc., are measured and the potential evapo-transpiration is
The most common used and practical indicator is soil moisture. It can be measured
directly with the gravimetric method.

Fig. 13.8. The sequence of soil moisture determination by the gravimetric Fig. 13.9. Edelman
(oven drying) method Dutch auger
Soil samples are taken with soil auger and transferred to the laboratory. Each soil
sample is weighed and dried for 24 hours in a drying oven at 105 0C and then
weighed again. The difference in weight before and after drying resembles the water
amount in the soil. The water content is expressed as the percentage of the dry
weight of the sample. For the determination of the water percentage per volume,
which is more relevant in the calculation of water application dose, the percentage
per weight is multiplied by the bulk density value.
Soil moisture can also be determined in different methods and instrumentation. The
topic is dealt in more detail in the chapter on monitoring.
Water Intake Rate (Infiltration Rate) of the Soil
Water intake rate of a certain soil is designated with the term infiltrability. It refers
to the infiltration rate resulting when water at atmospheric pressure is made freely
available at the soil surface.
The rate of water infiltration into the
soil is a key parameter in the design
and operation of sprinkler irrigation
systems. It indicates the rate - in
mm/hour units - that water infiltrates
into the soil. Intake rate decreases
over time during the time of irrigation.
In clay or silty soil, the infiltration rate
declines sharply during the water
application time. Fig. 11.10. Curves of water infiltration into the soil


For Example:
In the first half-hour the rate is 20 mm/h.
After 1 hour: 12 mm/h.
After 2 hours: 8 mm/h.
After 3 hours: 5 mm/h and after 4 hours - 4 mm/h.
Due to the compaction of the soil by mechanized tillage, the infiltration rate declines
during the irrigation season.
Figure 13.11. presents typical infiltration
rates in different soil texture types.
The presented values relate only to the
difference in the soil texture. The
infiltration rate depends on additional
factors, such as soil structure, cultivation
practices, organic matter content and
soil salinity. These values should only be
used as a rough guideline. Wherever
possible, field tests should be done for
the determination of the actual steady
state infiltration rate.
Fig. 13.12. demonstrates the change of
the infiltration rate along time in three
soil types. Fig. 13.11. Soil texture triangle – infiltration
The Water Infiltration Rate of the sand rate contours
starts at 250 mm/h and becomes nearly
constant at 25 mm/h after 90 minutes. In
silty clay soil, it decreases within 30
minutes from 50 mm/h to zero.
Determination of the Water Intake
(Infiltration) Rate
Measurement of water intake rate is
implemented with two conceptual
a. Flood simulation, in which the
impact of water drops on the soil
surface is not pronounced; Fig. 13.12. Typical infiltration curves in
b. Sprinkling method, in which the different soil textures
water drops may deform the structure of the upper soil layer, induce
encrustation and decrease the infiltration rate. This technique is more relevant
to sprinkler irrigation.
The most prevalent technique of the flood simulation, employ the double ring
Marr of the University of California at Davis had suggested measuring of the water
infiltration rate in two phases.
a. Measurement of the infiltration rate during the beginning of water application;


b. Measurement of the infiltration rate after its stabilization.

Double-ring Infiltrometer
The double-ring appliance is the most common type of infiltrometer used. It is
inexpensive to put up and operate. One person can set-up and run several tests
simultaneously. The simplicity of its design allows for ease in replication of the tests.
Two concentric rings of stainless steel are employed, the larger ring forms a buffer
space around the inner to account for lateral flow (Fig. 13.14). The rings are jacked
or hammered into the ground, 5 - 10 cm. deep. Care is taken to minimize
deformation of the soil surface and soil structure during installation. A specific and
constant head of water (less than 5 cm of depth) is maintained in both rings, while
the rate of water depletion from the inner ring is measured. The length of time
required to achieve steady infiltration rate ranges from 2 to 6 hours, depending on
soil type, texture, and antecedent soil moisture conditions.
The Sprinkler Method
Sprinklers are operated in
optimal spacing with a known
application rate in an area in
which a ring of a 30-50 cm
diameter is inserted a few cm.
deep into the soil. The water
movement on the soil surface
is confined by the ring.
The excess water that does Fig. 13.13. Double-ring infiltrometer
not infiltrate into the soil inside
the ring, flows into a large
graduated cylinder sunk in the
soil aside the ring. The
infiltration rate measurement
starts as soon as water begins
to drain into the cylinder. Once
the water amount per time unit
that had been applied within
the ring (Q1) and the
accumulated water amount in
Fig. 13.14. The “Sprinkler method”
the cylinder (Q2) are known, it
is possible to calculate the water quantity (Q1-Q2) that infiltrated within the ring during
that time.
The “Sprinkler method” is the best practice for the determination of the water intake
rate for sprinkler irrigation systems since it resembles the impact of the water drops
on the encrustation of the soil surface.
Rain Simulator
A more sophisticated technique for measuring the infiltration rate, is by using rain
simulator. Rain simulators are used for measurement of the impact of rainfall and
irrigation drops on runoff and infiltration. Because of the high cost and complicated
operation, it is used mainly in research and is not relevant to routine measurements
in the field.


Infiltration rates in Micro-irrigation

Micro-sprinklers and micro-jets wet discrete soil volumes with or without partial
overlapping. The wetted soil surface area is a small fraction of the total soil surface
area in the plot. Water movement within the soil follows a three-dimensional flow
pattern, contradicting the one-dimensional, vertical percolation pattern typical of flood
and full surface coverage sprinkler irrigation.
Two driving forces that affect simultaneously the flow of water in the soil are: gravity
and capillarity. Gravity drives the water downwards. Capillary forces drive the water
in all directions. The equilibrium between these two forces determines the pattern of
water distribution within the soil.
The wetting pattern affects the distribution of roots in the soil as well as the
dispersion and accumulation of dissolved nutrients and salts.
Soil Wetting Patterns
The key factors affecting the pattern of water and solutes distribution in the wetted
soil volume are:
a. Soil properties;
b. Emitters' position and spacing;
c. Emitter water distribution pattern;
d. Emitter flow-rate;
e. Water dosage;
f. Chemical composition of the Water.
In addition to soil texture, mentioned before, soil structure also affects water
distribution. Compact layers and horizontal stratification decrease the percolation rate
and increase the horizontal flow of water and runoff at the expense of the vertical
percolation. On the other hand, vertical cracking in compacted soils, amplify a
preferred downward flow of water followed by incomplete wetting of the upper soil
Water Dosage
The wetted volume expands and gets deeper as the amount of applied water
Chemical Composition of the Water
Dissolved chemical compounds in the water may affect the wetting pattern.
Detergents and other surfactants contained in reclaimed and storm waters reduce
water surface tension and decrease the horizontal flow. The lower surface tension
increases the effect of gravity at the expense of the capillary forces, resulting in a
narrower and deeper wetted volume.
Water Distribution Uniformity
The excellence of irrigation is evaluated by the Irrigation Efficiency (IE), which is
defined as:

(Eq. 13.3)


Water beneficially used comprises of the water absorbed by the plant and consumed
by evapo-transpiration and that used for fertilizer and pesticide application, salt
leaching from the soil, crop cooling and frost protection
As mentioned before, there are two principal patterns of water distribution in
a. Full and uniform wetting of the soil surface, as in overhead sprinkler irrigation
and border surface irrigation.
b. Localized water application as in drip irrigation, furrow and under-canopy
orchard sprinkler irrigation.
The uniformity of water distribution is one of the most important features of
successful crop production. Low water distribution uniformity can bring about non-
uniform crop development, stunted growth and excessive vegetative growth in the
same field. Non-uniform water distribution can impair soil aeration and bring about
leaching of plant nutrients in one part of the plot and salt accumulation in other parts.
The criteria for distribution uniformity are quite different in the two patterns of water
distribution mentioned above.
High water distribution uniformity over the whole soil surface is not attainable, nor is it
necessary in localized irrigation techniques. Water distribution in localized irrigation is
regarded satisfactory if each plant within the irrigated area receives the same volume
of water. Getting this objective requires an appropriate layout of the irrigation system.
In those irrigation techniques that distribute irrigation water over the whole soil
surface, it is imperative to achieve a high degree of water distribution uniformity. In
practice, absolute uniformity is unattainable. The variance in the components of the
irrigation system and the topography, among other factors, impede 100% uniformity.
Distribution Uniformity in Fully Soil Surface Wetting Irrigation
Three concepts are used for estimating water distribution uniformity by sprinkler
irrigation over the whole surface area. All three are based on the measurement of the
water distribution over an area between adjacent sprinklers.
Distribution Uniformity (DU)
That is a uniformity concept originally suggested by the Soil Conservation Service of
the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is the ratio between the average application
depth on that quarter (25%) of the area receiving the least irrigation water dosage
and the average application depth over the whole wetted area. DU is expressed at
percentage units.

(Eq. 13.4)

Coefficient of Uniformity (CU)

This coefficient, formulated by J. E. Christiansen, is the second way for estimating
sprinkler irrigation uniformity.

(Eq. 13.5)


CU = Coefficient of Uniformity (%);
XI = Individual readings;
X = mean value of the readings;
n = number of readings.
There are linear relationships between CU and DU.

CU = 0.63 DU + 37 (Eq. 13.6)

DU = 1.59 CU - 59 (Eq. 13.7)

Scheduling Coefficient (SC)

It is a uniformity standard used mainly in turf irrigation. In this environment, even
relatively small regions of inadequately watered turf, show up with substantial visual
impact. SC is the ratio between the average application depth in the whole irrigated
area and the application rate in a defined critical area that shows water deficiency
symptoms. SC is the factor by which the net amount of water application has to be
increased, in order to compensate for non-uniformity. SC is a number greater than or
equal to one. SC = 1.0, indicates perfect uniformity. SC = 1.5, indicates that a 50%
increase in watering amount is needed to compensate for non-uniformity.
The SC can be computed for critical areas of different sizes. The commonly used
values are 1%, 2%, 5% and 10% of the irrigated area. Even the largest of these
areas is considerably smaller than the low quarter (25%) used in the DU
computation. SC calculated on a 5% fraction yields appropriate results in most
practical situations in turf irrigation.

(Eq. 13.8)

In all of the three procedures the measuring of the water application uniformity is
done by the placement of water collecting containers (cans of 200 – 500 ml. volume),
in a grid with 0.25 – 2 m. spacing between the cans. Distribution tests of sprinklers
can be done under different wind velocities. The basic nominal data relate to non-
windy conditions.
The Single Sprinkler Test
The sprinkler is operated at a consistent pressure
for 3 - 4 hours. Both the position of each can and
the volume of water in the cans are registered at
the end of the test period. Wind velocity and its
direction, as well as the rate of the sprinkler rotation
(revolutions per minute) and its flow-rate are
recorded during the test.
The distribution pattern of the sprinkler may be
plotted. The uniformity of application for different
spacing between the sprinklers can be determined
by virtual overlapping imposition of the sprinkler
distribution pattern. Fig. 13.15. Single sprinkler test


The drawback of this procedure is its reliance on theoretical overlapping and the
relatively long term of the test (3 - 4 hours), due to the small amount of water that
accumulates in the cans. Care must be taken to ensure that the tested sprinkler is a
representative sample and the test results should be replicated. In this method a
larger number of cans have to be positioned than in the other procedures. Due to the
relatively long period that is required to measure the water accumulation in the cans,
care should be given to avoid evaporation from the cans.
The Single Lateral Test
A single lateral is operated with the sprinklers
mounted at pre-defined length intervals. Four
sprinklers will generally suffice, provided that the
sprinkler radius of coverage does not exceed twice
the spacing between the sprinklers on the lateral and
the wind does not cause water drift in the parallel
direction to the lateral. This method is the closest to
field conditions in hand-move sprinkler irrigation
when laterals are not operated simultaneously in
adjacent positions. The test demonstrates the actual
water distribution on either side of the lateral. By
virtual overlapping of the data from two adjacent
laterals, the distribution uniformity may be calculated Fig. 13.16. Single lateral test
for different lateral spacing. The test should last at least 2 hours.
The Simultaneously Operated Laterals Test.
Four sprinkler laterals, with at least 4
sprinklers mounted on each, are
operated simultaneously. The cans
are set between the 4 central
sprinklers of the central laterals. If the
radius of coverage of the sprinkler
exceeds twice the spacing between
the sprinklers, more than 4 laterals
and 16 sprinklers are needed. The
number of cans to be measured in
this method is smaller than in the
former test and test time-length can
last only one hour. This method
allows for the calculation of the Fig. 13.17. Simultaneously operated laterals test
distribution uniformity only for the spacing tested.
The test results are analyzed with the Christiansen formula. Satisfactory coefficient of
uniformity (CU) has to be of 84% or higher. In optimal field and pressure conditions,
90% and higher values are achievable. Distribution uniformity below 84% is non-
satisfactory and may render waste of water and growth disturbance.


Fig. 13.18. Recording form for measurement Fig. 13.19. Measured water amounts in one quarter
of the uniformity of water distribution of the wetted area in single-sprinkler test

a. One dimensional view b. Concentric wetting pattern presentation

Fig. 11.20. Single sprinkler distribution pattern in wind-less conditions

Fig. 13.21. Open-air test plot (left) and covered distribution test facility (right)


Table 13.4 Calculating Christiansen's coefficient of uniformity with experimental data (example)

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

Readings No of Readings R X n Abs. Dev. From Av.
(R) (n) (1) X (2) (d) (2) X (4)

100 1 100 24 24
102 2 204 22 44
104 1 104 20 20
106 2 212 18 36
108 2 216 16 32
110 6 660 14 84
114 2 228 10 20
116 3 348 8 24
118 5 590 6 30
120 1 120 4 4
122 5 610 2 10
124 4 496 0 0
126 1 126 2 2
128 4 512 4 16
130 6 780 6 36
132 3 396 8 24
134 6 804 10 60
136 6 816 12 72
138 3 414 14 42
142 1 142 18 18
144 1 144 20 20
146 1 146 22 22
Total 66 8168 - 640


Fig. 13.22. Wind effect on the distribution Fig. 13.23. Micro-sprinkler distribution pattern
pattern of a single lateral
Distribution Uniformity in Localized Irrigation
As mentioned before, application uniformity can be expressed in different indices. A
uniformity of 100% means that the whole irrigated plot has received exactly the same
amount of irrigation water everywhere. In low uniformity values, some portions of the
plot receive less water than others and it is necessary to apply excess water so that
the plants growing in the areas that receive less water will not suffer of water
The common index for description of the application uniformity in localized irrigation
is DU (Distribution Uniformity). Contradicting to the test of CU that relates to
distribution uniformity on the irrigated area (soil surface), The DU index relates to
application uniformity of the water emitters. To calculate this value, the flow-rate of a
representative sample (40 - 100 emitters in different regions of the irrigated plot) is


Q25% is the average flow-rate of 25% of the emitters with the lowest flow-rate,
Qn is the average flow-rate of all the sampled emitters.
The significance of DU values:
>87% - excellent distribution uniformity;
75% - 87% - good uniformity;
62% - 75% acceptable uniformity;
<62% - the uniformity is unacceptable.
Variation in the flow-rate depends on the pressure regime, emitter clogging (fully or
partially) and the manufacturing variance of the drippers.
In addition to variation in flow-rate between emitters due to pressure difference, flow-
rate deviations occur also because of manufacturing variability. No two emitters can


be identically manufactured; so, variation is observed between the emitters. New

emitters' flow-rate uniformity is designated by the Manufacturing Coefficient of
Variation (Cvm).
The manufacturing coefficient of variation Cvm is defined as the standard deviation
divided by the average flow-rate from a sample of emitters. It is expressed as a
decimal fraction or percentage. 0.01 = 1%. According to the formula:

(Eq. 13.10)

Cvm = manufacturing coefficient of variation,
Sdm = standard deviation,
Xm = mean flow-rate.
A Cvm of 0.1 (10%) means, assuming normal distribution “bell shaped” curve that
68% of all emitter flow-rates would be within ±10% of the mean flow-rate. The design
of the emitter, the materials used in its construction, and the precision in which it is
manufactured, determine the variation for any particular emitter type.
The significance of Cvm values
<0.05 - excellent;
0.05 - 0.10 - good;
0.10 - 0.15 - marginal;
>0.15 - poor.
With the recent improvements in manufacturing tolerances, most emitters have Cvm <
The manufacturing flow-rate variation is determined statistically. Samples of emitters
are selected randomly and tested under constant pressure.
Emission Uniformity (EU)
combines variation due to emitter manufacturer variance and variation due to
pressure. This is a design parameter. In new installations or when emitter clogging is
not occurring, EU (design) is approximately equal to DU.
EU is given as:

Eq. 13.11

Cvm = manufacturer’s coefficient of variation;
Qmin = minimum emitter discharge due to reduced pressure;
Qavg = mean emitter discharge due to pressure.
13.4 Water Distribution in Micro-irrigation
In drip irrigation, water is applied from point or line sources. Micro-sprinklers and
micro-jets wet discrete soil volumes with or without partial overlapping. In on-surface
drip irrigation, a small pond is created beneath each emitter. The wetted soil surface
area is only a small fraction of the total soil surface area in the plot. Water movement


within the soil follows a three-dimensional flow pattern, contradicting the one-
dimensional, vertical percolation pattern typical of flood and full surface coverage
sprinkler irrigation. In subsurface drip irrigation, the wetting pattern is quite different:
water moves downward, laterally and in some extent, upwards.
In fine textured soil, capillary forces are more pronounced than gravity; therefore the
horizontal width of the wetted soil volume is greater than its depth. The shape of the
wetted volume resembles an onion. In medium textured soils, the wetted volume is
pear-shaped and in coarse texture, the vertical water movement is more pronounced
than the horizontal one so that the wetting volume resembles a carrot.
Soil structure also affects water
distribution. Compact layers and
horizontal stratification increase the
horizontal flow of water at the expense
of vertical percolation. On the other
hand, vertical cracking in compacted
soils amplify a preferred downward flow
of water followed by incomplete wetting
Fig. 13.24. Water distribution in the soil:
of the upper soil layers.
(a) on-surface drip irrigation. (b) SDI
Lateral Placement
a. The maximum diameter wetted by drippers in on-surface drip laterals
is just under the soil surface is, namely at depth of 10 – 30.
b. The maximum diameter wetted by drippers in sub-surface drip laterals
is at the depth of the lateral.
In sub-surface drip Irrigation (SDI), the vertical dimension of wetted soil above the
emitter in sandy soil is about ¼ of the wetted width. In silt and clay soils this amounts
to ½ of the wetted width.
Emitter Flow-rate
For the same application time-
length and the same volume of
a. A lower flow-rate
renders a narrower and
deeper wetting pattern;
b. A higher flow-rate
renders a wider and
shallower wetting
Higher flow-rates in on-surface
drippers create wider on-
surface ponds and a larger
horizontal wetted diameter
than lower flow-rates.
Emitter Spacing Fig. 13.25. Water distribution from a single dripper in
For the same application time- loamy and sandy soil. 4 l/h and 16 l/h flow-rates, 4, 8, 16 l
length and the same volume of dose After Bressler 1977


a. Narrow spacing between drippers on the lateral, renders a narrower and
deeper wetting pattern. The width of the wetted volume by the drippers
increases until adjacent wetted volumes overlap. After the occurrence of
overlapping, the majority of the water flow is directed downwards;
b. Wide spacing between drippers renders a wider and shallower wetting pattern.
Chemical Composition of the Water
Dissolved chemical compounds in the water may affect the wetting pattern.
Detergents and other surfactants contained in reclaimed and storm waters reduce
water surface tension and decrease the horizontal flow. The lower surface tension
increases the effect of gravity at the expense of the capillary forces, resulting in a
narrower and deeper wetted volume.
Salt Distribution
In arid and semi-arid regions, salt accumulation may damage the soil and the crop.
Dissolved salts accumulate at the perimeter of the wetted zone, particularly at the soil
surface where the water content of the soil is relatively low. A visible saline loop
builds up on the soil surface in the margins of the wetted area, along with a shell of
salt accumulated at a depth that depends on the leaching efficiency. Appropriate drip
irrigation management fully replenishes the water removed by the crop, so that the
soil water content remains high enough to address a low concentration of soluble
salts. The nutrients applied with the irrigation water follow the same distribution

Fig. 13.26. Salt distribution in the wetted volume Fig. 13.27. Leaching of salt into the active root-
zone by rain Adapted from Kremmer & Kenig, 1996
Salt accumulated on the soil surface and in the uppermost soil layer, commits
preventive measures with the first rains after a dry season. Irrigation should be


applied as long as the rain lasts, to prevent salt leached from the soil surface to build
up in the active root-zone.
Soil Properties that Affect Water Distribution Patterns
Soil characteristics affect the flow of water in the soil and the derived pattern of the
wetted zone.
The equilibrium between the vertical and the horizontal water movement in the soil is
determined by infiltration and percolation rates that derive from the soil’s hydraulic
conductivity. Hydraulic conductivity is expressed in units of velocity (length/time)
m/sec per unit of cross-section. A certain soil type does not have a constant value of
hydraulic conductivity. In a specific soil, the hydraulic conductivity is greater when the
soil is saturated than in an unsaturated state. It also depends on the degree of
stratification, the presence of compact soil layers and the moisture content of the soil
prior to irrigation. Though different mathematical models have been developed to
predict soil water distribution patterns, the use of empirical field techniques to assess
the size and volume of the wetted soil is imperative.
When plants are irrigated at night while water consumption of the plant is negligible,
the volume of the wetted soil depends on the amount of water applied by the dripper
and the change in water content in the wetted volume.

(Eq. 13.12)

V - Soil wetted volume;
L - Amount of the applied water;
Mf - the average percentage of water content per unit volume in the wetted zone after
Mi - the average percentage of soil water content per unit volume of soil prior to the
100 l of water were applied at night and the soil water content in the wetted
volume increased by 10% per volume.
Mf – Mi = 10%
V = 100l × (100/10) = 1000l. The wetted volume would be 1000 l (1 m3) of soil.
Wetting Width and Depth
In order to select the adequate dripper and to determine the spacing between laterals
and between drippers on the lateral, a thorough assessment of the soil wetting
pattern by drippers is highly recommended.
A simplified assessment claims that capillary forces drive the flow of water in the soil
at the same rate in all directions and gravity pushes the water downward only. The
balance between these two forces determines the dimensions of the soil wetted
volume and the ratio between the vertical and horizontal axis. During wetting of dry
soil, gravity initially drives the water downwards through the empty, non-capillary


voids much faster than the lateral capillary movement. As the capillary voids are filled
with water, the horizontal flow becomes more pronounced. This happens faster at
higher flow-rates, therefore the horizontal width of the volume wetted by drippers with
higher flow-rate is larger. In fine textured soil, vertical gravity-driven percolation is
relatively slow, filling faster the capillary voids with water.
Nutrient Distribution
Distribution of nutrients applied with fertigation in the soil, depends on the interaction
between the nutrition elements and the soil.
Potassium ions are absorbed on the surface area of clay minerals and their transport
with irrigation water in fine and medium textured soils is limited. The majority of the
applied potassium remains in the upper soil layer.
In alkaline and neutral soils, phosphorous precipitates from the soil solution with
calcium and magnesium as sparsely soluble salts. In acid soils, it precipitates with
iron and aluminum and remains in the upper soil layer. Therefore application of
phosphorous in deeper soil layers by subsurface drip irrigation (SDI), increases its
availability to the root system.
Root System Development under Drip Irrigation
Water application regime and water distribution pattern in the soil affect the root
system development and distribution.
Each plant family has a typical root dispersal pattern deriving from the growing
conditions in the plant’s site of origin and the adaptation of the plant to the local
growing environment.

Fig. 13.28. Diverse root systems

As depicted in the illustration above, root systems can be shallow or deep, dense,
branched or sparse, unrelated to the shape of the plant's canopy.
The root system distribution pattern, along with soil properties are key factors in
determining dripper spacing and the scheduling of the irrigation regime. Shallow and
sparse root systems require dense dripper spacing and frequent water applications.
Deep and branched root systems allow wider spacing between emitters and longer
time-intervals between irrigations.


Frequent and small water applications

with drip irrigation lead to the
development of shallow and compact
root systems. This increases crop
sensitivity to heat spells and water
stress. Trees with shallow root systems
are prone to uprooting by strong winds.
On the other hand, due to improved
aeration and nutrition in the drip
irrigated soil volume, the density of the
active root hairs is significantly higher
than the density of root systems
growing under sprinkler irrigation.
Fig. 13.29. Typical root systems of field crops
The active root system and the
majority of the root-hairs in
drip-irrigated orchard trees,
converge in the upper wetted
volume. The highest density of
the active roots is in the
aerated upper layers, provided
there is no accumulation of
salts there. At the margins of
the wetted volume, where salt
accumulates, active roots are
Evergreen fruit trees such as
avocadoes and citrus, develop
shallower root systems under
drip irrigation than deciduous Fig. 13.30. Root system in sprinkler irrigation (left) vs.
orchards and vineyards. This root system in drip irrigation (right)
Courtesy "Netafim"
determines the irrigation
regime and necessitates the addition of a second drip lateral per row on coarse
textured soils.
With SDI, the root distribution pattern differs. Roots are mainly concentrated under
and beside the laterals. Very few roots develop above the laterals due to the higher
salinity in the upper soil layers.



Micro-irrigation in Row Crops
Aside sprinkler and mechanized irrigation used to irrigate large plots of field crops
and vegetables, The preferred technology for irrigation of small plots, is drip
irrigation. Those crops that are densely grown, like potatoes, carrot, onions, etc, are
irrigated by micro-sprinklers positioned in 6 × 6 – 10 × 10 m. spacing.
In annual field crops, on-surface drip laterals are placed at the beginning of the
irrigation season and retrieved pre-harvest to avoid damage to the equipment in the
harvesting process.
Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI) is also widely used in irrigation of field-crops. Precise
recurring sowing and planting in the same rows every year is obligatory. This is
supported by GPS instrumentation with sub-meter accuracy on the farm machinery.
For on-surface drip irrigation in field crops, spacing between rows and between
plants in the row can vary. Lateral and dripper spacing should conform to crop
spacing. Spacing between rows can be modified in order to reduce the number of
laterals. For example, instead of uniform 1 m spacing between rows, they are paired
at 80 cm within the pair and 1.20 m between adjacent pairs. This allows the
installation of one lateral in the middle of each pair, (at 40 cm from each row), instead
of one lateral per row and decreases total lateral length in the plot by 50%.
With SDI, there are dilemmas regarding the spacing and depth of laterals. For deep-
rooted crops such as cotton growing on heavy soil, spacing between laterals can be
twice the spacing between rows - approximately 2 m. This requires germination
irrigation by a separate irrigation system, such as self-propelled irrigation machines.
Innovative approaches are being examined to solve the germination irrigation
problem. For crops with shallow root systems, the maximum spacing between
laterals is 1 m. and installation depth is 30 – 40 cm, which limits tillage options.
Drip Irrigation in Cotton

Fig. 14.1. Mechanized deployment of Fig. 14.2. Cotton root development

drip laterals From "Naan" brochure


Drip irrigation in cotton is applied mainly on shallow soils, small or irregular plots and
steep slopes. In substantial area of drip irrigated cotton, on-surface retrievable
laterals are laid-out after sowing and retrieved pre-harvest. Dedicated machinery
developed for this technology enables deployment of up to 8 rows at one pass. SDI
systems are used mainly in heavy compacted soils to avoid using laying/retrieving
machinery on wet soil.
Since cotton is a non-edible crop and relatively salt-tolerant, substantial areas of
cotton are irrigated with low-quality reclaimed and brackish water. Reclaimed water
requires high-quality filtration systems and clog-resistant drippers with self dirt
release mechanisms.
Drip Irrigation of Tomatoes for the Processing Industry
Drip irrigation is highly advantageous in processing tomatoes. It is well suitable to
optimize water and nutrient supply according to climate conditions, phenological
stages, yield potential and timing of harvest. It can increase yields and maximize the
dry matter and sugar content of the produce. Processing tomatoes are sown with 1.5
– 2 m space between rows, and irrigated with one or two laterals per row, depending
on soil texture, depth and stratification,
SDI installation eliminates the troublesome lateral retrieval under the sprawling
plants. Improved quality was also reported with SDI due to better nutrient utilization
and elimination of soil surface wetting.

Drip Irrigation of Potatoes

Potatoes are irrigated with one lateral
per row laid in a shallow groove on
top of the hillock. Burying the lateral 5
– 15 cm deep with small spacing, 10
– 20 cm between drippers along the
lateral creates a continuous wetted Fig. 14.3. Potatoes - laterals on top of hillocks
strip along the row. After Kremmer & Kenig, 1996

Drip Irrigation of Corn

Corn is highly responsive to drip irrigation. Optimal supply of nutrients in drip
irrigation triggers bigger cobs and increased yield. Laterals are laid one per row or
between paired rows, depending on soil type.
Drip Irrigation of Alfalfa
The use of reclaimed water for irrigation of alfalfa requires the use of SDI in order to
avoid plant contamination by pathogens. The deep root system of alfalfa allows for
spacing of 1 – 1.2 m between laterals, without decrease in yield.
Drip Irrigation of Vegetables
Most vegetables grown both in the open field and in protective structures, respond
positively to drip irrigation and fertigation. Drip irrigation facilitates the adjustment of
water and nutrients supply to crop consumption regime.
The predominant technology in open field cultures is on-surface seasonally-
retrievable drip irrigation. SDI is only seldom installed. Yield decrease in long-term
SDI irrigation in certain vegetable species has been reported. Recently, due to


difficulties in germination and emergence in SDI, there has been a comeback of

traditional on-surface drip irrigation in California, the pioneer of SDI in vegetables.
Drip Irrigation of Open-field Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplants
Drip irrigation of the major species of the Solanaceae family is expanding worldwide.
Water saving and decrease in fungal diseases compared with sprinkler irrigation, and
improved nutrient supply compared with furrow irrigation, result in increased yields.
The common layout is one lateral per row or between a closely spaced pair of rows.
The soil type dictates the spacing between drippers on the lateral which range from
10 cm for thin-wall tapes in sandy soils, to 50 cm for thick-wall hoses in heavy soils.
Drip Irrigation of Strawberries
Strawberries are mostly grown on four-row raised beds with plastic mulch in the open
field. The spacing between the rows is 20 – 30 cm, and between plants in the rows,
15 – 30 cm. The common layout is one lateral between each pair of rows and
spacing of 10 – 30 cm between drippers along the lateral. The laterals are installed
beneath the plastic mulch in order to decrease incidences of Botrytis, which is
boosted by direct contact of the berries with wet soil.
Drip Irrigation of Cucumbers, Melons and Watermelons
The wide spacing between rows (1 – 2 m) in the Cucurbitaceae family results in great
water saving with drip irrigation, during the early growth stages, before the full
coverage of the soil surface by foliage. The wide spacing reduces the amount of
laterals required to cover the plot area.
Drip Irrigation of Celery
Celery is grown on 4 row beds, 1.5 – 2 m wide. Laterals are laid out between each
pair of rows. Drippers are spaced 20 – 30 cm apart, along the lateral.
Drip Irrigation of Cabbage and Lettuce
Cabbage and lettuce are grown on 4 row beds, 1.5 – 2 m wide. Laterals are laid in
the middle of each pair of rows and the drippers are spaced 20 cm along the lateral.
Drip Irrigation of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is grown on a double-row bed, 1.2 -1.8 wide. On heavy and medium
textured soils, the common layout is one lateral per bed, in the middle of the pair of
rows. On sandy soil, one lateral per row is the preferred layout. Dripper spacing
along the lateral is 20 – 30 cm.
Drip Irrigation of Protected Crops
Protected crops have three levels of protection:
Greenhouses and High Tunnels
Full height structures enable free passing by and render considerable vertical space
to optimize the ambient environment.
Greenhouse growers employ two basic types of growing beds:
a. Native soil;
b. Detached media.


Full environmental control is gaining momentum in greenhouses. However, in most of

them, only irrigation and nutrition are automatically controlled yet.
Low Tunnels
In low tunnels, a lower degree of control maintained that provides only partial
environmental control, but typically, irrigation and plant nutrition are fully controlled.
Plastic Mulch
The lowest degree of protection, plastic mulch, covers the soil to preserve water,
reduce temperature fluctuations within the root-zone and eliminate direct contact of
the fruit and foliage with the soil and the irrigation water.

Fig, 14.4. Wide-scale drip irrigation in greenhouses Courtesy "Netafim"

Most of the protected cropping area is irrigated by drip irrigation. For crops grown on
native soil, the drip system layout is similar to the systems that are implemented in
the open field. The only difference is that protected crops are grown mostly on coarse
textured soils that may be imported from an exterior site if the local native soil has a
fine texture. Coarser soils require narrower spacing between laterals and drippers as
well as shorter intervals between irrigations.
When required, the relative humidity within protected structures is increased by
sprays, foggers or sprinkling emitters.
Most of the detached beds have a low water-retention capacity and require frequent
watering and dense layout of laterals and drippers. In pot plants, multi-outlet drippers
are used, as well as dedicated drippers such as the arrow dripper.
Many of the detached beds are consisted of fully or partially inert materials.
Therefore, complete fertilization is required, including all the 12 plant nutrition
elements. Oxygen, hydrogen and carbon, are acquired from the atmosphere and
from decomposition of water molecules. Some of the nutrition elements cannot be
mixed together in their concentrated forms, and 2 – 4 separate fertilizer tanks are


required, each with its own injector. More sophisticated systems employ a mixing
tank (mixer), in which 2 – 4 different nutrient solutions are mixed with water and
directly injected into the irrigation system. The nutrient mixture is diluted with water to
the final nutrient concentration required and pumped into the irrigation system.
Environmentally controlled
greenhouses are expensive. Therefore,
in order to maximize income, the
available space is filled to the
maximum: potted plants, propagation
beds, grafts and trays for germinating
transplants are arranged in several
horizontal levels, on separate floors,
and one above another. Multi-outlet
drippers are the most economical
irrigation emitters for this arrangement. Fig. 14.5. Drip irrigation of potted plants in
Greenhouses that recycle drainage greenhouse Courtesy "Netafim"
water for reuse in irrigation require a sterilization system to prevent infestation by
pests such as fungi, bacteria, nematodes and viruses that may be present in the
recirculated drainage water.
Sterilization can be implemented with three techniques:
a. Ultra violet (UV) irradiation.
b. Heating the recycled water to high temperatures.
c. Filtering the water with Slow Sand Filters (SSF).
All these systems are monitored with and controlled by diverse sensors and
computerized controllers.
Drip Irrigation in Landscaping
Drip irrigation has been adopted in
private and public landscaping. Some
small-scale private landscape
installations use flow-rate adjustable
drippers to facilitate simultaneous
irrigation of plants with different water
requirements. Adjustable drippers are
also useful when plant water
requirements change during the irrigation
Fig. 14.6.. Roadside drip irrigation Courtesy "Netafim"
SDI is used in limited scale on turf and
golf courses as well as in sports facilities such as football grounds and tennis courts.
Dripper density in turf grounds is much higher than in agriculture. Spacing of 40 – 50
cm between laterals is common in sandy turf and sports grounds with coarse
aggregates like volcanic tuff, pumice, gravel and perlite infrastructure.
Drip irrigation is the optimal solution for roadside irrigation, along sidewalks and at
interchanges. In addition to substantial saving in irrigation water, it eliminates the
hazard of wetted roads and walking lanes that causes road accidents and fall-down
of pedestrians .


When landscape water supply is connected to a drinking-water supply system,

installation of backflow preventers is obligatory. In many countries, installation and
proper management of backflow preventers is compulsory and enforced by state or
local authority regulations.
12.5.1. Micro-irrigation in Orchards
Orchards can be irrigated with drip irrigation or other micro-irrigation technologies.
Certain fruit crops benefit from drip irrigation while others are better adapted to spray
and micro-sprinkler irrigation.
Drip irrigation is the best choice for water saving and salinity handling while microjets
and micro-sprinklers are favored for frost protection and decreasing damage by heat
spells, particularly in citrus, avocado, mango and other sub-tropical crops.
Drip Irrigation
There are different dripper
layouts for orchards. For
heavy and medium textured
soils, one drip lateral along
the row may be sufficient.
On sandy and shallow
soils, two laterals, 20 – 60
cm apart on each side of
the row, perform better.
Additional layouts are loops
and half circles around the
trunk, star and “snake”
layouts as shown in figure
Fig. 14.7. Drip irrigation layouts in orchards
The most explicit water
saving in orchards using drip irrigation occurs during the early years prior to fruit
bearing. Some types of laterals allow gradual unplugging of the water outlets relating
to tree development. In these cases, in the first years only emitters adjacent to the
tree are unplugged.
In table and wine grapes as well as in kiwi plantations, it is common to hang the
laterals 30 cm above ground by fastening them with a clip to the lowest wire on the
trellis. Drop concentrators are mounted on the lateral to force the drops to the desired
wetting points.

Fig. 14.8. Dripper layouts in wide-spaced orchards

For widely spaced orchards such as pecans and nuts spaced 10 × 10 to 15 × 15 m,
one lateral per row is insufficient to satisfy the tree's water requirements. Two laterals
and more per row, or loops around the trunks, perform better.


Nutrition Ditches
A new technology had been
developed for frequent water
application and to "spoon-feed"
sensitive crops like mangoes,
avocadoes and nectarines in
harsh soil and climate
One or two ditches per row, 30
– 50 cm deep and 20 cm wide,
are excavated along the tree
rows. The ditches are filled with
aggregates of volcanic tuff, Fig. 14.9. Yield increase in mango in nutrition ditches
pumice, gravel or perlite. A drip lateral is laid over each ditch. During the irrigation
season, water and nutrients are applied in pulses, several times a day. Yield
increased significantly.
Micro-sprinkler and Micro-jet Irrigation in Orchards
The common layout is one lateral per row. The density of emitters on the lateral
depends on the spacing between the trees. In densely planted crops, less than 3 m
in the row, one emitter between two trees is sufficient. In more spacious planting, one
emitter per tree is common. In extremely spacious planting, two emitters per tree are

Sprinkler Irrigation Techniques

Sprinkler systems can be classified in two broad categories: set and mobile
Set Systems can be further divided into fixed and periodic-move systems.
Mobile Systems can be further divided into intermittent-move and continuous-
move systems.
Three criteria determine the selection of the optimal sprinkler irrigation method.
a. Crop type: e.g. field crops, orchards, greenhouses, etc;
b. The type of emitter: overhead, under-canopy, micro sprinklers, etc.;
c. The degree of mobility: hand-move, solid set, towline, wheel-move, traveler,
linear-move, center-pivot, etc.
The available equipment, crop requirements, economical considerations and the
availability, qualification and cost of manpower, determine the chosen irrigation
Sprinkler laterals are made of aluminum and plastic materials. In Linear-Move and
Center-Pivot, the main lateral may be made also of high tensile galvanized light steel.


Aluminum Pipes

Fig. 14.10. Hand-move lateral

Laterals of 2" and 3" diameter, 6 or 12 m. long segments, are moved manually from
one position to another. Each lateral is transferred several times to different positions
during the irrigation cycle. At the beginning of the next irrigation cycle, the laterals are
moved forward along the distribution line and the terminal lateral is returned to the
first position in the field. This scheme is known as the "clock method" and is widely
used. The hand-move technique is usually applied in small plots of field crops,
vegetables and orchards, As well as in fields that are not suitable for mechanized
irrigation and solid set systems are beyond owner's financial capability. The
technique is labor consuming and commits physical effort.
= Head at that point – m.

= Flow-rate – m3/h and flow direction

= Pipe material and nominal
= Width/length – m.
= position No. #
Fig. 14.11. Hand-move layout: 2” aluminum pipes, spacing 6x12 m. 4 laterals x 4 positions
Labor Requirements
Two hours of labor are required for the irrigation of one hectare of cotton at sprinkler
spacing of 12 m x 18 m; including the positioning of laterals in the field, removal,


transfer, etc. Four hours of labor is required for the irrigation of one hectare of
vegetables at spacing of 6 m x 12 m.
Hand-move Operation Recommendations
a. Coupling and uncoupling of pipes
should be done holding the center of
gravity of the pipe;
b. The lateral has to be flushed with a
small water flow during the
assembling of the laterals;
c. On the way back to the head of the Fig. 14.12. Coupling of aluminum pipe
lateral, the coupling sealing, the
stability and verticality of the sprinklers and their performance has to be
d. In tall crops, such as cotton or corn, footpaths between the plants should be
prepared to ease the moving and positioning of pipes;
e. When using pipes 12-m. long for irrigation of tall field crops, the saddle with the
sprinkler should be mounted in the center of the pipe;
f. Pipes should not be carried vertically to avoid the hazard of contact with
electrical wires;
g. At the end of the irrigation season the equipment should be stored and
Flexible Laterals in
Soft polyethylene laterals
(grade 6) of 16, 20 or 25 mm
diameter, up to 50 m-long,
with one or two sprinklers at
the distal end of the lateral are
pulled along, between two
rows of the trees. At the start
of the irrigation cycle, the
lateral is fully stretched
between the two rows. At the
end of the first shift the lateral
is pulled to its next position
along the row of trees and so Fig. 14.13. 10 shift drag under-canopy sprinkler array
on until the cycle is completed.
The laterals are returned to the starting position, by a "large move" and wait for the
next irrigation cycle.
The number of positions per lateral may vary, depending on the conditions in the
orchard. Normally, Number of positions varies between 2 to 6. When irrigating two
shifts per day, the number of shifts in a cycle can be doubled. The irrigator steps on
dry soil, does not cross rows of trees when pulling the laterals, and work output is
higher than with hand-move of aluminum pipes under the same circumstances. The
method is inexpensive due to the small number of sprinklers needed but the wear of


the equipment is high due to fracturing of the laterals. Accuracy in positioning is

required as well as skilled and permanent manpower.
Permanent Installations
Solid-set in Orchards
Under-canopy Irrigation

Figure 14.14. Orchard under-canopy micro-sprinkler irrigation

Soft polyethylene (grade 4) pipes of 16, 20 or 25 mm diameter are laid-out along the
rows of the trees beside the trunks. Low-volume sprinklers, mini and micro-sprinklers
or micro-jets (flow-rate up to 250 l/h) are mounted on the pipes or connected by
means of a small-diameter plastic tube. Application rate is low, 3 - 5 mm/h. The
distance between the emitters along the lateral corresponds to the tree spacing, one
emitter per one or per two trees. The sub-mains are commonly made of HDPE pipes
of grade 4 or 6 bar working pressure. Manifolds are buried underground across the
tree rows. In case of hazard for damage by woodpeckers, the laterals also should be
buried in the shallow upper soil layer.

Fig. 14.15. Solid-set system in orchard. spacing 6 x 4 m. sprinkler flow-rate 100 l/h


Despite the high cost of this technology, the solid-set systems are replacing the
hand-move irrigation in orchards. Micro-emitters, as well as drippers, are the
prevailing emitters used.
Solid-set systems save labor, are conveniently operated and are compatible with all
the levels of automatic control systems. The low angle of water throw, prevents
wetting of the canopy, decreasing the occurrence of leaf-diseases and washing-out
of pesticides from the leaves. Wind impact on the uniformity of water distribution in
mature orchards is negligible. The system can be used to moderate extreme
temperatures and reduce the damage during events of frost or heat spells.
Fertigation is common in solid-set systems in orchards. The short irrigation intervals
and the improved control on wetting depth increase the efficiency of nutrient
Overhead Orchard Irrigation
HDPE pipes, 40-75 mm in diameter, grade 4, are stretched along the rows beside the
trees. The sprinklers are mounted on high risers, at least 25 cm. above the tops of
the trees. The position of the sprinklers will be every second or third row, 10 – 15 m.
apart along the lateral, in accordance with tree spacing and plot dimensions. In order
to keep costs low, the spacing is as wide as possible, keeping acceptable distribution
uniformity. Installation and operation are simple, labor investment is minimal and
complete coverage will be attained if the sprinklers' position and operation pressure
are adequate. There are, however, some limitations: High working pressure and low
salt content in irrigation water are required. Irrigation can be applied only at night.
There are water losses in plot margins, particularly in small plots. The wetting of the
foliage enhances leaf and fruit fungal and bacterial diseases.

Fig.14.16. Orchard overhead irrigation


In recent years, under-canopy solid-set technology is replacing the above canopy

systems in orchards, apart from in those circumstances when overhead irrigation is
significantly more efficient in decreasing frost damage.

Mini-sprinklers Solid-set Systems in Vegetables

From the last decade of the 20th century, there has been a wide-scale expansion of
the use of low-volume mini-sprinklers in solid-set irrigation systems in vegetables
grown in open fields. The emitters are modified orchard under-canopy mini-sprinklers
with extended wetting diameter that allow spacing of 8X8 and 10X10 m. The initial
investment is lower than in solid-set dripper systems or laterals with the common
general use sprinklers. The working pressure is relatively low and the economical
results are satisfactory. The laterals are of 40 - 50 mm. diameter. The mini-sprinklers
are connected to the laterals by means of thin flexible tubes and are supported by
100 - 150 cm long metal rods that are inserted into the soil, to guarantee the vertical
position of the emitters.
The common sprinkler flow-rate is 400 - 600 l/h and precipitation rate is 4 - 6 mm/h.
Additional advantage of this technology is the reduction in encrustation of the soil
surface and runoff prevention, due to the low irrigation intensity. The major limitation
of this technique is its sensitivity to wind.

Fig. 14.17. Solid-set mini-sprinkler irrigation of vegetables


Mechanized Irrigation
The shortage in skilled man-power as well as the accelerated shift from surface to
pressurized irrigation and the necessity to simultaneously irrigate vast areas,
triggered the development of mechanized irrigation. The simplest mechanized
technologies are the towline as a replacement to hand-move of aluminum pipes and
the mechanized side-roll as a modification of the manual wheel-move. Later on, more
advanced systems were elaborated: the traveling-gun (traveler), the Center-Pivot and
the Linear-Move laterals. Mechanized irrigation is suitable for large rectangular plots,
over 10 - 20 hectares in flat land or moderate slope. Mechanized irrigation of irregular
plots has lower irrigation efficiency and relatively high water losses.


Fig. 14.8. Towline Fig. 14.9. Towline accessories

In the fifties of the 20th century The Towline was an efficient solution to decrease the
number of irrigators, required for moving sprinkler laterals in the field. It was
consisted of ordinary, 12 m. long aluminum pipes. Reinforced couplers fastened
together the pipes, in order to minimize the risk of disintegration during towing. The
pipes were supported by skids or wheels spaced 6 - 12 m. apart. The riser was
mounted in the middle of each pipe segment, for better stability during towing. The
risers were high enough that the sprinklers will be located above the plants' canopy.
A common towline lateral length was up to 400 m., of 4" aluminum pipes, or up to
250 m., when 3" aluminum pipes were used.
The development of more sophisticated mechanized irrigation technologies,
gradually excluded the towlines that had been replaced by center pivots and linear-
move systems.
Wheel-move systems have three variants:
a. Traditional manually moved systems


b. Side-roll systems
c. Side-move systems
Manually move systems were limited in length – up to 200 m. and in many cases,
more than one irrigator was needed to relocate the system. Nowadays it had been
almost fully replaced by the mechanized side-roll and side-move systems.
Side-roll Systems
Side-roll or wheel-line systems employ an aluminum or galvanized steel lateral as
water conveyer and also as the axle of a large (1.5 - 2.0 m. diameter) wheels. The
wheels are spaced 9 – 12 m apart and allow the lateral to be rolled from one
irrigation position to the next one. A small internal combustion engine is used to roll
the whole lateral. The pipes must be strong, and rigid couplings are used to
withstand the high torque loads. Usually, the engine is located in the middle of the
lateral to reduce the torque. Ordinary impact sprinklers, spaced 9 - 12 m. apart, are
mounted on a special weighted swivel assembly to secure their upright position after
each move.
Before irrigation begins, the
main-line is laid along the
side of the field. When
irrigating, the lateral remains
in place until the designed
water amount has been
applied. A flexible hose
connection to hydrant, allows
the lateral to be moved over
two or three sets with water
supply from the same
hydrant. This system is best Fig. 14.20. Side-roll in the field
suited to large flat rectangular
areas of low field crops. In heavy soils, the wheels may become bogged-down in the
The aluminum or galvanized steel pipe, is of 3" – 6" in diameter. As mentioned
before, the pipe serves also as the axle of the metallic wheels. The greatest length of
the lateral is 300 – 400 m. In some exceptional circumstances it can be extended up
to 600 m.
The sprinklers are mounted along the lateral
on swiveling connectors equipped with
ballast to secure the vertical position of the
riser. The width of the irrigated area in each
position depends on the sprinkler
specifications. Commonly it ranges from 20
to 30 m. The engine that is mounted in the
middle of the system propels the wheels by
means of a drive-shaft from one irrigation
stationary position to the next. During the
movement, the water is shut-down. The
time-length of irrigation in each position is 3
Fig. 14.21. Sprinkler vertically stabilized by
- 12 hours, until the pre-designed water
a swivel and a ballast


amount has been applied and the water is automatically shut-off. Then the operator
disconnects the system from the hydrant, starts the engine and moves the system
forward to the next position, 12 - 24 m. ahead, where he connects the system to
another hydrant. The side-roll is suitable for flat terrain and slopes up to 5%.
The side-roll sprinkler system is best adapted for rectangular fields. The operating
pressure is 2.5 – 4.0 bars with impact sprinklers. Since the lateral pipe to which the
sprinklers are attached also acts as the axle for the wheels, crop height is a limiting
factor. The flexible hose is used to connect the system to the hydrants that are
located mostly along the edge of the field. One shift usually covers 1 – 2 hectares, so
one side-roll system can cover 10 – 20 hectares per system. The side-roll has
medium labor requirements and a moderate investment cost.
Side-move Systems
The difference from the side-roll is that in this variant, the lateral pipe is not used as
an axle to the wheel. The pipe is mounted segmentally on a frame with two wheels
per segment. Hence the pipe location can be higher and allows irrigation of higher
crops. The pipe is not rotating and the risers are fixed and does not need the vertical
stabilization with swivels and ballasts.
Traveling-gun (Traveler)
The traveling-gun has been emerged from the manually moved big-gun.
Gun (Giant, or Rain Gun) sprinklers have 16 mm. diameter or larger nozzles
attached to long (30 or more cm.) discharge tubes. Most gun sprinklers are rotated
by means of a rocker-arm drive and the majority can be set to irrigate a part circle.
Gun-sprinklers usually discharge more than 25 m3/h and are operated individually
rather than as sprinkler-laterals. A typical sprinkler discharges 100 m3h and requires
50 – 70 m. (5 – 7 bars) or higher operating pressure.
By means of the high operating pressure, 60 – 80 m. (6 - 8 bars) in the nozzle, The
flow-rate of a single gun may be up to 250 m3/h and the wetting diameter, up to 120
m. Application-rates vary from 7.5 to 25 mm/h. The water supply is carried out by
means of a wide diameter, 4" – 6" semi-rigid round or flexible lay-flat hose. The hose
is wrapped on a reel, mounted on a trailer. The gun can be pulled towards the trailer
by the wrapping of the hose on the reel.

Fig. 14.22. Hose-reel traveler Fig. 14.23. Cable-tow (hose-pull) traveler


There are two types of traveling guns:

a. Hose-reel (hard-hose) system;
b. Cable-tow (hose-pull) system.
Hose-reel Systems
The hose-reel machine has a rain-gun mounted on a sledge or wheeled carriage.
Water is supplied through a semi-rigid hose that is flexible enough to be wound onto
a large reel. The 200 – 400 m long hose is used to pull the rain-gun toward the hose-
In a typical layout for a hose-reel system, the mainline is placed across the center of
the field. The hose-reel is placed close to the mainline at the start of the first run and
connected to the water supply hydrant. The rain-gun is slowly pulled out across the
field by a tractor and the hose is allowed to uncoil from the reel. The pump is started
and the valve coupler is opened slowly to start the irrigation. The rain-gun then is
pulled back slowly across the field by winding the hose onto the hose-reel. Power to
drive the hose-reel can be provided by a water motor or, more often, by an internal
combustion engine. At the end of a run, the hose-reel automatically stops winding
and shuts down the water supply.
Cable-tow Systems
The Cable-tow traveler has a
rain-gun mounted on a
wheeled carriage. Water is
supplied through a flexible
hose up to 200 m long and
100 mm in diameter, which is
pulled along behind the
machine. High flow-rates
necessitates pipe of wider
diameters, while low flow-
rates allow the use of
narrower diameters. The Fig. 14.24. Water driven cable-tow traveler scheme
After D. Shoer 2011
mainline is laid across the
center of the field. A strip up to 400 m long can be irrigated at one setting of a 200 m
long flexible hose.
The rain-gun carriage is positioned at the start of its first run at a distance equal to
one third of the wetting diameter from the field edge. The flexible hose is laid along
the travel lane and connected to the rain-gun and the valve coupler on the mainline.
A steel guide cable on the sprinkler carriage is pulled out to the other end of the field
and firmly anchored. The valve coupler is opened slowly to start the irrigation. The
rain-gun carriage is moved either by a “water motor” powered from the water supply
using a piston or turbine drive, or, more often, by an internal combustion engine.
At the end of a run, the carriage stops automatically and shuts- down the main water
supply to the rain-gun. Labor is required only to reposition the hose, cable, and
machine to start the next run.
The application uniformity of travelers is only fair in the central portion of the field.
Strips 30 – 60 m. wide along the ends and sides of the field are frequently poorly


The pressure at the rain-gun determines the application-rate. The forward speed of
the machine controls the depth of water applied. Typical machine speeds vary from
10 to 50 m. per hour. The faster the machine travels, the smaller the depth of water
Continuous-move Systems
In addition to the before mentioned mobile irrigation systems, two systems, the
Center-Pivot and the Linear-Move had been developed that irrigate while in move,
contradicting to the tow-line, wheel-move and most of the gun-travelers that are
moved from one position to another without irrigating and irrigation takes place while
the system is in a stationary position. These systems are designated as irrigation-
machines. In addition to frame, water delivery pipe and emitters, they are assembled
of motors, gear drives, pumps, sensors, controllers and communication gear.

The Water Emitters

Early mechanized systems were equipped with ordinary high-pressure impact
sprinklers that threw the water for a long distance. In many cases, distribution
uniformity was non-satisfactory, due to the long distance between the emitters and
wind interference. Runoff from soil surface was triggered by the impact of the coarse
water drops on the soil surface and in certain circumstances by high application-
rates. Additional drawback of using these sprinklers was the high energy
consumption. Requested operating pressure was 5 – 8 bars.
In moving irrigation systems, in addition to the application-rate attribute, the
parameter Specific Longitudinal Discharge (SLD), namely, the hourly flow-rate
per length unit, along the moving lateral is very important. It facilitates the
assessment of the performance, that is the maximum would-be irrigated area by the
The Specific Longitudinal Flow-rate is the quotient of the system hourly flow-rate over
the lateral length.
System flow-rate - 600 m3/h, lateral length - 400 m.
SLD = 600/400 = 1.5 m3/m/h.
The higher the SLD of the system, the more area the system can irrigate in a given
time period, provided no runoff occurs.
The common SLD range is 0.5 - 2 m3/h. Common advance velocity is 50 - 100 m/h.
Although the specific longitudinal flow-rate of laterals with high-pressure sprinklers is
high, the local application-rate can be lower than that of low and medium pressure
systems that throw the water for shorter distance.
Water flow-rates of the sprinklers are determined by the size and shape of the nozzle
on the sprinkler and the operating pressure,. Most sprinkler nozzles have water-
passageway of circular cross-section. Some sprinklers have straightening vanes,
tapered or straight entrances, spreader vanes, or noncircular water-passageways
that extend or curtail the wetted diameter, change water distribution pattern, and
determine droplet breakup and size distribution.


The Center-Pivot had been introduced in the early fifties in Colorado by Frank
Zybach that later sold the patent to Valley (Valmont company).
In Center-Pivot The lateral
rotates in a circle around a fixed
point (pivot) like a clock hand.
The pivot is connected to the
water supply. Because of the
circular movement, each emitter
along the lateral covers a
different area.
Square plots are best suitable to
Center-Pivots. The wetted area
will be roughly 80% of the Fig. 14.25. Aerial view of center-pivot irrigated area
square. Wetting up to 95% of the square area is possible by the use of corner

Fig. 14.26. Center-pivot operation scheme Fig. 14.27. Net irrigated area
The main advantages of Center-Pivot irrigation machines are:
1. Water delivery is simplified through the use of a stationary pivot point;
2. Guidance and alignment are controlled relative to the fixed pivot point;
3. Speed is set by the exterior tower of the base circle;
4. High water application uniformities are easily achieved with the moving
5. After completing one irrigation, the system is at the starting point for the next
6. Irrigation management is improved by accurate and timely application of
7. Capability of accurate and timely applications of fertilizers in the irrigation
These attributes diminish mechanical and operational problems associated with other
types of self-propelled irrigation machines.
Center-Pivots have two drawbacks:


1. Since the concentric band irrigated increases with each increment of radius,
most of the water must be carried toward the end of the lateral, which results
in high friction losses in the lateral;
2. When elevation differences between uphill and downhill lateral positions are
significant, pressure regulation and/or flow control nozzles have to be used to
eliminate large variations in emitters discharge.
Dual function systems were developed that can
be used as Linear-Move or as Center-Pivot by
changing the driving unit and the water inlet.
Water is supplied to the Center-Pivot from a
buried mainline or directly from a well located
near the pivot point. Water flows through a
swivel joint to the rotating lateral and emitters.
When irrigating, the lateral rotates continuously
around the pivot, wetting a circular area. One
revolution can take from 20 to 100 hours
depending on lateral length, the amount of
water to be applied and the capacity of the
water source. The slower the lateral rotates the
more water is applied to the wetted area.
Typical applied water depths vary from 20 to 50
mm. A Center-Pivot lateral can effectively apply
light, frequent irrigations.
Fig. 14.28. Components of center-pivot
The lateral consists of a series of spans with
/ linear-move lateral system Source: Smith, A. In Industry
steel trusses, each is 25 - 75 m long and is & Investment NSW and CRC for Irrigation Futures
carried about 2.5 - 5 m above the ground by
drive units (“towers”). A drive unit consists of an “A-frame” supported on motor-driven
wheels (commonly, 1 hp electric motor).
The most common Center-Pivot lateral is made of 6" pipe, approximately 400 m long.
It irrigates a circular area of 50 hectares plus 1 – 3 hectares irrigated by the end
sprinkler. Laterals 80 – 800 m. long are available for irrigation of fields of different
dimensions. In laterals longer than 400 m., one or more initial pipe spans have to be
of 8" or 10" diameter. The guidance system is composed of appliances installed at
each drive unit that keep the lateral aligned between the pivot and the end-drive unit.
Corner attachments, allow the corners
of square fields and odd-shaped areas
of irregularly shaped fields to be
The corner attachment is an additional
tower that is operated only as needed.
It swings out from the end of the lateral
line to irrigate the corners or other odd
shaped areas. Operation of the corner
attachment is controlled by a signal
sent through a buried electric cable.
The corner arms have angle detectors Fig. 14.29. Center-pivot main tower
for turning discretely, or in groups on


and off the emitters as the arm swings out and back again.
The moving lateral pipeline is fitted with emitters to distribute the water evenly over
the circular field. Because the lateral moves in a circle, uniform watering is achieved
by linearly increasing the application-rate toward the outer end of the lateral. This is
performed by varying either the nozzle size or the spacing of sprinklers.
The area to be irrigated by each nozzle along the lateral becomes progressively
larger toward the moving end, and the lateral speed becomes progressively faster.
To provide uniform application, the sprinklers must be designed to have
progressively greater discharges, closer spacing, or both, toward the moving end.
The first option uses equally spaced sprinklers
with small nozzles close to the pivot that
gradually increase in size toward the outer
The distance traveled by each emitter along a
Center-Pivot lateral is equal to 2πr, where r is
the distance of the sprinkler or spray nozzle
along the lateral from the pivot point. The
application-rate must increase with increasing
r to obtain a uniform application depth. Since
the lateral is traveling faster toward the end,
also the “opportunity time” for application is Fig. 14.30. Options of sprinkler position
reduced. The reduction is proportional to the and discharge Source: Howell USDA-ARS
speed of the lateral, which is proportional to
the distance r from the pivot. If the same depth of water is requested all along the
lateral, and because application depth equals the application-rate multiplied by
opportunity time (i.e. mm/minute multiplied by minutes = mm), then as the travel
speed increases toward the outer spans of the lateral, in even spaced emitters, the
flow-rate has to gradually increase towards the lateral end.
The second option employs emitters of the same flow-rate but they are placed closer
together toward the outer end. This configuration simplifies maintenance since all the
emitters are the same and require the same spare parts.
As mentioned before, pivots are best adapted to flat terrain, but are being used
satisfactorily on slopes up to 15%. Sloping terrain may require towers to be located
closer together so that the lateral line can more closely follow the topography. In such
slopes, pressure regulators are requested.
Linear-move Systems
The basic Linear-Move
construction is similar to that of the
Center-Pivot. it combines the
structure and guidance system of a
Center-Pivot lateral with a traveling
water feed system similar to that of
a traveling sprinkler.
Fig. 14.31. Linear-move lateral
Instead of moving in a circle, the


linear system moves as aligned straight line through the field, generally at right
angles to the row direction. Instead of a pivot point that is anchored while the
machine rotates around it, there is a chief tower that controls the remainder of the
The Linear-Move is constructed from a wide diameter 6" – 8" galvanized steel pipe,
200 - 400 m. long, mounted on wheeled mobile towers. Pipe diameter depends upon
the system capacity and lateral length.
The towers are spaced 30 – 60 m. apart. Water feeding can be done in the center of
the lateral or in one of its edges. A center-feed system can use smaller diameter
lateral pipe than an end-feed system of the same capacity and length, due to the
lower friction loss, since water is being distributed in two directions, one half of the
flow-rate to each side of the lateral.
Each tower has an electric motor and is guided independently by cables and micro-
switches to keep the lateral aligned. The alignment is monitored through switches in
contact with a straight cable along the center or the end of the field. At the main
tower are installed the pump and power unit, plus a generator to provide power for
the electric motors. Old models were driven by water pressure. Today, most systems
are driven by electric motors. The advantages of electric drive is that it is
independent of the water pressure state and the machine can be moved across the
field dry, without applying water, when returned to the starting point.
The system is driven either by the water pressure, diesel or electric engine. As
mentioned before, the water inlet is located at the pipe edge or in its center. The
water is supplied from hydrants in the field by connecting and disconnecting a wide
diameter, flexible hose; by a dragged long flexible hose or pumped directly from a
canal along the field border or in its middle. The water dosage depends on the
traveling speed of the lateral, the intake rate of the soil and the flow-rate of the
emitters. The length of the irrigated field may be up to 1000 - 2000 m. At the end of
the field the lateral can be rotated 1800 and returned in an adjacent trail.

Fig. 14.32. Linear-move system with spray Fig. 14.33. Linear-move system pumping water from
emitters on drops ditch
The Linear-Move machine is designed to be used for irrigation of rectangular fields.
An ideal field layout allows a travel distance which is two to three times the length of
the lateral. Shorter travel distances will increase the cost of ownership of the
machine, economically feasible only for high value cash-crops.
Since most of these machines are operated in low to medium pressure, they are best
suited to fields with little elevation differences. The low-pressure machines use spray


nozzles that have a high instantaneous application-rate, suitable to high infiltration-

rate soils only.
Linear-Move systems can pump water from open ditches. The ditch-fed machines
are easier to operate and require less labor. The slope on the canal should not
exceed 1%. Water control structures are needed to guarantee adequate depth of
water in the canal. At each water control structure, it is necessary to manually lift the
suction hose across the structure. A large self-cleaning screen is mounted on the
suction hose to prevent clogging of emitters. Linear-Move systems that pump from
ditches must have a self-contained pump and motor powered by an on-board diesel
engine or electric motor fed via an auxiliary cable
Some Linear-Move systems are getting water from hydrants by a flexible hose so
that some undulation in ground elevation is allowed. From the hydrants the water is
delivered through 100 - 200 m. segments of high pressure, flexible, rubber coated,
synthetic textile hose to the main tower of the machine. Moving the hose each time
that the machine travels 200 to 300 m. is time consuming, requires a tractor and two
The medium-pressure machines use low-pressure impact sprinklers, have a lower
instantaneous application-rate, and can be used on soils that have a moderate
More sophisticated systems utilize automated coupling mechanisms in which the
water is supplied from evenly-spaced hydrant valves along a buried mainline pipe.
The automated coupling systems use swing-arms with swivel joints to connect to the
hydrants as the system moves down the field, and they are suitable for application in
undulating topographies, but they are much more expensive than Linear-Move
systems that take water from a ditch or a flexible hose.
Hose-pull systems generally obtain necessary water pressure from the water source.
An auxiliary electrical cable is often used to provide power for towers' drives.
Some systems use GPS technology in
guiding the Linear movement.
A major drawback of Linear-Move
systems, as compared to Center-Pivot
systems, is the need of driving the
lateral back to the starting position.
Since the Center-Pivot lateral
operates in a circle, it naturally ends
each irrigation cycle at the beginning
of the next. The Linear-Move travels
from one end of the field to the other,
its ending position is the maximum
distance away from the starting Fig. 14.34. Linear-move – main-line in field margin
position; down-time results if the machine is returned “dry” (not applying water).
When the lateral reaches the far end of the field, it has to be moved back to the
beginning. This means moving a heavy machine over recently irrigated land. On
sandy soils this may not be a problem, but on fine-textured soils the towers may sink
into the soil even when crawler tracks are used. It may be necessary to wait a few
days to reposition the system.



Setting up a new irrigation system has two phases:
a. Planning;
b. Design
Planning is the preliminary stage that consists of collecting data, taking decisions
about the irrigation regime, choosing the layout and the components of the system,
defining the emitter type and flow-rate.
The hydraulic design is the second stage that comprises of mapping the irrigation
system layout, locating control units, mains and laterals, calculating and determining
the pressure and flow regime and programming the operation timetable. This phase
can be supported by sophisticated computer software, provided the designers have a
sound understanding of the fundamentals of hydraulic design.
Basic pre-design data to be collected: plot boundaries and topography, soil
properties, climate data, cropping technology, crop water requirement, water-supply
capacity and water quality, existing equipment.
The topographic map of the plot will be
scaled to 1:500 (for small plots) – 1:2500
(for large blocks). It will incorporate
topography, plot boundaries, crop
spacing, row direction and the partition
into sub-units. If the irrigated area is an
orchard, the grid of the trees along the
rows will be sketched. In existing
orchards, air or satellite photo can be
referred, if applicable. Intervals between
elevation contours will not exceed 1 m.
It is recommended to carry out a soil
survey, to determine the soil texture
and structure, soil permeability,
encrustation, etc. It is essential to check
whether compact soil layers or a high
water table exist.
Soil Properties
a. Soil depth;
b. Soil texture and structure;
c. Bulk density;
d. Saturation Percentage, Field
Capacity, Permanent Wilting Fig. 15.1. Topographic map
e. Infiltration rate and hydraulic conductivity data, if available;
f. Presence of stratified layers and cracks;
g. Soil salinity.


Table 15.1. Irrigation system planning form

Name …………………… Locality ……………………… Plot …………………………
Coordinates : x …………………….. y …………………..
Average Monthly Rainfall mm/Month
Jan ………. Feb …….…. March …….…. April ………. May …….…. June …….….
July …..….. Aug …….… Sept …….……. Oct ……..…. Nov ……….. Dec ……..….
Average Evaporation Rate mm/Day
Jan ………. Feb …….…. March …….…. April ………. May …….…. June …….….
July …..….. Aug …….… Sept …….……. Oct ……..…. Nov ……….. Dec ……..….
Soil Type …………………………. Depth ……… cm Available Water ……….. mm
Infiltration Rate ………… mm/h EC …………… dS/m
Water Source …………. Capacity ……. m3/h Pressure in Source ……… m. head.
Water Quality
Total Hardness ………… mg/l Turbidity …….… NTU EC ……... dS/m pH ….…..
Existence of Sand/Clay Particles ………………………..
Crop …………………… Annual/Perennial ……………… Root Depth
Planting/Sowing Date …………….... End of Irrigation Season Date ……………..
Crop Coefficient ……….. Water Requirement Curve (If Applicable)
Range of intervals between irrigations ………………….. d or h
Range of Water Amount per Application …………..…….. mm
Topographic Map
Emitter Type …………… Flow-rate ………….. l/h Operating Head ………… m.
Distance Between Laterals ………….. cm Distance on Lateral …………… cm
Application Rate ……….. mm/h
Laterals ND ……… mm Lateral Length ………. m Head loss in lateral ………m.
Manifolds ND………mm Manifold Length …….m Head loss in Manifold …….m
Sub-mains ND ……. mm Sub-main Length …….m Head loss in sub-main
Mainline ND ………mm Mainline Length ………m Head loss in mainline …….m
Requested Pressure at System Head ………. m.

Climate Data
a. Rainfall – amount and seasonal distribution;
b. Reference Evapo-transpiration (ET0) – calculated from climatic variables
(Penman-Monteith method) or directly measured in Class A pan.
Cropping Data
a. Growth season;
b. Phenological stages – dates, time-length, foliage coverage, root-zone depth,
sensitivity to water stress;
c. In-row and between row spacing;
d. Peak season crop coefficient (kc): the ratio between ETc (crop water loss by
evapo-transpiration) and the ET0.
The crop coefficient kc has been elaborated for use in fully wetted soil surface
technologies like overlapping sprinkler irrigation. For partial soil surface wetting


technologies, the ETc may be adjusted downwards. The component of evaporation

from soil surface is significantly reduced in partial wetting pattern, due to the small
percentage of wetted soil surface.
The adjustment can be made using the equation:

(Eq. 15.1)

ETca = Adjusted ETc
GC = Percentage of ground cover, The percentage of ground cover relates to the
shaded soil surface by the crop foliage at midday.
13.2.4. Water resources
The second set of data is about the water source and the water quality.
Water Supply Capacity
The parameters needed for system design:
a. Water source characteristics (river, dam, pond, well, public/commercial
b. Hours of supply (if by external supplier or due to restrictions on electricity
c. Maximum available hourly/daily flow-rate (discharge);
d. Pump pressure-discharge curve (if applicable);
e. Pressure at supply connection (if by external supplier);
f. Water quality (physical contamination, turbidity. hardness, salinity. pH).
If a public or commercial supplier provides the water, the head, maximum available
flow-rate at the supply connection and supply hours have to be validated.
Additional data have to be gathered about the crop water requirements, the climate
conditions, the amount and the season of rainfall and the sensitivity of the crop to
the irrigation-dependent environmental factors like salinity and the wetting of the
With the above-mentioned data at hand, the selection of the irrigation method and
emitter can be considered.
The parameters to be regarded are the application-rate that has to correspond to
the water intake-rate (infiltration-rate) of the soil, the time-length of the application
that has to correspond with the wind conditions; water quality and crop sensitivity to
foliage wetting. Crucial factors are the cost of the equipment, investment capital at
hand and the forecasted operating costs.
After the optional alternatives have been scrutinized, the selection of the emitter
type and its flow-rate can take place, using manufacturers' catalogs. The tables in
the catalogs present the flow-rate (discharge) in the operating pressure levels. They
also specify the wetting diameter (in sprinklers, micro-sprinklers and micro-jets), the
allowed spacing between the emitters and the application-rate in those spacing.
At this stage, the actual design of the irrigation system can take place. In order to
achieve a satisfactory flow-rate uniformity between all the emitters operating
simultaneously in the irrigated sector, the maximum difference in flow-rate between
emitters has to be lower than 10%. This allows the maximum head difference in the
simultaneously irrigating non-pressure compensated emitters to be 20%.


To calculate accurately the water-flow and pressure regime in the irrigated plot, the
outline of the irrigation network has to be projected on topographical map with the
grid of the rows.
Data Manipulation
The capacity of the irrigation system has to correspond with the most demanding
crop water requirements, namely peak water consumption by the crop. That takes
place when foliage coverage is maximal, and/or evaporation is in its peak and/or crop
sensitivity to water stress is the highest. In the case of annual crop rotation, data
relating to the most demanding crop will be taken into account.
The optimal irrigation regime of a given plot has to be based on the water
consumption by the crop, soil water retention and the irrigation system layout.
Soil Wetting Pattern
In sprinkler irrigation there are two patterns of wetting the soil:
a. Full soil surface coverage by overlapping emitters. That pattern prevails with
overhead sprinkler irrigation of field crops, vegetables and flowers in the open
field, in greenhouses, as well as in overhead irrigation by irrigation machines;
b. Partial soil surface coverage by emitters without overlapping between them.
That pattern prevails in under-canopy sprinkler irrigation in orchards, low
volume irrigation with irrigation machines and with micro-irrigation.
The partial soil wetting pattern by non-overlapping emitters, requires the assessment
of the percentage of soil volume that is wetted.
Diverse models for estimating the wetted volume were developed in which the
wetting pattern is determined by:
a. Emitter flow-rate;
b. Infiltration rate of the soil (expressed in mm/h);
c. Soil hydraulic conductivity (expressed as mm/s).
The difficulty with the last two parameters is that the infiltration rate is not consistent
and decreases in irrigated soil along time. The hydraulic conductivity is measured in
the laboratory on disturbed saturated soil. Frequently, the results of the modeling do
not coincide with the actual wetting pattern in undisturbed soil in the field.
A customary compromise made in localized irrigation is the estimation of the
percentage of wetted area. This facilitates use of methodology that had been
developed for determining the irrigation regime in full surface wetting technologies,
corrected with multiplication by the cover percentage factor.
Units of Water Consumption
Water depletion and replenishment amounts are expressed in two alternative values:
a. mm/day (mm/hour in greenhouses) – designates virtual coverage of the whole
surface area in the plot by a uniform water layer of a designated depth in mm;
b. m3/ha./day (or inch/acre/day).
Conversion formula: (mm/day) × 10 = m3/ha./day.


Manipulation Steps
Calculation of the Permitted Depletion of Water from the Soil:
(Eq. 15.2)

MAD = Management Allowed Depletion - the permitted water deficit – mm = l/m2(×10
= m3/ha);
FC = Field Capacity % w/w (weight of water per weight of soil);
PWP = Permanent Wilting Point % w/w;
FC – WP = Available water % w/w;
BD = Bulk Density g/ml
Waf = Permitted depletion fraction of the available water
Sd = Desired wetting depth
D = Maximum horizontal wetting diameter
Sl = Spacing between laterals

FC = 20% w/w
PWP = 15% w/w Available Water (AW) = 20% - 15% = 5% w/w#
BD = 1.4 Available Water = 5% × 1.4 = 7% v/v##
Waf = 0.4 Allowed deficit = 7% × 0.4 = 2.8% v/v
Sl = 1.60 m
D = 0.60 m Percentage wetted area = 0.60/1.60 = 37.5%*
Sd = 0.90 m Wetted volume per ha = 10,000 m2 × 0.90 m × 37.5% = 3375 m3
Allowed deficit per ha. 3375 × 2.8% = 94.5 m3 = 94.5/10 = 9.45 mm
w/w = Weight of water per weight of soil
v/v = Volume of water per volume of soil.
Assessing the Wetted Volume
Assuming full overlapping of the wetted volume by adjacent emitters and ignoring the
non-wetted volume. The wetted soil volume has no regular geometric shape.
The definition of the wetted volume by a single emitter is not a simple assignment. It
is needed for selecting the emitter type, its flow-rate and operating pressure, spacing
between laterals and between emitters, as well as for determining water dosage per
Due to the difficulties in precise calculation of the wetted volume, data related to
wetting volume are only assessments. System designers rely on their experience or
rules of thumb regarding wetting diameters that allow a relatively wide range of
wetting diameters for each soil class.
Diversity is attributed to variability in soil texture and structure in each class.
Significant variability may be found in each irrigating block.
The best way of estimating wetting volume is on-the-spot field examination of the
chosen emitter in undisturbed soil in the specific plot.


Determining the Irrigation Regime

When considering the irrigation regime, the allowed deficit should be compared to the
crop water requirement.
The first step is to calculate the gross daily water replenishment requirement relating
to the irrigation efficiency (IE) of the irrigation system:

(Eq. 15.3)

Wgr = Gross water requirement - mm/day;
ETca = Adjusted crop water requirement – mm/day;
IE = Irrigation Efficiency - %.
Irrigation Efficiency is defined as:

(Eq. 15.4)

Irrigation Efficiency is an arbitrary average value assigned to the irrigation

The common values in high level performance of the irrigation system, are:
a. Border flood irrigation: 50% - 80%;
b. Furrow irrigation: 70% - 80%;
c. Sprinkler irrigation: 85% - 90%;
d. Micro sprinklers and micro jets: 80% - 90%;
e. Drip irrigation: 80% - 95%.
ETca = 6 mm/d
IE = 90% Wgr = 6/90% ≈ 6.7 mm/d
Time Intervals between Irrigations
Calculation of the time interval between water applications has to relate to peak
demand and stress-sensitive phenological phases of the crop. The data required for
determining the interval:
a. Soil water retention – available water;
b. Acceptable depletion fraction of the available water;
c. Root-system depth;
d. Dimensions of the wetted volume or the percentage of wetted area out of the total
spacing area.
The intervals between applications will be calculated by division of the water amount
needed for replenishment of the depleted water by the daily gross water requirement.

(Eq. 15.5)

TI = Time interval between irrigations – days;
Wad = The allowed water depletion – mm = l/m2(×10 = m3/ha);
Wgr = Gross water requirement - mm/day.


Wad = 9.45 mm
Wgr = 6/90% ≈ 6.7 mm/d TI = 9.45/6.7=1.41 days
In this case, the interval will be the integer value (1) and the water dose will be
adjusted respectively. In frequent greenhouse irrigation, intervals are measured in
hours. Here, the interval will be 24h ×1.4 ≈ 33 hours.
Table 15.2. Sprinkler performance data provided by manufacturer (example)

Existing Equipment
Existance of pumping equipment, delivery and distribution pipelines, accessories,
etc. that can be incorporated into the designed system.


Design of Micro-irrigation Systems

Basic Guidelines
Application Uniformity
A fundamental requirement in designing irrigation system is uniform water application
in concurrently irrigating blocks that are comprised of the same crop, same age,
same phenological phase and the same spacing. Since 100% uniformity in flow-rate
of emitters is never attainable; by convention, a difference of 10% between maximum
and minimum of emitters’ flow-rate is acceptable.
Peak Water Demand
The system capacity has to correspond with the crop water requirement. The piping
network will enable the synchronization of water application with seasonal changes in
demand and to the peak seasonal water consumption.
The chosen components as well as their mode of installation have to guarantee long
term durability.
Economic Considerations
Economic considerations have to be taken into account in choosing the equipment
and the layout. Both the annual return of the initial investment and the long term
current annual expenses, have to be considered.
The Design Procedure
The design process is comprised of several steps.
Choosing Emitter and Layout
The preliminary stage of design after the end of the planning phase in which peak
daily and hourly water demand had been calculated, time intervals and irrigation
dosage had been decided and fertilization regime had been determined, is to choose
the emitter and the optimal system layout. The spacing between laterals and
between the emitters on the laterals has to correspond with the crop spacing and the
water conductivity attributes of the soil.
Checking Alternative Layouts
When designing irrigation systems, it is imperative to analyze several alternatives,
comparing initial investment cost and future labor and energy expenses.
Choosing the optimal layout depends on diverse and frequently contradicting
considerations. Longer laterals may enable shorter main and sub-main lines and
saving of accessories but commit larger lateral diameter. The comb layout saves
outlets but necessitates larger diameter of the distributing line. Frequently, it is
economically favorable to lay manifolds of smaller diameters that reduce the cost of
fittings in expense of the additional cost of the manifold piping. Manifolds simplify
operation and automation in case of the need to split the plot for separate water


1. Comb layout 2. Splitted comb

3. Central fishbone 4. Asymmetric fishbone

5. Splitted fishbone 6. Dual fishbone

Fig. 15.2. Diverse design layouts
The primary phase in the design of the system is the calculation of the head losses
created by the water flow.
There are diverse procedures for calculating
head losses. In the past, designers used
tables, slide rulers and nomograms.
Dedicated software for irrigation design, on-
line calculators and smart phone
applications, replaced those old fashion
Emitter manufacturers indicate the
maximum allowed length of drip and other
micro-emitter laterals on flat land and in Fig. 15.3. Manifolds save accessories cost


sloping ground, keeping emitters' flow-rate variability in laterals within 10% (+/- 5% of
the average).
The design practice is divided into two phases. In the first phase, head losses are
calculated from the distal end to the head of the plot, using nominal values of
pressure and flow-rate. In the second phase, the design is checked and adjusted,
going from the head to the distal end. At this stage, the calculation relates to concrete
data of flow-rate and head losses.
The map of the plot is divided into sectors and detailed calculations are performed on
each pipe segment. The data have to be registered in a design form.
Head losses in accessories can be calculated using the concept of equivalent
length (see nomogram in figure 20.3). The data manipulated with this concept
present head losses in a virtual pipe of the same diameter as that of the accessory.
Most manufacturers provide tables and nomograms of the head losses in their
products. Local head loss in an accessory can be also calculated, using its flow
factor (Kv), if available.
Water Flow Velocity
Water flow velocity determines the head losses in the system. As flow velocity
increases, the head losses are amplified. In flow velocity over 2.5 m/second, the
energy waste due to head losses decreases the economic viability of the system. In
mainlines, high velocities may trigger water hammer that can result in pipe burst.
Hence in the preliminary phases of design the expected velocity in manifolds is kept
within the range of 2 – 2.5 m/second and in mainlines below 1.5 m/second.
Spacing between laterals and between emitters on the lateral is determined by the
distance between rows and between plants in the row, Soil depth, its texture and the
characteristics of the root system.
Choosing Emitters and Laterals
Choosing of the emitter (inline, online, splitted, etc.) and lateral type will relate to the
farming technology. The desired durability of the system will determine the choice of
thick-walled or thin-walled laterals. Topography may affect choosing of pressure
compensated or conventional emitters.
The chosen emitters and their flow-rate will correspond with spacing, planned
irrigation regime, soil permeability and the capacity of water supply. Additional
considerations are crop response to water distribution patterns and climate control
The actual design is separated into two phases:
1. Layout of laterals and manifolds;
2. Layout of the mainline and the sub-mains.


Design of Drip Irrigation System for Row Crops

In row crops, the layout has to correspond with crop spacing, soil texture and
Retrievable drip system for irrigation of maize on flat ground
Basic data
Crop: Maize, length of growing season – 135 days, root system depth – 1 m.
Plot dimensions: 420 × 200 m. For harvest convenience, the plot is divided in
the middle and row length is 100 in each side. The plot is partitioned to 7
blocks, 60 m wide each.
Soil: Sandy loam, Available water – 12% v/v, allowed depletion in peak season
– 60%.
Topography: 0% slope (flat ground)
Spacing: 100 cm between rows, 30 cm between plants in the row
Peak season daily gross water requirement: 7 mm
Water Source: Reservoir, pumping requested.
In sandy loam, the favored distance choice, is 30 cm between drippers on lateral
(corresponding with plant spacing). In this case it allocates one emitter per each
Firstly, choice of drippers and laterals has to take place. Drawing laterals, 100
m long, to both sides from the middle, represents 333 drippers per lateral.
In retrievable on-surface drip irrigation the favored emitter is internal integral dripper
that is the least prone to damage during deployment and retrieval of the laterals.
Four types of integral drippers can be considered:
1. Pressure compensated dripper in thick-wall lateral;
2. Pressure compensated dripper in thin-wall lateral;
3. Non-pressure compensated dripper in thick-wall lateral;
4. Non-pressure compensated dripper in thin-wall lateral;
Below are the technical data of the applicable drippers.
Table 15.3. Compensated dripper (compensated pressure threshold – 4 m) data

Model OD –mm Wall thickness – mm ID – mm PN – bars Kd

16012 16.10 1.2 13.70 4.0 1.6

16010 16.10 1.0 14.10 3.5 1.3
16009 16.10 0.9 14.20 3.0 1.2

OD=Outer diameter, ID=Inner diameter, PN=Working Pressure, Kd=Coefficient of disturbance to flow

The table demonstrates the difference in Kd between model 16012 (wall thickness 1.2
mm) and model 16009 (wall thickness 0.9 mm). As the inner diameter is greater, the
Kd of a given dripper will be lower. That will allow for longer laterals. On the other
hand, thicker wall allows for higher working pressure and guarantees longer durability.


Table 15.4. Max. lateral length - m

Model 16012, ID = 13.70 mm, Inlet pressure 30 m

Nominal Spacing between drippers - m

0.20 0.30 0.40 0.45 0.50 0.60 0.75 0.90 1.00 1.25 1.50
Max. lateral length - m
1.2 104 151 1956 216 237 277 333 386 420 500 575
1.6 86 125 162 179 196 229 276 320 348 415 477
2.3 68 98 127 141 155 181 218 253 275 328 378
3.5 51 75 96 107 118 137 166 193 209 250 288

Table 15.5. Max. lateral length - m

Model 16009, ID = 14.20 mm, Inlet pressure 30 m

Nominal Spacing between drippers - m

0.20 0.30 0.40 0.45 0.50 0.60 0.75 0.90 1.00 1.25 1.50
Max. lateral length - m
1.2 118 170 219 242 264 307 368 426 462 548 627
1.6 98 141 181 200 219 255 305 353 383 455 521
2.3 77 111 143 158 173 201 241 279 303 360 413
3.5 58 84 108 120 131 153 184 212 231 274 314

In compensated drippers, the allowed lateral length depends on four factors:

1. The pressure in lateral inlet. As it is higher (in the limits of max. allowed
working pressure) the lateral can be longer, ensuring the regulating
pressure in its distal end;
2. Dripper flow-rate. Higher flow-rates dictate shorter laterals;
3. Distance between drippers. As it is smaller, lateral length has to be
4. Inner diameter. Smaller inner diameter commits shorter lateral because
of the combination of higher friction head losses and the magnified
dripper’s Kd.


Table 15.6. Non compensated thick wall dripper pressure – flow-rate relationship

Nominal flow- Pressure - m

rate – l/h
10 15 20 25 30
Actual flow-rate – l/h

1.05 1.05 1.27 1.44 1.60 1.74

1.60 1.60 1.93 2.20 2.44 2.65
2.10 2.10 2.53 2.89 3.20 3.48
4.20 4.20 5.06 5.78 6.40 6.96
8.40 8.40 10.12 11.56 12.81 13.93

Table 15.7. Max. lateral length in non compensated thick wall dripper

Model 16012, OD=16.10 mm, Wall thickness=1.20 mm, ID=13.70 mm, PN=40 m, Kd=0.45
Inlet pressure 14 m, Nominal flow-rate 1.05 l/h
Spacing between drippers - m

Slope % 0.20 0.25 0.30 0.40 0.45 0.50 0.60 0.75 0.90 1.00
Max. lateral length at 10% flow variation - m

Inlet pressure 14 m, Nominal flow-rate 1.60 l/h

Spacing between drippers - m

Slope % 0.20 0.25 0.30 0.40 0.45 0.50 0.60 0.75 0.90 1.00
Max. lateral length at 10% flow variation - m
Uphill -2 49 58 65 77 82 87 95 106 114 119
-1 52 62 71 86 94 100 112 128 142 150
0 56 67 77 96 105 114 130 153 174 187
Downhill 1 59 71 83 105 116 126 145 173 200 217
2 61 75 87 112 124 135 157 189 220 240

Lateral length of non-compensated drippers is significantly affected by topography.

Comparing the same nominal flow-rate of 1.6 l/hour in the same lateral diameter
indicates that the allowed lateral length with the non-compensated drippers is
significantly shorter than in compensated ones. Longer laterals of compensated
drippers are allowed since uniform flow-rate is kept as far as the head in the lateral is
above the regulating pressure. It can be noticed in table above that Topography
affects the allowed length of non compensated laterals while topography impact on
compensated drippers’ laterals is less pronounced and hence ignored.


Table 15.8. Non-compensated thin wall dripper

Nominal flow- Pressure - m

rate – l/h
11 14 17 20 23
Actual flow-rate – l/h

1.20 1.25 1.40 1.52 1.64 1.75

2.00 2.09 2.35 2.58 2.79 2.98
2.90 3.03 3.41 3.74 4.04 4.32

Table 15.9. Max. lateral length in non-compensated thin wall dripper

Model 16320, OD=17.02 mm, Wall thickness=0.81 mm, ID=15.40 mm, PN=23 m, Kd=0.1

Inlet pressure 20 m, Nominal flow-rate 1.2 l/h

Spacing between drippers - m
Slope % 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.75
Max. lateral length at 10% flow variation - m
Uphill -2 80 101 116 128 139 151
-1 87 113 134 153 169 189
0 95 126 154 178 202 234
Downhill 1 101 137 170 201 229 273
2 107 148 184 219 251 299
Inlet pressure 2.0 bars, Nominal flow-rate 2.0 l/h
Spacing between drippers - m
Slope % 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.75
Max. lateral length at 10% flow variation - m
Uphill -2 63 80 92 103 115 125
-1 67 87 104 118 133 151
0 72 96 116 136 154 177
Downhill 1 75 103 126 151 170 202
2 79 109 135 160 186 220

In thin-wall laterals, the increased inner diameter allows for somewhat longer laterals
but the restriction on the level of working pressure has the opposite effect.
From the tables above it is comprehended that for 100 m lateral length and 30
cm distance between drippers on lateral, the below presented emitters are


Table 15.10. The compatible drippers

Model Pressure Nominal flow- Working Allowed length –

compensation rate – l/h pressure – m m

Ram 16012 Yes 1.2 40 151

Ram 16012 Yes 1.6 40 125
Ram 16012 Yes 2.3 40 98 (marginal)
Ram 16009 Yes 1.2 30 170
Ram 16009 Yes 1.6 30 141
Ram 16009 Yes 2.3 30 111
Tiran 16012 No 1.05 40 102
Typhoon 16320 No 1.2 23 126
Typhoon 16320 No 2.0 23 96 (marginal)

The final choice depends on preferences, cost and the designer’s past experience.
The use of Thicker-walled laterals guarantees longer durability and better pressure
surge withstanding. Lower flow-rate commits longer irrigation time-length.
In calculation of head losses, the critical water path had to be considered, namely,
from the control head to the distal dripper in the most distant and/or topographically
highest point in the irrigating block.


Fig. 15.4. Retrievable drip irrigation system in maize layout


Table 15.11. Design form


a. Flow-rate
Dripper 1 1.6 1.6
Lateral Drippers 333 1.6 533
Block Laterals 60 533 31,980
Plot blocks 14 31,980 447,720

b. Head losses on the way to the critical point

Segment Length – m Diameter/class Head loss – m Cumulative
head demand
E – end point Minimum required head 10 m*
D-E Lateral 100 m LDPE** OD 16 5.8 15.8 m
mm, ID 13.6
C-D manifold 30 m HDPE*** 50/4 1.6 17.4 m
Hydraulic Kv=95 2” 1.2 m+0.4 m- 19.0 m
valve riser and Tee
A-C main 490 m PVC**** 140/6 6.0 25 m
Hydrometer Kv=135 Globe 4” 2.2 27.2 m
Filter Pair – 3” Spin- 5.0 ***** 32.2 m
kleen filters
Riser, bend and connectors 4” 2.0 34.2 m
Water lift from reservoir 7.0 41.2 m
Dynamic head requested in pump 41.2 m

* Although the compensating (regulating) pressure threshold is 4 m, it is
advised to design somewhat higher pressure to guarantee drippers’
performance in case of pressure drop in the system;
** Low Density Polyethylene;
*** High Density Polyethylene;
**** Polyvinyl chloride;


***** The head-loss related to filters is the upper limit of head loss allowed
before flushing takes place.
Pump selection
The requested pump will be chosen using the formula:
N = Q×H/270×ή
N = Required HP (Horse Power);
Q = Pump discharge – (m3/h);
H = Total dynamic head – m;
ή = Pump efficiency (expressed as decimal fraction).
N = 64 m3/h × 41.2 m / (270 × 0.75)*** = 2637 / 202 = 13 HP
*** Comment: Common pump efficiencies are higher than 75% but along time,
efficiency decreases. 75% is regarded as a threshold for refurbishing the pump. This
low value is adopted in design to guarantee the long-run appropriate performance of
the drip system.
Table 15.12. Equipment list

Item Unit Quantity Unit cost Total cost

The list of equipment will include detailed itemization of all the components of the
system, the price and the total cost. It will be used for comparison between
alternative layouts. In retrievable drip system, the cost of the device for deployment
and retrieval of laterals has to be included.
d. Operative schedule
The operative schedule will be based on the data collected and elaborated in the
planning phase. The schedule will correspond with peak season water requirement.
In this case, the basic data is as follows:
Crop: Maize, length of growing season – 135 days, root system depth – 1 m.
Plot dimensions: 420 × 200 m. For harvest convenience, the plot is splitted in
the middle and row length is 100 in each side. The plot is partitioned to 7
blocks, 60 m wide each.
Soil: Sandy loam, Available water – 12% v/v, allowed depletion in peak season
– 60%.
Wetted strip width: 40% of the spacing between rows.
Topography: 0% slope (flat ground).
Spacing: 100 cm between rows, 30 cm in row.
Peak season daily gross water requirement: 7 mm.


1. Allowed depletion: available water × percent of allowed depletion

= 12% × 60% = 7.2% v/v
2. Effective soil water reservoir per Ha: 10,000 m 2 × 1 m. (roots
depth) × 40% [(1 m. (raw spacing)] = 4,000 m 3 .
3. Water deficit in the allowed depletion state: 4000 m 3 × 7.2% = 288
m 3 /Ha. This is the water amount needed for replenishment of the
4. Daily water requirement: 7 mm = 70 m 3 /Ha.
5. The derived interval between water applications: deficit/daily
water demand = 288 m 3 / 70 m 3 = 4.11 days. The integer number
will be the scheduled time interval. The dose has to be adjusted to
the actual interval: 70 m 3 × 4 days = 280 m 3 /ha per application.
6. Number of emitters per Ha: 10,000 m 2 /(1 m × 0.3 m) = 33,333
7. Application rate: 1.6 l/h × 33,333 = 53,333 l = 53.333 m 3 /Ha/h =
5.333 mm/h.
8. Irrigation time-length: 280 m 3 /h/53,333 m 3 /h = 5.25 (5:15) h.
Since drip irrigation is not sensitive to wind and evaporation, water
application can take place around the clock. It is advised to leave
some reserve hours to secure water application in case of electricity
blackouts or maintenance requirements. Four turns per day will
leave three reserve hours and three turns – 8¼ reserve hours.
9. Time schedule: The plot is partitioned to 14 blocks. If one block is
irrigated at a time, four blocks can be irrigated per day and the
irrigation cycle will last four days, corresponding with the
calculated interval. Since some farming activities have to be
performed, although drip irrigation intervene only slightly in these
activities, it is better to finish the irrigation in two days, by
irrigating two blocks at a time. The irrigation will last two days,
leaving two days in the cycle for farming activities. Taking into
account these activities, two opposing blocks will be irrigated
simultaneously in each application.

Alternative Layouts
As can be seen in table 15.8, three more choices of non-compensated drippers are
That of the thick-wall laterals commits using dripper of 1.05 l/h that is more prone to
clogging due to its narrow water passageway. Additionally, higher pressure has to be
applied in order to guarantee acceptable uniformity of distribution.


Of the thin-wall laterals, drippers with nominal flow-rate of 1.2 and 2.0 l/h can be
used. The system will be cheaper but it will last for significantly shorter time because
of the seasonal deployment and retrieval of laterals.
Use of thin-wall (tape) laterals is common for short term use, 1 – 5 years, depending
on the wall thickness. In the table below there is an example, using one of high
quality tapes boasting high uniformity. In thin-wall tapes, particularly with short
distance between emitters, it is common to designate flow-rate to length unit of the
lateral and not to the single emitter. In the past, the uniformity requirement from tapes
was lower than from thick wall laterals; EU 85% was accepted, compared with 90%
in laterals of discrete drippers. In the last years, production improvements facilitated
achieving in tapes the same uniformity as with thick wall laterals. Using these tapes
has to be done cautiously. Working pressure is low, 5 – 10 m. That commits the use
of pressure regulators.
One of these tapes is presented below. It has Cvm (manufacturing coefficient of
variation) as low as 2.5% (0.025) and EU of 90% – 94% is attainable.
Table 15.13. Thin-wall tape data

Emitter spacing – Flow-rate – l/m/h Allowed lateral length – m in diverse EU values

94% 92% 90%

20 5.0 93 113 126

30 3.0 132 155 175
40 2.4 163 192 217
60 1.5 221 258 292

The gray darker row presents a lateral corresponding with the former design
example. This dripper can be used, provided no pressure surges will occur and
taking into account shorter service duration. Application rate is lower than in the
former design. Time length of irrigation in the peak season will be 280 m3 / 30 m3 =
9.6 h, roughly twice than the chosen alternative. The low application rate allows for
simultaneous irrigation of four blocks, compared with two blocks only, in the former

Setting up of drip systems commits the installation of air and vacuum vents as well as
pressure regulators to prevent pressure surges and water hammer that may burst the
laterals. These devices are particularly essential with tapes and other thin wall laterals, due
to their low working pressure.

13.3.1. Effect of Topography

In the given example, topography can be ignored due to the flat nature of the plot. In
case of sloping topography, the hydraulic design has to take into account the effect of
topography. If feasible, Mains and sub-mains will deliver water from the higher areas
to the lower ones. Manifolds will be laid in sloping land adjacent to the higher edge,
splitting the laterals asymmetrically. As far as possible, laterals also will run
downward from the higher area to the lower one.


Use of compensated drippers decreases the complexity of design in harsh

topographic conditions. Use of pressure regulators may also facilitate equalizing the
pressure in sloping plots.
To avoid disturbance to farm activities, distributing pipes and manifolds will be
installed when possible, in considerable distance form the crop rows.
Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI)
Set up of SDI systems,
commits the installation of
supplementary accessories.
System Flushing
System routine flushing is
necessary to avoid the
accumulation of dirt in laterals
and clogging of the drippers.
The common practice is the
installation of collecting pipes
to which the lateral distal ends
are connected by manifolds.
The valves connecting the
manifolds to the collector pipe
are intermittently opened
manually or automatically for
flushing of the laterals.
Contamination by Soil
Another annoyance in SDI
systems is the suction of soil
particles into the drippers by
the vacuum created when the
water is shutdown. To avoid
the suction, atmospheric
vacuum vents have to be Fig. 15.5. SDI system layout
installed on the distributing
manifold. Additional means that reduce lateral contamination by soil particles, is the
use of non-leakage drippers that close the water outlets on water shutdown.
Root Intrusion
Drippers in SDI are prone to clogging by intruding roots. The common counter
measure is the application of trifluraline (TreflanTM) that sterilizes the soil adjacent to
the dripper. The application can be done in three techniques:
a. Injection of the agent into the irrigation system, 2 – 4 times in the
irrigation season by means of the fertigation equipment;
b. Using treflan-impregnated drippers;


c. Using treflan-impregnated disc filtration element that releases small

amount of the agent into the water in each irrigation. The element is
replaced in 1 - 2 years intervals.
Lateral Placement
In annuals, the recurring sowing/planting precisely above the subsurface laterals is
particularly important to guarantee adequate plant development in the early phases
of the growing season. For that end, GPS equipped machinery has to be used. The
depth of installation of the laterals ranges from shallow 5-15 cm in hillocks of
potatoes and groundnuts to 35 - 45 cm in cotton. The deeper placement poses
difficulties in emergence irrigation but allows for undisturbed land tillage.
Design of Drip Irrigation in Protected Crops
Protected crops are grown in diverse levels of protection. The highest level is in the
environmentally controlled greenhouses. Less sophisticated are the ordinary
greenhouses and high tunnels, in which only the irrigation and fertilization are
automatically controlled. The lowest level is in low tunnels and mulched cropping,
where irrigation is operated manually or with a low level of automation.
Protected crops are grown on native local soil or on variety of natural and artificial
growing beds. Each combination of bed and control level commits the design of
compatible irrigation system.
In crops grown on native soil, the design is principally similar to that for crops in the
open field. Many of the protected crops have dense stand, high value of produce and
high sensitivity to water stress. These attributes commit smaller spacing between
emitters and shorter time intervals between water applications.
Strawberries drip system
Strawberries are grown in wide scale in low tunnels or on mulched beds in the
open field. The beds arise 15 –30 cm above the walking lanes. Bed width is from
50 cm with one pair of rows to 100 cm with two pairs of rows. Spacing between
rows and between plants in the row is 30 cm. Walking lane width is 50 cm. Drip
laterals are laid beneath the mulch on the soil surface or buried 5 – 10 cm deep
in the soil.
In case of one pair per bed, lateral length per hectare is 10,000 m2/1m (distance
between bed centers) = 10,000 m. In dual pair bed, the length will be 10,000 m2/
(1.5 m/2) = 13,333 m per hectare.
Laying and retrieval of the laterals are done more delicately than in field crops.
Hence thin wall tapes are also suitable. In the example in the former page, 16 mm
OD tape had been chosen. The emitters are spaced 30 cm on the lateral; their
nominal flow-rate is 1.2 l/h. in 10 m water head.
Since the drippers are not pressure compensated, their flow-rates are significantly
affected by the head loss along the lateral. As depicted in the drawing, pressure in
lateral drops from 13 m in its beginning to 10 m in its distal end. That renders flow-
rate range of 1.2 – 1.35 l/h. The difference of 0.15 l/h from 1.2 l/h is beyond the
common acceptable difference of 10%.


Moreover, in the manifold of

50/4 mm, the head loss is 2
m. the meaning is that the
pressure range in
simultaneously irrigating
drippers will be 15 – 10 m
and the flow-rate range will
be 1.2 – 1.42 l/h, 15%
difference. That
discrepancy can be
resolved by using manifold
of wider diameter, e.g. 63/4
The above example
highlights the advantage of
using pressure-
compensated drippers.
Design of Irrigation
Systems in
The wealth of growing beds
in greenhouses commits
thorough matching of the
irrigation system with the
combination of crop-bed
characteristics. Many
growing beds (substrates)
have extremely low water
retention that commits Fig. 15.6. Thin-wall non-compensated laterals in
frequent watering. Crop strawberries – excessive head losses
water consumption is defined per hour and in many cases water is applied several
times a day. Irrigation in shallow detached-beds of low water retention, releases
considerable excessive amounts of water and nutrients in drainage. In order to
eliminate environmental contamination and save the drained water and nutrients,
circulation of the drainage is accomplished in many greenhouses. The reuse of the
recycled water for irrigation commits sterilization of the water. Sterilization is
achieved either by deep sand filtration, UV irradiation, heating or ozonation.
Control of temperature and the relative humidity in the atmosphere, is essential in
sensitive crops grown in greenhouses. Irrigation can be used to moderate extreme,
high or low temperatures, by the absorption or release of heat from the water. Air
relative humidity can be increased by irrigation.
Irrigation for climate control commits the installation of misters, foggers or ordinary
micro-jets and micro-sprinklers. The irrigation for climate control is applied
intermittently in short pulses. Operation is regulated by computerized controllers or
by elementary timers. Frequently, a dual irrigation system is installed – drippers for
irrigation and misters/micro-sprinklers for climate control.


Irrigation Design in Orchards

Orchard irrigation has to comply with fruit the trees characteristics:
a. Perennial cropping;
b. Big plant canopies;
c. Deep root systems;
d. Wide spacing, 3 – 15 m between rows, 1.5 – 10 m in row;
e. Sensitivity to extreme weather conditions.
These characteristics dictate the selection of the irrigation technology.
Among the micro-irrigation technologies, drip irrigation is favored in saline soils,
windy climate and in compacted and sloped lands. Micro-jets and micro-sprinklers
are favored in climate-sensitive crops as well as in sandy and shallow soils.
Drip Irrigation in Orchards
Crops growing in orchards are perennials. The irrigation system has to be durable to
avoid of the need of frequent system rehabilitations. The wide spacing in orchards
poses the dilemma of how many laterals to install per row. In rows spaced up to 6 m
apart, in medium and heavy soils, one lateral per row is satisfactory in most cases. In
wider spacing between rows as well as in sandy and shallow lands, two laterals per
row is the favored alternative. Another layout in wide-spaced plantations is small
circled laterals around the trunk.
Example: Design of drip system in apple orchard:
Crop Data
Crop: Apple
Variety: Golden
Area: 9.6 ha.
Partition: 4 blocks, 80 X
300 m, each
Topography: 3.5 m slope
from NW to SE
Spacing: 5 X 4 m
Irrigation season: April
- October
Harvest: Sept. – Oct.
Active root system
depth: 80 cm
Fig. 15.7. Apple orchard – 9.6 Ha
Maximum allowed water
depletion: 40%
Peak-season average reference evaporation: 8 mm/day
Peak-season crop coefficient: 0.9


Soil data
Texture: Loamy clay
Depth: 1.20 – 1.50 m
Bulk Density: 1.4
Field capacity: 32% V/V
Permanent Wilting Point: 15% V/V
Available Water: 17% V/V
Percentage of wetted area by one lateral: 30%
Water Supply Data
Maximum supply hours: 14 hours a day
Maximum available hourly discharge: 100 m3/h
EC water: 1.2 dS/m
Chloride content: 150 mg/l
Calculation of daily Peak Season Water Demand:
Daily average evaporation × Crop coefficient = 8 mm × 0.9 = 7.2 mm/day
Gross daily demand, assuming application efficiency of 90%: 7.2/90% = 8
Soil water reservoir volume per ha: Inter row spacing × root system depth ×
wetted area percentage = 10,000 m2 × 0.8 m × 30% = 2400 m3
Easily available water soil capacity = resrvoir volume × available water (%)×
Allowed deplition (%) = 2400 m3 × 17% × 40% = 163 m3/ha = 16.3 mm
Max interval between irrigations = easily available water soil capacity / daily
demand = 16.3 mm / 8 mm/day ≈ 2 days
Irrigation dose: 8 mm/day × 2 days = 16 mm
Two alternatives will be compared:
a. On-line non-compensated dripper laterals
b. Integral compensated dripper laterals
In orchards, the laterals are laid permanently, so, the protrusion from the lateral of
on-line drippers, does not disturb. Online drippers can be installed gradually on the
lateral. In early years – only 1–2 drippers per tree, adding drippers in correspondence
with the root system expansion. On-line drippers have a woodpecker version that
facilitates burying the lateral with the drippers underground and emitting the water on
the soil surface by-means of micro-tubes.
Firstly, the minimum flow-rate (mm/hour) has to correspond with the limit of 14
hours of water supply a day. 16 mm/ 14 hours = 1.14 mm/h
Non-compensated drippers with flow-rate of 4 l/hour render application rate of
0.8 mm/h, not satisfactory yet.
Drippers of nominal 8 l/h renders in that spacing application rate of 1.6 mm/h.


Application rate of 1.14

l/h can be achieved with
drippers of 4 l/h, spaced
70 cm along the lateral.
Whenever non-
compensated drippers are
in use, pressure regulators
have to be installed on sub-
mains and manifolds in
order to equalize as much
as possible the pressure in
the simultaneously irrigating
blocks. Fig. 15.8. Non-compensated on-line drippers flow-rate -
The second checked pressure relationship
alternative would be Ram 16 compensated dripper (OD = 16 mm) with flow-
rate of 3.5 l/h, spaced 60 cm apart on the lateral. In spacing of 5 X 0.6 m, the
application rate will be 1.17 mm/hour, somewhat above the minimum requested
Table 15.14. (Duplicate) Max. lateral length – m. compensated dripper laterals
Model 16012, ID = 13.70 mm, Inlet pressure 30 m

Nominal Spacing between drippers - m

0.20 0.30 0.40 0.45 0.50 0.60 0.75 0.90 1.00 1.25 1.50
Max. lateral length - m
1.2 104 151 1956 216 237 277 333 386 420 500 575
1.6 86 125 162 179 196 229 276 320 348 415 477
2.3 68 98 127 141 155 181 218 253 275 328 378
3.5 51 75 96 107 118 137 166 193 209 250 288
Diverse layouts are feasible. Two of them will be considered as drawn in
the scheme below.

One main, centered Two sub-mains

Fig. 15.9. Two of the feasible layouts


In the drawing above, two of the feasible layouts are presented. A single
mainline in the center, simplifies the design, shortens the main and saves
in excavation length in expense of larger pipe diameter.
The drawback of this layout is the ascending of the manifolds north to the
main. In non-compensated drippers of low operating pressure, 10 – 20 m,
the upward flow of the water may create pressure difference beyond the
common accepted 20%. Since the exponent of the chosen non-
compensated dripper is 0.5, pressure difference higher than 20%, will
create flow-rate difference higher than 10%.
Two sub-mains increase the length of the distributing lines but decrease
the differences in flow-rate caused by topography. Additionally, the
manifolds can be of narrower diameter, compensated for the longer
distribution lines.

Fig. 15.10. Non-compensated drip system


Table 15.15. Basic data

Parameter Unit Amount Nominal flow-rate

On-line dripper Piece 1 4 l/10 m head
Lateral m 40
Drippers distance on lateral m 0.7
Drippers per lateral piece 40/0.7 = 57 4 l/h × 114 = 230 l/h
Number of laterals per block piece 60 14 m3/h
No. of blocks in the plot piece 8 112 m3
Irrigation cycle day 2
Flow-rate per a single day .m3/h 112/2 = 56

Table 15.16. Head losses calculation form

Segment Flow- Length N.D* Hf Outlets F- Hf – Hz – Total Cumulative
rate -m .mm/class ** - factor m m ∆H- ∆H - m
m /h *** **** ****** m
JK 0.23 40 16/4 4.2 57 0.6 0 0.6 0.6
HJ 5.5 60 40/4 5.5 12 0.36 1.1 0.5 1.1 1.7
HL 8.5 90 40/4 15 18 0.36 4.7 -0.5 4.2 5.9
HL 8.5 90 50/4 5 18 0.36 1.5 -0.5 1.0 1
EH sub- 14.0 160 75/4 2 0 1 3.2 -2 1.2 2.2
FG 0.23 40 16/4 3.5 57 0.5 0 0.5 2.7
DF 5.5 60 40/4 5.5 12 0.36 1.2 0.5 1.7 3.4
BD sub- 28 130 75/4 6 0 1 7.8 1 8.8 11.5-12.2
BE 28 210 90/ 4 2.2 0 1 4.5 1 4 7.4
The dark gray rows designate alternatives rejected because of unacceptable head losses
* ND = Nominal diameter, Class – indicates the working pressure, in bars.
** Hf - % Friction head losses, expressed as meter head per 100 m pipe length.
*** F factor – the decimal fraction multiplier of Hf in distributing pipes, ranges from 0.5 for
two outlets up to 0.362 for > 100 outlets.
Hf = The calculated friction head loss according to the pipe inner diameter, its smoothness,
its length and number of outlets.
Hz = The effect of topography expressed in m height. Minus sign designates descending


Table 15.17. Head losses in the control head, flow-rate 56 m3/h

Component Diameter Characteristics Head-loss - m

Riser 4”- 1 m high 0.03

Hydrometer 4” Kv = 150 1.4
Filter 3” - pair Back-flush threshold – 5 m 5
Total 6.4

Table 15.18. Head losses in the hydraulic valves on the sub-mains flow-rate 14 m3/h

Pressure 2” Kv = 50 0.8 m
reducing valve

Table 15.19. Total requested dynamic head

Operation pressure 10 m
Topographic difference (max) 2 m*
Friction head losses in lateral 0.5 m
Friction head losses in manifold 1.5 m
Friction head losses in mainline 7.9 m
Control head 6.4 m
Pressure reducing valves 0.8 m

Total 29.1 m

a. In a cycle of 2 days, blocks a, d, e and h will be irrigated on day 1;
blocks b, c, f and g will be irrigated on day 2. In order to equalize
the pressure in the simultaneously irrigating blocks, the hydraulic
valves on the sub-mains will be of the pressure reducing valves
b. Laterals of class 4 (not of class 2.5) had been chosen in order to
guarantee wall thick enough to fasten the dripper barb for the long
c. In order to better handle the topographic slope, the sub-mains are
not laid in the middle of the blocks but closer to the higher ground;
d. Since the actual operating pressure in the drippers will be in the
range of 10 – 12 m, the actual flow-rate of the blocks will be 5% -
10% higher than the designed flow-rate. That does not affect
significantly the pressure regime. Actually, in designing, it is taken
into account that the average flow is a little bit higher than the


Second alternative – compensated dripper laterals

Table 15.20. Basic data

Parameter Unit Amount Nominal flow-rate

Integral compensated dripper piece 1 3.5 l/hour

Lateral m 40
Drippers distance on lateral m 0.6
Drippers per lateral piece 40/0.6 = 67 3.5 l/h × 67 = 235 l/h
Number of laterals per block piece 60 60 × 0.235= 14.1 m3/h
No. of blocks in the plot Sub plot 8 112.8 m3/h
Irrigation cycle day 2
Flow-rate per a single shift .m3/h 112.8/2 = 56.4 m3/h

Fig. 15.11. Compensated drip system


Table 15.21. Head-loss calculation

Segment Flow- Length N.D Hf - Outlets F- Hf - Hz - Total Cumulative
rate -m .mm/class % factor m m ∆H- ∆H - m
m /h m

FG 0.23 40 16/4 4.2 67 1.0 0.5 1.5 1.5

EF 14 150 50/4 8 30 0.36 4.2 0.5 4.7 6.2
BE 28 240 PVC 110/6 0.9 0 1 2.2 -1.5 0.7 6.9
AB 56 40 PVC 110/6 2.6 0 1 1 0 1.1 8.0
KL 0.23 40 16/4 4.2 67 1.0 0.5 1.5 1.5
IK 14 150 50/4 8 30 0.35 4.2 1 5.2 6.7
AH 56 120 PVC 110/6 2.6 0 1 3.1 -0.5 2.6 9.3
CD 0.23 40 16/4 4.2 67 1.0 0.5 1.5 1.5
BC 14 150 50/4 8 30 0.36 4.2 2 6.2 7.7
AB 56 40 PVC 110/6 2.6 0 1 1 0 1 8.7
JM 0.23 40 16/4 4.2 67 1.0 0.5 1.5 1.5
HJ 14 150 50/4 8 30 0.36 4.2 2 6.2 7.7
AH 56 120 PVC 110/6 2.6 0 1 3.1 -0.5 2.6 11.8

Table 15.22. Total requested dynamic head

Pressure requested in lateral distal end 10 m
Head loss in lateral
1.0 m
Maximum head loss in manifold 4.2 m
Maximum head loss in mainline 3.1 m
Topographic difference 2m
Control head losses
28.15 m


a. Using compensated drippers renders more flexibility in design and
allows for higher head losses in the distributing pipelines.
b. Additional advantage of using compensated drippers is the
capability to lay longer laterals and save manifolds. This
advantage is not presented in the example since in case of use of
longer laterals, the manifolds have to be replaced by pipes of
larger diameter.
c. The major advantage of the compensated dripper is the high
uniformity in harsh topographic conditions.
d. As mentioned before, in coarse textured soils and in shallow lands,
two laterals per row are the favored layout. The distance between
the two laterals is 80 – 150 cm, depending on the space between the
rows and the soil characteristics.
Design of Micro-jet and Micro-sprinkler Systems in Orchards
Micro-jets and micro-sprinklers have flow-rates in the range of 20 – 200 l/h. The
common layout in orchards is of one lateral per row. In densely planted rows – 2-3 m
distance between trees in the row, one emitter can suffice per two trees. Over 3 m
space in the row, one emitter per tree is the prevalent layout. In some more spacious
plantations with spacing greater than 6 × 6 m, two emitters per tree are frequently
installed. The placement of the emitter in the row depends on the shape of the tree
canopy. In those crops that the canopy leaves considerable height above soil surface
free for water distribution, the emitter is placed in the middle between two trees. In
trees that their canopies bend toward the soil surface, converge with each other in
the middle between the two trees, the emitter is placed 0.5 – 1 m aside from the
Like drippers, there are pressure compensated and non-pressure compensated
emitters. The choice between micro-sprinklers, micro-jets and ray-jets takes place in
respect to spacing, soil type and crop response. In spacious spacing, micro-
sprinklers that wet greater area are favored, in densely planted orchards, micro-jets
are more suitable and in heavy and compact soils, prone to run-off, as well as in
windy conditions, ray-jets are the best performers.
Crop Data
Crop: Citrus
Variety: Washington Navel
Area: 11.5 Ha.
Partition: 4 blocks, 80 X 360 m, each
Topography: 3.5 m slope from NW to SE
Spacing: 6 X 4 m


Irrigation season: April - October

Harvest: October-December
Active root system depth: 100 cm
Maximum allowed water depletion:
Peak-season average reference
evaporation: 7 mm/day
Peak-season crop coefficient: 0.7
Soil data
Texture: Loamy clay
Depth: 1.20 – 1.50 m
Bulk Density: 1.4
Field Capacity: 32% V/V
Fig. 15.12. Citrus grove - 11.5 ha.
Permanent Wilting Point: 15% V/V
Available Water: 17% V/V Table. 15.23. The chosen emitter

Percentage of wetted area: 60% Non regulated (non compensated) Jet sprayer
performance data
Climate Data
Nozzle Pressure Flow-rate Wetting
Peak season average daily class A color m l/h diameter
pan evaporation: 8 mm code m
Water Supply Data Blue 15 55 5.6
Maximum supply hours: 20 hours 20 64 5.8
a day 25 70 6.0
Maximum available hourly 30 77 6.2
discharge: 150 m3/h Green 15 64 6.6
EC water: 1.2 dS/m 20 75 7.0
Chloride content: 150 mg/l 25 83 7.2
Calculation of daily Peak Season 30 91 7.8
Water Demand Red 15 90 8.2
Daily average evaporation × Crop 20 102 8.6
coefficient = 8 mm × 0.7 = 5.6
25 115 9.2
30 126 9.8
Gross daily demand, assuming
application efficiency of 80%:


5.6/80% = 7 mm/d
Soil water reservoir volume per ha: Inter row spacing × root system depth ×
wetted area percentage = 10,000 m2 × 1.00m × 60% = 6000 m3
Easily available water soil capacity = resrvoir volume × available water (%)×
Allowed deplition (%) = 6000 m3 × 17% × 60% = 612 m3/ha. = 61.2 mm
Max interval between irrigations = easily available water soil capacity / daily
demand = 61.2 mm / 7 mm/day = 8.75 days
For sake of convenience, the interval will be 7 days and not the allowable
Irrigation dose: 7 mm/day × 7 days = 49 mm.
Minimum acceptable application rate: 49 mm/20hours of water supply = 2.45
Minimum emitter flow-rate in 4×6 m spacing: 2.45 mm/(4×6)m = 102 l/h
Choice of emitter
The chosen emitter is non-regulated (non-compensated) jet+ with nominal flow-
rate of 102 l/h in 20 m head.
Table 15.24. Allowed length of laterals
Emitter type: Jet+ (Red) - 100 l/h Max. No. of emitters per lateral
Emitter Slope Pipe Diameter (mm- OD/ID)
Spacing % 16/13.2 16/13.6 17.8/15.2 20/17 20/17.4
(m) 7.5% 10% 7.5% 10% 7.5% 10% 7.5% 10% 7.5% 10%
-2 9 10 10 11 12 13 14 16 15 17
-1 9 10 10 11 12 13 15 16 15 17
2 0 10 11 10 11 12 14 15 17 16 18
1 10 11 10 11 13 14 16 17 17 18
2 10 11 11 12 13 14 16 18 17 19
-2 8 9 9 10 11 12 13 14 13 15
-1 9 9 9 10 11 12 13 15 14 16
2.5 0 9 10 9 10 11 13 14 16 15 16
1 9 10 9 10 12 13 15 16 15 17
2 9 10 10 11 12 13 15 17 16 17
-2 8 9 8 9 10 11 12 13 12 14
-1 8 9 8 9 10 11 12 14 13 14
3 0 8 9 9 10 11 12 13 14 14 15
1 8 9 9 10 11 12 14 15 14 16
2 9 9 9 10 11 12 14 16 15 16
-2 7 8 8 8 9 10 11 12 12 13
-1 7 8 8 9 10 11 12 13 12 14
3.5 0 8 8 8 9 10 11 12 14 13 14
1 8 9 8 9 10 11 13 14 14 15
2 8 9 9 9 11 12 13 15 14 15
-2 7 8 7 8 9 10 10 12 11 12
-1 7 8 7 8 9 10 11 12 12 13
4 0 7 8 8 9 9 10 12 13 12 13
1 7 8 8 9 10 11 12 14 13 14
2 8 8 8 9 10 11 13 14 13 15


Table 15.25. Basic data

Parameter Unit Amount Nominal flow-rate

Micro-jet piece 1 102 l/hour
Lateral m 40
Emitters distance on lateral m 4
Emitters per lateral piece 40/4 = 10 102 l/h × 10 = 1.020 l/h
Number of laterals per block piece 60 61.2 m3
No. of blocks in the plot unit 8 489.6 m3/h
Irrigation cycle day 7
Days of irrigation in a cycle day 4
Flow-rate per a single day .m3/h 489.6 / 4 = 122.4 m3/h

Fig. 15.13. Citrus grove - the design scheme


The chosen lateral is the 20/4 mm (20/17 mm OD/ID). It allows for 11 emitters
on the lateral, in the range of pressure difference of 7.5% in 1% ascending
Table 15.26. Head-loss calculation
Segment Flow- Length N.D./PN Hf - Outlets F- Hf - Hz - Total Cumulative
rate -m % factor m m
mm/class ∆H- ∆H - m
m /h
EF 1.02 40 20/4 13 10 0.35 1.8 0.5 2.3 2.3
DE 24 72 75/4 4 12 0.35 1.0 1.0 2.0 4.3
DG 36 108 75/4 8 18 0.35 3.0 -1.0 2.0
BD 60 148 PVC 110/6 3.0 0 1.0 4.4 1.0 4.4 8.7
KL 1.02 40 20/4 13 10 0.35 1.8 0.5 2.3 2.3
IK 24 72 75/4 4 12 0.35 1.0 0 1.0 3.3
MN 1.02 40 20/4 13 10 0.35 1.8 0.5 2.3
IM 36 108 75/4 8 18 0.35 3.0 -0.5 2.5
BI 60 388 PVC 110/6 3.0 0 1.0 11.6 -2.0 9.6 15.2

RS 1.02 40 20/4 13 10 0.35 1.8 0.5 2.3 2.3

OR 24 72 75/4 4 12 0.35 1.0 1.0 2.0 4.3
PQ 1.02 40 20/4 13 10 0.35 1.8 0.5 2.3
OP 36 108 75/4 8 18 0.35 3.0 -1.0 2.0
BO 60 228 PVC 110/6 3.0 0 1.0 6.8 0.5 7.3 11.6
UV 1.02 40 20/4 13 10 0.35 1.8 0.5 2.3 2.3
TU 24 72 75/4 4 12 0.35 1.0 1.0 2.0 4.3
WY 1.02 40 20/4 13 10 0.35 1.8 0.5 2.3
TW 36 108 75/4 8 18 0.35 3.0 -1.0 2.0
BT 60 308 PVC 110/6 3.0 0 1.0 9.2 -05 8.7 13.0
Table 15.27. Total requested dynamic head
Pressure requested in lateral distal end 20 m
Head-loss in lateral 1.8 m
Topographic difference 2m
Maximum friction head-losses 14.1 m
Control head-losses 8m
Total 45.9 m


a. An emitter of great wetting diameter had been chosen since the citrus trees have an
active shallow root-system that expands significantly beyond the canopy boundaries;
b. The requested dynamic head relates to the most critical water delivery point;
c. The head-losses could be decreased by 6 m. head by choosing sub-mains of larger
diameter – 140/6 mm. But since the water velocity in 110/6 mm pipes is lower than 2
m/sec it is doubtful if the increased pipe diameter is economically worthwhile. That
depends on the cost of energy and has to be considered in respect to local
d. For sake of minimizing head-losses, two blocks will be irrigated per day:
Day 1: blocks a + e
Day 2: blocks b + f
Day 3: blocks c + g
Day 4: blocks d + h

Design of Sprinkler Systems

Calculation Formulae
There are some helpful formulae and tables that support decision-making in the
designing process:
Emitter lateral discharge (flow-rate)

(Eq. 15.6)

Q = lateral discharge m3/h;
q a = discharge of an emitter at the mean head of the lateral - m3/h;
n = number of emitters on the lateral;
q 0 = discharge of the distal emitter;
P n = pressure at the entrance to the lateral – bar;
P 0= pressure at the distal emitter - bar.
Average pressure in the emitter lateral
(Eq. 15.7)
P a = average pressure in the lateral – bar;
P 0 = pressure at the distal edge of the lateral - bar;
P n = pressure at the initial edge of the lateral – bar.
Maximum allowed pressure difference among emitters operating

(Eq. 15.8)

Pf20 = allowed pressure difference, 20% of highest head in an emitter in the plot- bar;
P0 = pressure at the distal edge of the lateral - bar;


Pn = maximum emitter pressure in plot - bar.

The head-losses by friction in the pipes are calculated and the effect of topography
is added-on, using the specific slide-rulers, nomograms, computer software or
smart phone applications. Two important rules have to be followed along the
planning design process:
The lowest head in the plot has to be in the range of the operating pressure of the
The class of the pipes in the plot has to correspond with the forecasted maximum
operating head.
The Design Procedure
Once all the preliminary steps have been completed, the topographical map has
been prepared and the general layout decided upon, the network is drawn. The
average flow-rate in the design pressure in the emitters is calculated for
representative laterals and then at the sub-mains and the mains.
Expression of the water head in units of meter head (0.1 bar) simplifies the
procedure of the calculation of head-losses. The friction head-losses by water-flow in
the pipes and the accessories are expressed in the same unit system that indicates
the topography effect on water head. Elevation rise of each meter in the
topographic height decreases the water head by 1 m.
The accessories: valves, filters, etc. are chosen according to the required capacity.
The local head-losses are determined and registered on the map. After the design
is completed, the system's head-losses are checked again, step-by-step, from the
control head to the last emitter.
The outcome of the design process is:
a. Network map with all the data registered;
b. List of equipment;
c. Detailed budget;
d. Operation scheme
Table 15.28. Maximum allowed number of sprinklers on lateral on level ground


D i am eter 2” 3” 50 m m 63 m m 75 m m
Sprinkler Distance 6 12 6 12 6 12 6 12 6 12
flow-rate between
m /h sprinklers m

0.8 Maximum 18 13 35 27 18 13 25 20 35 26
1.0 15 12 30 24 18 12 22 17 30 23
number of
1.2 sprinklers on 13 10 29 22 13 10 19 15 27 21
the lateral
1.4 12 10 27 21 12 10 17 14 25 20
1.6 11 9 24 20 11 9 15 13 23 19
1.8 10 8 22 18 10 8 14 12 20 17


System layout
The actual design is separated into two phases:
1. Layout of laterals and manifolds;
2. Layout of the mainline and the sub-mains.
Under-Canopy Solid Set in Orchards
Orchard irrigation is implemented with drip irrigation, micro-sprinklers and micro-jets,
as well as with low-angle impact and turbo-impact sprinklers.
An example of design of low-volume under-canopy solid-set sprinkler system is
demonstrated below. Due to the requested low volume of 70 l/h per emitter,
preference is given to micro-sprinklers. But the design process is the same also with
sprinklers of higher flow-rates.

System ……..…………...Solid-set under-canopy Application Time-length ……………………. 12 h
Area …..… 160 m X 100 m = 16,000 m2 = 1.6 Ha. No. of Daily Shifts ……………………………..… 1
Cycle …………………..…... 35 mm every 7 days No. of Operating Sprinklers ……………..…. 300
Working Pressure ……………….. 25 m (2.5 bar) System Discharge ……………….……… 21 m3/h
Sprinkler Flow-rate ………………………… 70 l/h Main-line Diameter……………..……. 75 / 63 mm
Sprinkler Spacing …………………….. 4 m X 6 m Sub-mains Diameter……………………… 50 mm
Application Rate …………………………. 3 mm/h Laterals Diameter ………………………… 20 mm
Fig. 15.14. Solid-set in orchard design scheme


Hand-move in Field Crops and Vegetables

Although solid set systems and mechanized irrigation are replacing hand-move
irrigation systems in the western world, Hand-move systems are yet employed in
developing countries. The cost of equipment is significantly lower than that of the
more sophisticated systems while cost of manpower in those countries is low.
Some farmers are shifting aluminum pipes for 12 – 24 times in one irrigation cycle,
using big nozzles that decrease time length of application to 6 – 8 hours, enabling 3
shifts per day.
These circumstances commits matching of the application rate to the infiltration rate
of the soil, otherwise, runoff and land erosion are created that means losses of water
and the fertile upper layer of the soil..

Area … 384 m X 864 m = 331,776m2 ≈ 33 Ha.
Cycle ……………………..80 mm every 12 days No. of Daily Shifts ……………………. 2 per set
Working Pressure ………………. 30 m (3.0 bar) No. of Simultaneously Operating Sprinklers 64
Sprinkler Flow-rate …………………….. 1750 l/h Total System Discharge ……………… 112 m3/h
Sprinkler Spacing ……………….…12 m X 18 m Main Line Diameter ……………… 140 / 110 mm
Application-rate …………………………. 8 mm/h Lateral Diameter …………………………….…. 3"
Application time length ….. …………….…..10 h
Fig. 15.15. Hand-move design scheme


Hose-reel Gun Traveler

Gun Travelers are employed mostly for irrigation of forage and in some
circumstances of wide areas of field crops. In many cases they are operated in
stand-alone positions, without immediate overlapping with neighboring emitters. The
high operating pressure requested and the high flow-rate of each emitter, commits
the installation of appropriate water delivery and distribution network. Although this
network is expensive, the total expenses are lower than with solid-set systems, due
to the long range of water distribution by the emitter and the vast irrigated area in
each turn.

System …..….Manual Shift on 75 mm Laterals Application Time-length ……………………. 10 h
Area … 768 m X 960 m = 737, 280 m2 ≈ 74 Ha. No. of Daily Shifts ……………………………..… 2
Cycle …………………….. 85 mm Every 16 Days No. of Operating Sprinklers ……………………. 8
Working Pressure ……………….. 45 m (4.5 bar) System Discharge ……………………… 200 m3/h
Sprinkler Flow-rate ……………………. 25 m3/h Main-line Diameter…………. 140 / 125 / 110 mm
Sprinkler Spacing ……………….. 48 m X 60 m Lateral Diameter…………………………… 75 mm
Application Rate …………………….. 8.6 mm/h
Fig. 15.16. Gun traveler irrigation design scheme


Sprinkler-packages For Center-pivots

Due to the complexity of the mechanized Continuous-Move Sprinkler Systems, most
of the dealers and equipment manufacturers offer farmers their assistance in fitting
the ordered equipment to the local conditions and requirements. They advise in
choosing the suitable Sprinkler-package.
The sprinkler-package is particularly requested in center-pivot systems. It is a
combination of the applicator, the application mode, and the spacing between
applicators. The system capacity determines the peak application-rate of the
particular sprinkler application package. The sprinkler-package should be suitable to
the tillage and the agronomic system of the operator. The particular soil and slope
conditions define the infiltration rate and runoff hazard. The intersection area
between the infiltration curve and the application-rate curve illustrates the potential
runoff or surface water redistribution that may require surface storage of basins or
reservoir tillage needed to reduce or eliminate runoff from LESA, LESA, or LPIC

Fig. 15.17. Emitter spacing patterns in center-pivot Adapted from Valmont Brochure



A key-factor in successful irrigation management is the optimal scheduling of
irrigation, corresponding with crop water requirements, soil properties, water
supply constraints and the irrigation system characteristics. Optimal scheduling
guarantees efficient water use, provided the performance coincides with the
program. The process resembles somewhat the initial step of irrigation
planning, but relates to real-time circumstances while in the planning process
the calculation is done for peak system requirements.
Table 16.1. Annual crops irrigation scheduling form (example)

Crop : …Tomato…………………….. Soil type: …Loess…………………………

Growing period : …165 Days……………….. Irrigation Method: …Drip Irrigation………………
A. Growth stage Establi’ Vegetat’ Floweri’ Fruit fo’ Ripenin’ Total

B. Stage length – days 14 30 20 30 70 164

C. Period – dates 15-28/6 28/6-28/7 29/7-17/8 18/8/17/9 17/9-25/11

D. Wetting Area - Percentage 15 25 30 35 35

E. Anticipated rainfall – mm/stage 20
F. Rainfall efficiency - % 50
G. Effective rainfall – mm/stage 10
H. Average daily evapotranspriation– mm 5.5 6.5 7 6.5 5.5
I. Total evapotranspiration per stage-mm 77 195 140 195 385 992
J. Precipitation balance per stage – mm 67 195 140 195 385 982
K. Field capacity - % per weight 18 18 18 18 18
L. Wilting point - % per weight 12 12 12 12 12
M. Available water - % per weight 6 6 6 6 6
N. Bulk Density – g/cm3 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5
O. Available water - % per volume 9 9 9 9 9
P. Average root zone depth/stage – cm 20 50 80 100 100
Q. Available water in root zone – mm 18 45 72 60 60
R. Available water depletion - % 40 40 30 40 50
S. Allowed water deficit – mm 1.4 9 17.2 36 45
T. Crop coefficient per stage 0.2 0.5 0.8 0.9 0.8
U. Average daily water uptake – mm 1 3.25 4.2 5.85 5.6
V. Interval between irrigations – days 1 2 4 6 8
W. Net water amount per irrig’ – m3/Ha 10 65 168 351 448
X. Irrigation efficiency - % 50 70 80 90 90
Y. Gross water application per Irrigation – m3/Ha 20 93 210 390 498


The Scheduling Procedure

The irrigation-scheduling process is a mathematical operation. Some of the data are
not measured but estimated, such as dripper wetted volume, readily available water
percentage and crop coefficients. Hence the result of the calculation is an estimate
and should be validated in the field. Validation aids are soil moisture and soil tension
measurements, as well as physiological indicators such as shoot elongation rate, fruit
expansion rate, trunk diameter expansion and contraction and midday water tension
of the leaves and the stem.
In annuals, the soil surface area covered by foliage in the initial growth stage is
partial and limited, hence, drip irrigation can contribute to substantial water saving in
this stage.
The lower the rainfall, the lower is its efficiency in replenishing soil moisture. Rainfall
of less than 10 mm per event is not taken into account.
The monthly precipitation deficit is the monthly evaporation (ET0) minus the effective
For simplification, data on soil moisture is given in volume per volume values (V\V). If
soil moisture data is available as weight per weight value, it is converted to volume
per volume value by multiplication by the bulk density value.
The related data concerning crop water requirements, climate and soil parameters is
entered into the form and the dosage per each application is calculated step-by-step
manually, by a computer worksheet or with online calculator.
Operative Timetable
After scheduling of the water amounts and intervals, an operative timetable should be
prepared. In the operative timetable, water supply limits and the topography should
be considered.
A cotton area of 55 ha. should be irrigated according to the following data:
Max. daily water requirement: 5 mm/day
Interval: 7 days
Emitters: Ram PC 1.2 l/h
Spacing: 1 X 0.5 m = 0.5 m2
Irrigation efficiency: 90%
Net weekly requirement: 7 X 5 mm = 35 mm = 350 m3/ha
Gross weekly requirement: 350/90% = 389 m3/ha
Number of drippers per ha. = 10000 m2 /0.5 m2 = 20,000
Application rate: 1.2 l/h X 20,000 = 24,000 l/h = 24 m3/h per ha
Max irrigation hours: 350/24 = 14.5 h
Nineteen controlled hydraulic valves divide the area to 19 sub-plots. Since the irrigation cycle
is 7 days, 4 sub-plots are irrigated simultaneously. The two spare days in a cycle are used for
maintenance and emergency events.
To reduce friction head-losses, each block will be irrigated in two shifts. The simultaneous
irrigating plots will be distributed along the mainline in order to decrease head-losses.


The max. flow rate per shift is 242 m3/h. The mainline should be of 200 mm diameter/ 60 m
Due to the 7 m descending slope, the friction head loss in the pipe is compensated by the
topographic difference.
The direction of the rows and the laterals were adjusted to the topography for convenience of
mechanized harvest.

Fig. 16.1. 55 Ha. Cotton – drip system layout

Table 16.2. Operative irrigation schedule
Calculation of the Water Amount
in Sprinkler Irrigation Shift Valves Flow rate m3 Flow rate
per shift
The application rate of the irrigation
1 1 64
system depends on the variables:
5 50
a. Type of emitter and it's flow-rate; 11 49
17 66 229
b. Spacing - the distance between 2 2 64
the laterals x the distance 6 50
between the emitters along the 12 49
laterals; 18 66 229
3 3 60
c. The pressure head at the emitter 7 60
inlet. 9 72
13 50 242
According to this data it is possible to
4 4 60
calculate the desired application rate: 8 60
Application rate: amount of the water 10 72
(m3) applied to 1000 m2 (O.1 hectare) in 14 50 242
5 15 61
1 hour. Each m3/h per 1000 m2 = 1 mm.
16 61
19 48 170


Calculation of the Application Rate

Sprinkler type: 233/92
Nozzle sizes: 3.4 mm x 2.5 mm.
Pressure head at sprinkler nozzle: 2.5 bar
Sprinkler flow-rate at that pressure head (taken from performance table): 1.06 m3/h.
Spacing of sprinklers: 9 m x 12 m.
The area irrigated by one sprinkler: 9 X 12 = 108 m.
Precipitation rate = Sprinkler flow-rate l/h / irrigated area m. = 1060/108 = 9.8 mm./h.
Precipitation of I mm/h means 10 m3 per hectare/h. 9.8 mm/h. = 98 m3/hectare/h.
Calculation of the Irrigation Duration
(Eq. 16.1)

T = Irrigation time length (hours);
W = Gross water requirement mm. ;
Pr = Precipitation rate mm/h.
The required irrigation water amount: 600 m3/ha. = 60 mm.
The precipitation rate: 9.8 mm/h. Irrigation time-length: 60/9.8 = 6.1 hours.
The Total Flow-rate of the Irrigated Area
The gross water volume flow-rate per hour (discharge) can be calculated by the
multiplication of the average single-emitter flow-rate by the number of the
simultaneously operated emitters.
Average single-sprinkler flow-rate: 1.5 m3/h.
The number of the simultaneously operated sprinklers: 345.
The gross Flow-rate per application: 1.5 X 345 = 517.5 m3/h.
In the planning of the water distribution between different plots, care should be taken
to avoid an excessive water flow-rate in the supply and distributing pipeline that
would reduce the water head in the irrigated area below the requested operating
Scheduling with the Water Budget Concept
A common methodology of scheduling is the water budget approach. The method is
based on climatic data.
When used adequately, calculated water amounts are quite accurate. The procedure
is simple and flexible for using in most of the agricultural crops.
The procedure can be divided into several basic steps, which are slightly different
from the procedure for low-volume micro irrigation.


Step 1. Estimation of the Available Water Amount in the Root Zone

For that step, two essential data elements have to be known: The water retention
capacity of the soil and the crop root-system depth and pattern. The total available
water is determined by multiplying the appropriate available water value by the
average rooting depth.
Step 2. Estimation of the Allowable Soil Water Depletion in the
Allowable soil water depletion is the fraction of the available water in the root-zone
that can be extracted without causing adverse effects on plant growth, yield and
quality. To estimate allowable soil water depletion, the available water amount is
multiplied by the allowable depletion factor (30% - 60%, depending on crop and
growing phase).
Table 16.3. The estimated available water per unit of rooting depth for soils of diverse
textures and the intake rate for various soil textures

Soil Available Water Capacity Intake (Infiltration) Rate

Texture (mm of Water/cm of Soil Depth) (mm/hr)
Range Average Range Average

Sand 0.5 - 0.8 0.65 12 - 20 16.0

Loamy 0.7 - 1.0 0.85 7 - 12 9.5
Sandy loam 0.9 - 1.2 1.05 7 - 12 9.5
Loam 1.3 - 1.7 1.50 7 - 12 9.5
Silt loam 1.4 - 1.7 1.55 4-7 5.5
Silty clay loam 1.5 - 2.0 1.75 4-7 5.5
Clay loam 1.5 - 1.8 1.65 4-7 5.5
Clay 1.5 - 1.7 1.60 2-5 3.5
After: Ontario FactSheet 210/560
Table 16.4. Active root-zone depth of fruit trees
Step 3. Estimation of the
Water Use Rate of the Crop Crop Depth to irrigate - cm
The average daily water use rates are Apples 90
derived from long-term average Cherries 60
weekly evapo-transpiration
measurements, multiplied by the crop Grapes 90
factor. Peaches 60
Step 4. Timing of Irrigations Pears 60
Raspberries 60
The starting point for calculating the
timing of irrigation is determined after measurement of the water in the crop root-
zone. It can be done by direct measurement with the gravimetric - oven-dry method
or indirectly with tensiometers, Watermark. TDR or gypsum blocks. Irrigation timing is
determined by subtracting daily water use of the crop from total available water in the


root-zone until the soil water amount has been decreased to the allowable depletion
Step 5. Calculation of the Water Application Amount

(Eq. 16.2)

In addition to the irrigation system characteristics, irrigation efficiency varies with

size and uniformity of the irrigated fields and climatic conditions. Water may be
lost by deep percolation, runoff and evaporation. Well designed and managed
sprinkler systems have 75% - 85% efficiency. Low-volume micro-sprinkler
systems usually have higher irrigation efficiency than high-volume sprinkler
Step 6. Calculation of Water Application Time-length

(Eq. 16.3)

Application time-length: hours;
Application dosage: mm;
Application rate: mm/h.
The duration of water application depends on the amount of water to be applied and
water intake rate of the soil. If the soil absorbs water slowly, the application rate has
to be low enough to prevent the soil puddling and runoff. The meaning is that in fine
texture soils the application time-length has to be longer than in soils of coarse
Scheduling Software and On-line Calculators

Fig. 16.2. Irrigation design software screen-shot


In our days the task of irrigation scheduling, as well as design of irrigation systems is
simplified and eased by using specific software for design and scheduling irrigation,
obtaininig climate data from the internet and using on-line calculators.

Fig. 16.3. Visual presention of designed system

Fig. 16.4. Scheduling software screen-shot


Fig. 16.5. On-line calculator



Water and fertilizer can be managed at different levels of monitoring and control. At
the basic level, management is based on personal experience, guess-work and
intuition without performing actual measurements. In more advanced management
levels, soil moisture and nutrient content are monitored, and water and fertilizers are
replenished to pre-defined values.
Soil Moisture Monitoring
The tensiometer is the simplest, most
widespread mean for monitoring the
performance of irrigation systems. In
sprinkler irrigation and on-surface drip
irrigation, two units are installed at each
monitoring site. The ceramic tip of one
tensiometer that is installed within the upper
layer, at a depth of 15 – 30 cm in the active Fig. 17.1 Tensiometers
aerated root-zone, is used for irrigation
timing. The second tensiometer is inserted
into the lower limit of the active root zone or
the desired wetting depth. 12 – 24 hours
after water application It indicates whether
the applied water did indeed fully
replenished the depleted water in the
relevant soil volume.
A drawback of the tensiometer is its limited
range of tension measurement. It does not Fig. 17.2 Watermark granular sensor
measure water tension beyond 80 centibars
which in certain crops is lower than the
irrigation threshold. Above 80 centibars
tension, it may dry out and require
Granular Sensors
To overcome this discrepancy, new sensors
have been developed. Instead of a ceramic
tip that is equalized with soil water, a
granulated matrix mixed with gypsum
encased in stainless steel housing is
employed. The measured parameter is the
electrical resistance between two electrodes
inserted within the matrix. As the soil Fig. 17.3 Time domain transmissometry
moisture increases, the resistance sensor
decreases. A conversion table translates
resistance readings to water potential values. The sensor measures water tension up
to 200 centibars.


TDR and TDT Sensors

Other soil water measurement technologies are: Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR)
and Time Domain Transmissometry (TDT). Both technologies determine the
dielectric permittivity of the soil by measuring the time required for an
electromagnetic pulse to propagate along a transmission line within the soil. Since
the dielectric constant of water is significantly higher than that of the soil, higher
moisture will increase the permittivity and shorten the time gap between pulse
emission and its hit in the target receiver. In TDT, one mode (direction) of the pulse is
measured while in TDR the pulse is measured after its reflection back to the source.
The readings are converted to percentage of water content in the soil, according to
prior calibration.
More soil moisture measurement techniques such as gypsum blocks, soil
capacitance and neutron probing are used in research but only rarely used in the
field by farmers.
Plant Water State Monitoring
Leaf Water Potential
Midday leaf water potential indicates
the water state of the plant.
Measurements are taken at midday.
Leaves are cut with their petioles
intact. The leaf is then inserted into a
pressure chamber (designated The selected leaf The cut leaf
pressure bomb). Pressured air is
released from a pressurized container
into the chamber. A pressure gauge
reading is taken when the first drop of
sap appears on the petiole tip. The
measured value indicates the water
potential of the plant. In cotton, midday
leaf water potential reading above 20
bars indicates water stress. This
measurement technique is suitable for
field crops and certain fruit crops
Fig. 17.4. The pressure bomb
Stem Water Potential From "ICT International" brochure

In some perennial crops the parameter

of leaf midday water potential is not a satisfactory indication. In these crops, stem
midday water potential is indirectly measured. The leaves for the test are wrapped for
two hours with aluminum foil to equalize the leaf and the stem water potentials. The
leaves are cut and checked in the abovementioned way. In almonds, stem water
potential of 18 – 20 bars is allowed towards harvest but in the stress sensitive phase
of fruit set; stem water potential is kept as low as 10 – 12 bars.
Trunk Contraction
In certain fruit crops such as avocadoes, mangoes and nectarines, daily fluctuations
of trunk diameter indicate the water potential of the tree. Measurements are
performed by means of dendrometers, using a micrometer to measure the changes


between two metallic plates fixed into the trunk on opposite sides. When water is
easily available the trunk's diameter fluctuations are greater than in low water
Plant Organs Elongation and Expansion
In field crops, the rate of inter-node elongation
measurement indicates the level of water stress in the
plant. In certain fruit crops the rate of fruit expansion is
a good indicator of the water state of the tree.
Irrigation Control
Manual Control
Manual opening and closing of valves is the lowest
level of control and is rarely used in modern irrigation. Fig. 17.5. Measurement of
Quantitative Automatic Water Shutdown fruit expansion rate and trunk
Valves are opened manually but shutdown is automatic
after the preset water amount has been delivered.
Fully Controlled Irrigation
Irrigation is regulated by local and central controllers. The controllers are preset to
open the valves in the desired time and to close the system when the preset water
amount has been delivered.
Central controllers can manipulate weather data – rainfall, temperature and
evaporation for irrigation scheduling. Weather stations directly deliver data
parameters like relative humidity, radiation and wind velocity, by line or cellular
communication or the internet, for fine-tuning of the water application.
Integrated Irrigation and Fertigation
Integrated control of irrigation and fertilizer
application is one of the main advantages
of automated irrigation.
In field crops, open field vegetables, and
plantations, the controller simultaneously
activates the water valves and the fertilizer
In greenhouses, particularly when using
detached beds, higher precision is required
in synchronizing water and nutrient supply. Fig. 17.6. Fertilizer and water controller
from "Gavish" brochure
For this, dedicated controllers have been
developed to control multi-nutrient supply relying on chemical monitoring of the
nutrient solution and drainage.


Integrated Monitoring and

The highest level of control
integrates monitoring of soil
moisture, salinity and pH levels
by sensors. All soil moisture
sensors described above can
be integrated with local or
central controllers
The central controller receives
weather data from weather
stations and the Internet.
All the data are processed and
used to adjust the preset
irrigation program. Remote
plots can be connected to the Fig. 17.7. Integrated monitoring and control Coertesy
central computer or smart "Netafim"
phone by telephone, wireless
radio transmitter or Internet.
Smart phone applications

Fig. 17.8. Layout of irrigation systems controlled by iPhon/iPad Fig. 17.9 The iPhone Screen
Last years, Smart phones had been recruited to control irrigation. All those tasks,
done in the past with desktops and laptops, can now be accomplished from the smart
phone. Development of sophisticated application for that use is gaining momentum,
particularly, since the year 2012.


Operation of irrigation systems according to schedule, facilitates optimal utilization of
the equipment, efficient water use, timely water application and energy saving. Strict
maintenance is requested to keep the system working and prevent decline in
application uniformity. The performance of the system has to be routinely monitored
in preset time intervals. In addition to daily monitoring of the performance, periodical
inspection of the system's components should be performed.
Micro-irrigation systems in particular, require careful and rigorous maintenance. The
abundance of equipment, The narrow water passageways in the emitters, the
widespread use of thin-wall laterals, the sensitivity of the filtration and fertigation
devices, the buried underground emitters as well as the complexity of the monitoring
and control appliances, require commitment to a meticulous maintenance policy.
Maintenance actually begins with system installation. Improper installation will cause
troubles all over the system's life-span.
Mains and Sub-mains
PVC pipes are sensitive to sunlight and must be buried within the soil, at least 30 cm
deep. They are also prone to damage by sharp edges of stones or when exposed to
expansion and contraction of heavy and compacted soils, caused by changes in the
soil moisture. Therefore, in heavy and/or stony soil, before laying PVC pipes in a
trench, it should be padded with sand. Right angles in the pipeline must be supported
by concrete casting to prevent disintegration of the pipeline.
When connecting plastic laterals to manifolds, the barbed protrusion of the initial
connector has to be fully inserted into the lateral to prevent the connectors from
popping out in pressure surges.
Laterals laid from reels, have to be positioned leveled on the soil surface for several
hours before they are connected and stabilized. The delay is necessary to
accommodate the lateral and release the twisting formed in the reel package.
In plots prone to woodpecker activity, polyethylene laterals have also to be installed
below the soil surface in order to be protected from punching by the birds.
In solid-set sprinkler systems, care will be taken to secure the verticality of the risers,
to attain high distribution uniformity.
Before initializing the system, laterals, manifolds and pipelines have to be thoroughly
flushed, to wash-out all the debris and soil particles that penetrated into the system
during the installation work.
Around control heads employing fertigation devices and at fertilizer storage
appliances, weeds will be completely eradicated, in order to diminish hazard of fire
caused by combustible fertilizers.


Precise punching of holes in lateral for insertion of feeder tubes of micro-jets and
micro-sprinklers or on-line drippers, requires the adequate tools, as shown in fig.

Fig. 18.1. Punch (left) and holder (right) From "Netafim" Brochure
Routine Inspection
Routine inspection and preventive measures are necessary to guarantee appropriate
performance of the irrigation system. The best maintenance policy is to inspect the
whole system periodically and systematically. Time intervals between inspections
depend on water quality and the properties of the system components. Inspections
can be performed weekly, monthly, or twice a year (in favorable conditions).
Pump Inspection
In self-pumping installations, pump efficiency has to be tested at least once in 5
years. When water carries sand particles and/or the water is corrosive, the test
should be performed bi-annually. Pump efficiency below 75% is economically
undesirable in contemporary high energy costs. Low efficiency may indicate the
deterioration of pump components that have to be repaired or replaced promptly,
otherwise, pumping can be terminated.
System Performance
Comparing the system’s actual measured flow-rate to the designed discharge
provides preliminary indication of system performance. Deviation up to ±10% is
acceptable. A flow-rate that is significantly lower than the designed discharge may
indicate partial plugging of emitters or partial clogging of filters by dirt accumulation.
A flow-rate significantly higher than scheduled, may indicate burst of pipelines or
punching of pipes and laterals causing water leakage. Deviation from the scheduled
flow-rate can also indicate changes in the pressure regime.
The first step is to check the hourly flow-rate at the main flow-meter and compare it
with the designed flow-rate (the number of emitters multiplied by the emitters'
nominal flow-rate).


Second step - the pressure gauges that are installed in the plot have to be checked.
The measured values have to be compared to the designed pressure for each set.
Pressure difference between inlet and outlet and dirt accumulation in filters have to
be checked as well.
When too low flow-rate is noticed in an appropriate pressure regime, on-farm
inspection of emitters' flow-rate uniformity should be performed. The minimum
number of emitters per sample is 20. Once measured, the EU (emission uniformity)
will be calculated and if it is unacceptable, the emitters should be cleaned with acid,
flushed with pressurized air or replaced. The system should be checked again after
Visual indicators of inadequate system performance are random stressed plants,
surface runoff and white salt spots on the soil surface.
Routine Maintenance
System Flushing and Cleaning
Dirt, chemical precipitates and organic
matter accumulate in the irrigation
system during irrigation. Most of the dirt
accumulates in the distal ends of
laterals, manifolds and pipelines.
Before the first irrigation in the season,
the system has to be flushed
thoroughly. For proper dirt removal,
flushing of laterals has to be sequential,
one after another, to keep the
appropriate pressure and flow-velocity Fig. 18.2. Automatic lateral end flushing valve
in the open distal end. In micro- Courtesy "Netafim"
irrigation, the lateral end-plug or stopper is released and the dirty water is allowed to
exit until clean water appears. Flushing velocities should be at least 0.5 m/s, in order
to remove effectively the dirt from the laterals.
Lateral flushing can be accomplished automatically with automatic flushing valves
installed in lateral ends. In this case, flushing takes place in the beginning of each
irrigation, in the time interval between water flow starts and the build-up of the
operating pressure inside the lateral.
Flushing has to be performed several times in the season. Intervals between flushing
events depend on the rate of dirt accumulation.
The Control Head
The components of the control head are sensitive to damage, if not inspected
routinly. Irrigation controllers have to be checked periodically for accuracy as well as
to their responsiveness to commands from external sources.
The control head is composed of different components. Malfunction of each of them
may distort the performance of the whole irrigation system.
The Controller
Today's controllers are sophisticated devices containing electronics, wiring and
interfaces to the irrigation system. These components are prone to damage if not


monitored and maintained thoroughly.

It is recommended that the
controller and the associated
accessories (solenoids, pressure
regulators, air release and relief
valves, fertigation equipment, etc.)
will be checked once a week. Wiring
connections have to be checked for
wear and breakage and repaired if
If the Irrigation schedule is
programmed on the field controller,
once a month it will be checked for its
relevance to the current conditions. Fig. 18.3. Control head From Bermad brochure

The Irrigation Network

As mentioned before, micro-irrigation systems have to be flushed periodically to
release precipitates and debris accumulated in the laterals and the emitters. It can be
done by unplugging the ends of laterals, allowing the water flow until no
contamination is observed in the released water. If the lateral end is buried deep in
the soil, water release can be done by removing the last emitter from its riser or
supply tube.
Broken emitters have to be replaced. Clogged emitters will be cleaned or replaced.
Leaking valves have to be repaired or replaced. Leaking or broken pipes will be
replaced. An indication for leakage can be the appearance of algae or moss on the
soil surface adjacent to the leaking point.
The system has to be monitored when irrigating, in order to observe excessive or too
low operating pressure. In sprinkler irrigation, excessive pressure is indicated by
breakage of the water jet into spray. Too low pressure decreases the wetting range
of the emitter.
The emitters have to be uniform in a simultaneously irrigating zone. Vegetation and
other obstructions that may block adequate water distribution will be removed.
Sprinklers, micro sprinklers and micro jet should be installed on vertical risers or
supported by vertical rods, except in sloped areas. In a sloped area, heads alignment
should be related to the slope to achieve proper coverage. Tilted heads can cause
ponding and uneven water distribution.
The integrity of the pipelines is a crucial factor in water use efficiency. Plastic pipes
are damaged easily by rodents, woodpeckers, workers, mechanical tools and in
some cases by extreme climate conditions - overheating of on-surface laterals or
freezing of water inside the system.
Another detrimental occurrence in pipelines and accessories is the precipitation of
non-soluble salts from the irrigation water that reduce the cross section of the
pipelines, increase friction head losses and may obstruct emitters. Precipitation
affects more severely small-diameter laterals and low-volume emitters.
Mechanical tools can damage aluminum pipes. The most sensitive component is the
rubber seal in the coupler. These seals are prone to degradation and wear by hot


and dry weather and the friction in the course of coupling and uncoupling.

Fig. 18.4. Coupling of PE pipes Fig, 18.5. Replacing seal

Rigid PVC / UPVC pipes are damaged by sunlight if they are not buried in the soil.
Polyethylene pipes are prone to damage by animals and machines. Small plugs can
fix small holes, but in the case of bigger holes, the pipe has to be cut and joined by a
matching coupler.

Fig. 18.6. Insertion of emitters in small- PE lateral diameter soft

Fig. 18.7. Components of hydraulic and metering valves. the wear-sensitive components
Wear in valves, initially occurs to the flexible seals and the diaphragms in the
hydraulic valves. In hydraulic valves the control tubes have to be checked for integrity
and leakage.
In filtering systems, the filter elements have to be checked for integrity. In automatic
back-flushed filtering systems, the control machanism elements have to be tested for


Sprinklers are prone to wear and malfunction. It should be

taken into account that in mobile systems the water emitters
are operated significantly more hours in the season than the
emitters in solid-set systems. Hence the periodical checks in
mobile systems have to be done more frequently.
The most wear-sensitive components of the sprinklers are the
flexible seals, the nozzles, the springs and the hammer. In
water carrying sand, there will be accelerated wear of
metallic nozzles while plastic nozzles are more resistant.
Enlargement of the nozzle cross-section, due to wear, may
cause increase in the flow-rate of the emitter and decrease
of the distribution uniformity.
16.4.4. Micro-irrigation Systems
The best system design cannot compensate for inadequate
system maintenance. Micro-irrigation systems in particular,
require careful and strict maintenance. The narrow water
passageways in the emitters, the sensitivity of the filtration
and fertigation devices, as well as the complexity of the
monitoring and control appliances, require commitment to a Fig. 18.8. Sprinkler
meticulous maintenance policy. components
Maintenance of Micro-jets and Micro-sprinklers
In micro-emitters, solid contaminants and chemical
precipitates may wholly or partially clog the water
passageway, impairing distribution uniformity.
Malfunction of micro-jets and micro-sprinklers is easily
noticed. The visual indications are changes in distribution
patterns, an altered rotation rate in rotating emitters, stuck
immobilized rotating, vibrating emitters and slanted stakes.
Emitter-bearing stakes have to be positioned vertically.
Stake bending impairs water distribution and may enhance
run-off and water losses. Certain stakes are marked to
indicate the depth of insertion required to stabilize the Fig. 18.9. Sprinkler tools
emitter vertically and to ensure the emitter's right height
above soil surface for optimal water distribution.
Maintenance of Accessories
The working environment of an irrigation system can be Fig. 18.10. Flow
considered “hostile”. Chemical precipitations, friction-induced regulator
wear, corrosion and mucous excretions by microorganisms,
cooperate to distort system performance. In the framework of routine maintenance,
the functioning level of discrete components has to be checked routinely.
Flow-meters have to be calibrated once in 2–5 years, depending on the volume of
water delivered and concentration of solid contaminants in the water.
Hydraulic Valves that have an internal diaphragm. The integrity and flexibility of
the diaphragm has to be routinely inspected. If necessary, the diaphragm should be


Fig. 18.11. Micro-jets and mini-sprinklers components

Pressure Regulators - the operating mechanism is based on spring resistance
or preserving hydraulic equilibrium. Springs are weakened after prolonged operation.
They should be inspected once in two years and replaced if necessary.
Vacuum-relief Valves carry out an important function in irrigation systems.
When the irrigation is turned-off, water remaining in the system flows downhill to the
lowest outlets. The water vacating the high points creates a vacuum, which causes
the emitters in this section of the plot to suck-in air. In extreme cases, PVC mainlines
may collapse. Vacuum-relief valves that are installed at the high points in the
irrigation system, are prone to clogging and need periodic inspection to ensure that
no solid objects are caught inside and that they are not stuck in an open or shut-off
position. Air release valves also require the same periodic examination.
Filtration Equipment should be thoroughly inspected. In some filter types, the
steel body is coated with epoxy, to protect it from corrosion. The epoxy coat should
be checked routinely. Cracks in the coating, shorten the endurance of the entire
The collectors of sand separators, should be purged periodically, otherwise excess
accumulating sand will decrease separation efficiency.
Screen filters should be disassembled and the screens inspected visually for wear,
tear and blockage by organic matter, silt and chemical precipitates. The same applies
to disk filters.
Manually cleaned filters will be serviced when the pressure difference between the
inlet and outlet exceeds 5 m (0.5 bar).
Automatic back-flushing filtering systems require periodic visual inspection of the
filtering elements for wear and presence of persistent contaminants. The back-
flushing filter mechanism components: hydraulic control valves, solenoids and
rotating brushes or vacuum suckers, may require periodic servicing and lubrication.
Most of them include a small water filter to prevent blockage of solenoid ports and
valve control chambers. These filters needs frequent manual cleaning.


Automatic back-flushing media filters require particular attention. They fluidize and
resettle the filtering media with every flushing cycle. The discharge of back-flushed
media filters should be within the specified range of each model. To effectively back-
flush a filter, an adequate flow-rate is critical, particularly for sand filtering media. It
should be large enough to fluidize and lift the filtering media, while pushing out just
only a minor amount of sand through the flushing discharge manifold.
For a typical 48" diameter tank, the requested flow-rate for flushing is 70 - 95 m3/h,
higher than the filtering capacity of 50 – 70 m3. Below the lower margin, contaminants
tend to infiltrate deeper into the media bed. Flow-rates higher than the recommended
upper threshold can lead to coning and canalization of the filtering media.
Media filters have to be routinely checked for the height of the filtering media in the
tank. During the back-flushing process, a portion of the media is drained-off. When
the void tank volume is greater than ⅓ of the total volume, the missing media should
be replenished.
Maintenance of Fertigation Equipment
Evaluating System Performance
Excessive fertilization can induce salinity damage as well as antagonistic interference
between nutrition elements. The precision of nutrient application can be checked in
three procedures:
a. Collecting water samples from the laterals downstream from the injection
point, and comparing the sample analysis with the desired concentration;
b. Analyzing an extracted sample of soil solution;
c. Analyzing the nutrient content of soil samples.
Maintenance of Chemicals Injection Devices
The fertigation equipment is exposed to corrosive nutrient solutions. Metallic
components like epoxy coated fertilizer tanks, injection pump components, control
valves and pressure gauges corrode and should be replaced frequently. Some
injection pumps have to be lubricated periodically. In diaphragm fertilizer pumps the
diaphragm should be inspected for integrity and flexibility. Inflexible diaphragms will
not perform effectively.
Chemical Water Treatments
As mentioned before, chemical water treatments keep the system clean and running.
They can be applied as a preventive measure or as a corrective treatment after the
clogging occurred. Chemical treatments are particularly essential in micro-irrigation
systems. In emitters of higher flow-rates, they are required only in extreme low-
quality water, like reclaimed and storm-water.
The treatments can be classified into three groups:
a. Acidification;
b. Oxidation;
c. Sterilization.


Acidification lowers water pH. This eliminates precipitation of insoluble salts of the
cations calcium, magnesium, Iron and manganese with the anions bi-carbonate,
carbonate, sulfate and phosphate. In low pH levels, the solubility of these salts is
relatively high and the rate of precipitation is reduced significantly. The required
concentration of the acid in irrigation water for attaining satisfactory results depends
on the levels of bi-carbonates and sulfates in the water. The customary range is 0.5%
- 1.5% in continuous acidification. Acid injection is used also to dissolute precipitates
that clog emitters.
The dominating oxidizing agents are chlorine compounds. Oxidation is implemented
for decomposing of sustained organic matter and preventing development of algae
and colonies of different microorganisms as persistent clogging factors.
In micro-irrigation systems, using water containing organic matter, iron, sulfur and
manganese, routine oxidation with chlorine is obligatory. Chlorination can be
accomplished continuously with 2 – 5 ppm of active chlorine in the water or
intermittently as “shock treatment” when build-up of slime in the system is
accelerated. “Shock treatment” with 15 – 30 ppm chlorine is applied for 20 – 30
minutes. When downstream of the injection point are installed devices with
diaphragms, like some types of hydraulic valves, fertilizer injectors and compensated
drippers, an upper threshold of 15 ppm is suggested to avoid damage to the
diaphragms. A fast on-farm test indicates if the applied chlorine amount was
sufficient. If the measured residual chlorine level in the distal ends of the laterals is
above 0.5 – 1 ppm, the chlorine dosage was sufficient.
Copper-sulfate is another oxidizing agent, particularly efficient in suppressing algae
development in surface water reservoirs.
Irrigation water sterilization has two different practical meanings.
a. In sub-surface drip irrigation systems, it is a customary treatment for elimination of
root intrusion into the drippers. This is done by applying the chemical Trifluralin
(TreflanTM). Treflan movement in the soil is negligible and restricts the sterilization to
the immediate vicinity of the dripper, thus preventing damage to the root system of
the crop. The customary application regime is 2 – 4 applications per season. The
frequent applications are given in coarse textured soils. The recommended amount
per application is 125 mg per dripper. Injection time-length is 30 – 90 minutes,
depending on lateral length. Use of Treflan impregnated drippers or filters can
substitute its injection into the drip system.
b. Recirculated water in greenhouses may contain pathogens. To avoid infestation of
plants, the recirculated water are sterilized with UV (ultra-violet) irradiation.
Over-wintering of the Irrigation Systems
At season end it is essential to accomplish some particular maintenance procedures
to protect the system and ensure that it will be ready for the next irrigation season:


Entire System
In micro-irrigation systems it is necessary to chlorinate the entire system. If sand
filters are in use, they have to be backflushed first with water and then with injected
liquid bleach (5% chlorine) at a concentration of 500 ppm. The minimum contact time
at the farthest emitter will be 30 minutes. The irrigation system is shut-down for 24
hours and then flushed sequentially, beginning with the filtration devices, then the
mainline and the submains and finally, the laterals and the emitters.
Filtration Equipment
The filters will be flushed and drained. Then the interior components of sand
seperators, screen and disk filters will be inspected for wear, breakage, tear and
corrosion. Seals, gaskets and valve seats have to be checked for integrity and
The valves will be completely drained. Dirt, corrosion residues, precipitates and
biologic slime will be removed. Gaskets and seals will be checked for integrity and
flexibility and replaced when their condition is improper.
Controllers and Sensors
The controllers and the sensors will be cleaned thoroughly. Batteries, if are in use,
will be removed and stored, control panel seals will be checked and replaced if found
improper. The hydraulic control tubes will be flushed and drained. Electrical
conductors will be checked for integrity and functionality. Electrical wires will be
Chemical Injection Equipment
The Injection devices will be flushed and drained, the exterior surface will be cleaned.
The coating will be checked and repaired if necessary, in coated tanks. Pumps and
gear reducers will be lubricated, if required. Check-valves and back-flow preventers
will be checked for functionality
The pump will be drained of water. The suction pipes will be removed and stored.
Grease and oil-lubricated bearings will be coated with lubricant. The shaft and other
exposed metal components will also be coated with protective lubricant to prevent
Suction cover or volute of horizontal centrifugal pumps will be removed to check wear
of rings and impeller, and to remove debris from the impeller and the volute. Packing
gland will be removed to check wear on shaft sleeve. Then the pump will be
Electric Motors
Dust, debris, and caked-on dirt and oil will be removed from the motor. The winding
insulation will be inspected visually and all the bearings will be lubricated.
The motor will be covered to protect it against rodents, insects and dust. Adequate
ventilation will be kept in the motor storage vicinity to prevent condensation.



Fig. 19.1 Nomogram for Hazen-Williams equation


Fig. 19.2. Nomograms for head-loss determination In polyethylene pipes


Fig. 19.3. Nomogram for local hydraulic gradient determination in accessories


Fig. 19.4. Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in LDPE pipes. Class designation relates to the
working-pressure (PN) in bar. 1 bar = 10 m Adapted from "Plassim" brochure


Fig. 19.5. Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in HDPE pipes. The class designation relates to
the working-pressure (PN) in bar. 1 bar = 10 m. Adapted from "plassim" brochure


Fig. 19.6. Nomogram for calculation of head-losses in PVC pipes. The class designation relates to
the working-pressure (PN) in bar. 1 bar = 10 m. Adapted from "Plastro" brochure

Acid - A substance that has a pH lower than 7. (pH 7 is neutral). Specifically, an acid
has more free hydrogen ions (H+) than hydroxyl ions (OH-).
Acidification - Increasing the acidity of a solution (including soil solution) by addition
of hydrogen ions (in acids or acidic agents).
Acre-foot - A volume of water that would cover one acre to a depth of one foot, or
325,850 gallons of water.
Actuator - Device used to open/close or control the valve. Key types include
electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic actuators. Movement may be quarter-turn or
multi-turn. Actuators may be used when (i) valves are remotely located (e.g., on
pipelines) (ii) valves are located in hazardous areas (iii) manual operation would be
time-consuming (e.g., with larger valves).
Adaptive plants - Non-indigenous plants that easily adapt to the climate and thus
require little or no supplemental irrigation once established.
Agricultural irrigation - Water distribution systems and practices in agriculture.
Air gap - A backflow preventing technique of physical separation or maintaining air
gap between two piping systems or hydraulic devices.
Air valve – A Valve that is used to control the flow of air. Flows are normally small,
so solenoid valves are suited.
Alkaline - Water or soil that contains an amount of alkali (strongly basic) substances
sufficient to raise the pH value above 7.0 and disturb growth of crops.
Alkalinity - the capacity of water for neutralizing an acid solution.
Allowable Water Depletion (AWD) - The percentage from Plant Available Water
(PAW) that can be depleted from the active plant root zone before irreversible
damage is brought about to the plant.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) - An association involved in
developing standards for a wide range of products used in water supply and
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) - A professional organization
whose Codes and Standards Committee helps to write and publish ANSI standards.
American Water Works Association (AWWA) - A professional organization serving
the irrigation and drinking water supply profession.
Ampere or Amp. - A unit of electrical current. The unit is used to specify the
movement of electrical charge per unit time through a conductor.
Angle valve - A valve configured with its outlet oriented 90 degrees from its inlet.
Anti-siphon valve - A control valve with a built-in atmospheric vacuum breaker.
Application efficiency - The ratio of the average depth of irrigation water infiltrated
and stored in the root zone to the average depth of irrigation water applied,
expressed as percentage unit.
Application rate - The amount of water delivered to a given area per time unit,
typically expressed in mm/h.

Applied water - Water applied by irrigation, usually expressed as a depth of water in
mm or as m3/Ha.
Aquaculture - Farming of plants and animals that live in water, such as fish,
shellfish, and algae.
Aqueduct - A pipe, conduit, or channel designed to transfer water from a remote
source, usually by gravity.
Aquifer - A geological formation or structure that stores and/or transmits water, such
as to wells and springs.
Aquifer (confined) - Soil or rock below the land surface that is saturated with water.
There are layers of impermeable material both above and below it and it is under
pressure so that when the aquifer is drilled for well, the water will rise above the top
of the aquifer. Synonym: artesian aquifer.
Aquifer (unconfined) - An aquifer whose upper water surface (water table) is at
atmospheric pressure, and thus is unable to rise and fall.
Arable - Land having soil properties and topographic features suitable for cultivation.
ARC - Describes how far around in a circular pattern a sprinkler will rotate or spray.
(A sprinkler with a 90° arc would distribute water in a quarter circle pattern.)
Arid - A climate characterized by less than 250 mm of annual rainfall.
Artesian water - Ground water that is under pressure when tapped by a well and is
able to rise above the level at which it is first encountered. It may or may not flow out
at ground level. The pressure in such an aquifer commonly is called artesian
pressure, and the formation containing artesian water is an artesian aquifer or
confined aquifer.
Artificial recharge - A process where water is returned into groundwater storage
from surface-water supplies such as irrigation, or induced infiltration from streams or
Artificial recharge - The intentional addition of water to an aquifer.
As-built plan - An updated plan of an installed irrigation system designating valve,
sprinkler and controller locations, routing of pipe and control wires. The plan includes
all changes to the original design that were completed during installation.
Atmospheric Vacuum Breaker (AVB) - A backflow prevention device that
introduces air into the irrigation system when the system pressure drops to
atmospheric pressure or below, to prevent back siphonage.
Automatic valves - These valves enable presetting the desired water amount to be
applied. Presetting can be done manually or by remote controller.
Automatic control valve - An irrigation valve which can be remotely operated. The
remote operation method may be either electrical (the most common) or hydraulic.
Automatic valves are commonly used as "control valves" for irrigation systems.
Available Water-Holding Capacity (AWHC) - The amount of water held in the soil
that is available to the plants.
Back pressure - Increase of pressure in the downstream piping system above the
supply pressure at the point of connection which would cause, or tend to cause, a

reversal of the normal direction of flow.
Back siphonage - Reversal of water flow due to pressure reduction upstream, which
generates a negative or sub-atmospheric pressure below the downstream pressure
in the system.
Backflow preventer - A safety device installed between the point of connection
between the water supply network and the irrigating network that is designed to
prevent the backflow of contaminated water into the potable water supply line.
Typically used in conjunction with automatic irrigation systems.
Types of backflow preventers include: Air Gap. Atmospheric Vacuum Breaker (AVB).
Double Check (DC), Pressure Vacuum Breaker (PVB), Reduced Pressure (RP, RPA,
Backflow - Reverse flow of water in a piping system.
Back-flush - The reverse flow of water, through a filter or filtration media, used for
removing solids accumulated during the filtration process.
Ball valve - A quarter-turn valve with a spherical closing element held between two
Base - A substance that has a pH higher than 7. A base has less free hydrogen ions
(H+) than hydroxyl ions (OH-).
Bedrock - The solid rock beneath the soil and superficial rock. A general term for
solid rock that lies beneath soil, loose sediments, or other unconsolidated material.
Bellows - Sealing device which prevents line media leaking between the stem and
the body of the valve.
Benefit-cost ratio - Benefits and costs measured in terms of money and expressed
as a ratio, with benefits divided by costs; typically used as an evaluation tool for
different water efficiency increasing measures and programs.
Best Management Practice (BMP) - A set of practices, measures or procedures that
are beneficial, empirically proven, cost effective, and widely accepted by the
professional community.
BOD - Biological Oxygen Demand or Biochemical Oxygen Demand is a procedure,
used in water quality management, for determining how much biological organisms
use up oxygen in a body of water.
Booster pump - A pump installed in the mainline inlet for increasing the pressure in
the irrigation system when the pressure in the supply system is not high enough.
Brackish water - Brackish water is water with a level of salinity between freshwater
and seawater. Brackish water contains between 0.5 and 3 grams of salt per liter.
Bubbler - A water emission device that applies water directly to the soil surface, or
that throws water a short distance, up to 30 cm, before water contacts the soil.
Bulk density - Mass per unit volume of undisturbed soil, dried to constant weight at
105 degrees C0 expressed as g/ml.
Butterfly valve - A quarter-turn valve which has a circular disk as its closing
By-Pass valve - A small bore valve fitted in parallel to a larger main valve. Bypass

valves are used to reduce the differential pressure across the main valve before this
latter valve is opened (as otherwise this larger, more expensive valve, may suffer
damage to internal components).
Capillarity - Moisture movement in the soil in any direction through the fine pore
spaces and as films around particles. The water is drawn into small diameter virtual
tubes by the adhesive forces between the liquid and the tube walls.
Capillary action - The means by which liquid moves through the porous spaces in a
solid, such as soil, plant roots, and the capillary blood vessels in our bodies due to
the forces of adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension. Capillary action is essential in
carrying substances and nutrients from one place to another in the soil, in plants and
in animals.
Catch-can test - A measurement of precipitation from a sprinkler system in which
water is collected in graduated containers (catch-cans) placed in the irrigated area at
evenly spaced intervals for a specific period of time.
Central irrigation control - A computerized system that controls local irrigation
zones from a centralized location using a computer.
Check-valve - A small device allowing water to flow in one direction only. Types
include swing check, tilting disc check and wafer check. Check valves (also called
non-return valves) are usually self-acting.
Chemigation - Application of chemicals like fertilizers, disinfectants, oxidizers,
acidifiers, soil amendment agents and pesticides through the irrigation system.
Clogging – (1) The accumulation of solids on a filter media that block it, resist the
water flow through the filter and increase the differential pressure. (2) Accumulation
of precipitates and solids in the water passages of emitters, blocking fully or partially
the water flow.
COD - Chemical Oxygen Demand - A water quality test that indirectly measures the
amount of organic compounds in water (expressed in mg/l).
Coefficient of uniformity (Cu) - A measure of the uniformity of water distribution in a
defined surface area, from emitters that deliver water through the atmosphere
expressed as percentage. Using a catchment test in an irrigated area, the CU is a
comparison of the average precipitation of all catchments and the deviation from that
average. (A perfect CU of 100 states that the system is very efficient and there is no
variability in water distribution).
Condensation - The process of turning water vapor in the air into liquid water. Water
drops on the outside of a cold glass of water are condensed water. Condensation is
the opposite process of evaporation.
Consumptive use - That part of water withdrawn that is evaporated, transpired by
plants, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by humans or livestock, or
otherwise removed from the immediate water environment. Also designated as crop
requirement, crop irrigation requirement, and consumptive use requirement.
Control valve - A valve which regulates the flow and/or pressure of a fluid. Control
valves normally respond to signals generated by independent devices such as flow
meters, temperature gauges, etc. Control valves are normally fitted with actuators
and positioners.
Conveyance loss - Water that is lost in transit from a pipe, canal, or ditch by leakage

or evaporation. Generally, the water is not available for further use; however, leakage
from an irrigation ditch, for example, may percolate to a ground-water source and be
available for further use.
Cost-effectiveness - A comparison of total benefits against total costs.
Crop coefficient (Kc) - The decimal fraction designating the ratio between a specific
crop water requirement and the reference evapo-transpiration Et0.
Cycle and soak capability - A feature in some types of controllers that allows the
controller to divide up station run time, allowing the soil sufficient time to absorb the
water before continuing irrigation.
Cycle – (1) The time duration of irrigation of one irrigated zone. (2) One complete
operation of a controller station.
Debris - Organic and inorganic suspended solids collected on the filter element.
Quantity of debris is usually expressed in PPM. Size of the particles usually
expressed in micron.
Deep percolation - The vertical movement of water downward through the soil
profile, below the root zone caused by gravity.
Demand forecast - A projection of future water use.
Demand scheduling - Method of irrigation scheduling whereby water is delivered to
users as needed and which may vary in flow-rate, frequency and duration.
Considered a flexible form of scheduling.
Density - Density of a body is the ratio of its mass to its volume - A measure of how
tightly the matter within the body is packed together.
Depth filtration - Removing and retaining suspended solids by means of their
interception and adhering to grains or fibers (filtration media).
Desalination - The removal of salts from saline water to provide freshwater. This
method is becoming a more popular way of providing freshwater to populations.
Design capacity - Measured in m3/h, the “design capacity” is the maximum amount
of water available for use in an irrigation system. The available design capacity
determines how many emitters may be in operation at the same time.
Design emission uniformity - The anticipated emission uniformity relating to the
emitter’s Cv and the expected pressure variation.
Design pressure - The minimum pressure required for proper operation of an
irrigation system.
Diameter of coverage - Average diameter of the area wetted by emitter spreading
water through the atmosphere in wind-less conditions.
Diaphragm valve - A bi-directional valve which is operated by applying an external
force to a flexible element, or diaphragm (typically made of an elastomer).
Diaphragms - Flexible membranes in automatic valves, fertilizer injectors and
compensating emitters that regulates the passage of water through the device.
Differential pressure - The difference in pressure between upstream (inlet side of
the filter) and downstream (outlet side of the filter).
DIN - The German Institute for Standardization (Deutsches Institut fur Normung e.V.);

this institute establishes standards for testing and classifying irrigation equipment.
Discharge - The volume of water that passes a given location within a given period
of time. expressed in l/h or m3/h.
Distribution efficiency - Measure of the uniformity of irrigation water distribution
over a field.
Distribution system - A system of pipes and valves that conveys water from a
treatment plant to end users.
Distribution Uniformity (DU) - The evenness with which water is distributed over an
irrigated area. DU is calculated using a catchment test or emitters sample discharge
test. The average reading of the lowest one-quarter of catchments/emitter flow-rated
is devided by the average reading of all measurements, and multiplied by 100. An
excellent DU percentage is 75% to 85%, while a good DU is 65% to 70%.
Ditch - A constructed open channel for conducting water.
Diversion structure - A channel constructed across the slope for the purpose of
intercepting surface runoff; changing the accustomed course of all or part of a
Diversion of water - Removal of water from its natural channels for human use.
Diverter valve - A valve which can change the direction of the flow of a fluid to two or
more different directions.
Double block and bleed - A valve configuration in which positive shut-off is
achieved at both the inlet and outlet sides. A small port is fitted to discharge fluid in
the intermediate space.
Double Check Valve (DCV) - A device containing two independent, inline, positive
seating, spring loaded check valves, two shut-off valves and ball valve test cocks.
Drain valve, automatic - Spring loaded valve that will automatically open and drain
the line when the pressure drops to near zero.
Drainage basin - Land area where precipitation runs off into streams, rivers, lakes,
and reservoirs. It is a land feature that can be identified by tracing a line along the
highest elevations between two areas on a map, often a ridge. Large drainage basins
may contain thousands of smaller drainage basins. Also called a "watershed."
Drainage - The process of removing surface or subsurface water from a soil or land
Draw down - The depth (from the top of the well) to the water surface in a well when
the pump is operating. The lowering of the ground-water surface caused by pumping.
The water level typically drops when the pump is running.
Drip irrigation - A type of micro-irrigation systems that delivers water in slow drips to
plants through a network of plastic pipes and emitters. Drip irrigation is a low
pressure method of irrigation and less water is lost to evaporation than in high-
pressure sprinkler irrigation.
Drought - A period of dryness and insufficient soil moisture that causes extensive
damage to crops and prevents their successful growth.
Drought condition - The hydrologic conditions during a defined drought period in
which rainfall and runoff are significantly lower than average.

Dynamic pressure - Measure of water pressure when the water is in motion (also
designated working pressure).
Effective filtration area - The Total Area of the Filter Medium which is exposed to
flow and is usable for the filtration process.
Effective precipitation - The total depth of rainfall minus the volume lost to
evaporation and leaching during a specific time period.
Effluent - Wastewater, treated or untreated, that flows out of a treatment plant,
sewer, or industrial outfall.
Electric actuators - Actuators activated by an electric motor to operate the valve
Electric valve - Automatic valve controlled by 24 to 30 volt (AC) current.
Electrical Conductivity (EC) - An indicator to the concentration of soluble salts in
water and soil solution.
Elevation gain - Pressure gained as water flows downhill from its source or a
reference point.
Elevation head - The fraction of measured head (pressure) derived from the
topographic position.
Emitter - The ingredient of the irrigation system that delivers water at a predictable
Encrustation (soil surface sealing) - The phenomenon in which the surface of a
soil is compacted, dispersed and rearranged by the impact of raindrops. Although the
surface seal is only few mm thick it significantly reduces the infiltration rate of water.
End-user - A consumer of water; a utility water customer.
Environment - The sum of all external factors and conditions affecting the life and
development of organisms or ecological communities.
Erosion - The removal of soil particles from soil surface by weathering, running
water, moving ice, wind and mass movement.
Evaporation - the process of liquid water becoming water vapor, including
vaporization from water surfaces, land surfaces, and snow fields, but not from leaf
Evapotranspiration (ET) - The amount of water consumed by a crop is the sum of
the amount lost through the evaporation of moisture at the soil’s surface and the
transpiration of the water through the plants. The daily evapotranspiration rate, or ET
is used in scheduling the irrigation needs for growing plants. This value is calculated
from measured climatic factors such as temperature, solar radiation, humidity, wind,
time of year, precipitation, etc.
Fallow - land plowed, tilled and left unplanted.
Faucet aerator - a device that can be installed in a sink to reduce water flow-rate by
mixing air with the water.
Faucet restrictor - a device inserted into a faucet that forces water through a smaller
orifice for the purpose of reducing the flow-rate.
Field Capacity (FC) - The percentage, per weight or per volume of the water

retained in the soil after irrigation or rain, when the rate of downward movement has
substantially decreased, usually one to three days after irrigation or rain ended.
Filter area - The total area of a filtration element, usually expressed in square
centimeters or square inches.
Filter cake - The debris accumulated on the filter element, blocking it, resist the
water flow through the filter and increase the differential pressure.
Filter - A device which removes particles from water by means of a physical barrier,
chemical process and/or biological process.
Filtration degree - Size of pores in filtration medium (expressed in mm, micron or
mesh units).
Filtration element - The active component of the filter, it determines the type of filter
and the filtration level.
Filtration velocity - Flow-rate per cross section area [m/hr].
Filtration - The process of removing solid particles from fluid by forcing them through
a porous medium.
Flange - A flat metal ring with a hole in its center, through which a pipe passes, and
with a number of smaller holes drilled circumferentially, destined for the connecting
Float valve - A valve which automatically opens or closes as the level of a liquid
changes. The valve is operated mechanically by a float which rests on the top
surface of the liquid.
Flood - An overflow of water onto lands that are used or usable but are not covered
normally by water. Floods have two essential characteristics: The inundation of land
is temporary; and the land is adjacent to and inundated by overflow from a river,
stream, lake, or ocean.
Flood Irrigation - A method of irrigating with water that is applied from field ditches
onto land that has no guide preparation such as furrows, borders or corrugations.
Flow - The movement of fluids, through pipe, fittings, nozzles, valves or other
vessels. Measured in Cubic Meters Per Hour (m3/h), Liters Per Minute (l/m), Liters
Per Second (l/s), Gallons Per Minute (GPM), Gallons Per Hour (GPH), Cubic Feet
Per Second (ft3/s).
Flowing well/spring - a well or spring that taps ground water under pressure so that
water rises without pumping. If the water rises above the surface, it is known as a
flowing well.
Flow-rate - The amount of water moving through an emitter, a pipe, fixture, stream,
etc. Volume of water per unit of time, measured in l/h or m3/h.
Flush-flow - High initial momentary flow through an irrigation lateral; required to flush
the lateral and emitters before the working pressure is built-up.
Freshwater - Water that contains less than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/l) of
dissolved solids. More than 500 mg/L of dissolved solids is undesirable for drinking
and many industrial uses.
Friction-loss - The pressure lost as water flows through pipes, fittings and valves of
an irrigation system. As the velocity of water flowing through the system increases,

the friction-losses will also increase. These losses, measured or calculated, can be
used to estimate the approximate dynamic (working) pressure at any given point of a
Full-bore - Term used to indicate that the internal diameter of the valve opening is
the same as that of the piping to which it is fitted.
Gage - Device for registering water level, discharge, velocity, pressure, etc.
Gage height - The height of the water surface above the gage datum (zero point).
Gage height is often used interchangeably with the more general term stage,
although gage height is more appropriate when used with a gage reading.
Gaging station - A site on a stream, lake, reservoir or other bodies of water where
observations and hydrologic data are obtained.
Gate (irrigation): structure or device for controlling the rate of flow into or from a
canal or ditch.
Gate valve - A multi-turn valve which has a gate-like disk and two seats to close the
Gated pipe - Portable pipe with small gates installed along one side for distributing
irrigation water to corrugations or furrows.
Gauging station - Specific location on a stream where systematic observations of
hydrologic data are obtained through mechanical or electrical means.
Gearboxes – (1) Used to ensure easier operation of larger valves, particularly ball
valves. (2) Used in Center-Pivot and Linear-Move systems to deliver power to
Globe valve - A multi-turn valve configured with its outlet oriented 180 degrees from
its inlet but having flow path with directional changes and a gasketed disk moving
perpendicular to the flow path to open or close the valve. The closing element seals
in a plane parallel to the direction of flow. This type of valves is suited both to
throttling and general flow control.
GPM (Gallons per Minute) - A standard measurement of water flow in the imperial
unit system. The available GPM (also known as design capacity) must be known
before a sprinkler design can be completed. Sprinklers have different GPM
requirements. The total GPM of all of the sprinklers on one zone should not exceed
the available GPM capacity.
Gravity flow - A water system that relies on gravity to provide the driving force
required to deliver the water. Consists of a water source located at a higher elevation
than the water delivery points.
Gray water: domestic wastewater composed of wash water from kitchen sinks,
bathroom sinks and tubs, clothes washers, and laundry tubs that can be used for
non-potable purposes such as irrigation.
Ground water - (1) Water that flows or seeps downward and saturates soil or rock,
supplying springs and wells. The upper surface of the saturate zone is called the
water table. (2) Water stored underground in rock crevices and in the pores of
geologic materials that make up the Earth's crust.
Ground water, confined - ground water under pressure significantly greater than
atmospheric, which its upper limit is the bottom of a bed with hydraulic conductivity

distinctly lower than that of the material in which the confined water occurs.
Ground water, unconfined - Water in an aquifer that has a water table that is
exposed to the atmosphere.
Groundwater mining (overdraft) - Pumping of groundwater for irrigation or other
uses, at rates faster than the rate at which the groundwater is being recharged.
Groundwater recharge - The flow to groundwater storage from precipitation,
infiltration from streams, and other sources of water; the use of reclaimed
wastewater, by surface spreading or direct injection, to prevent saltwater intrusion
into freshwater aquifers, to store the reclaimed water for future use, to control or
prevent ground subsidence, and to augment non-potable or potable ground water
Groundwater table - The upper boundary of groundwater where water pressure is
equal to atmospheric pressure, i.e., water level in a bore hole after equilibrium when
groundwater can freely enter the hole from the sides and bottom.
Hardness - A water-quality indication of the concentration of alkaline salts in water,
mainly calcium and magnesium compounds. If the water used is "hard", the rate of
precipitates formation and emitter clogging is enlarged.
Head feet (pressure) - A measure of pressure expressed in feet of water. Equivalent
to .433 PSI per foot of water.
Head-to-head - Correct placement of sprinklers. One sprinkler must be placed so
that it will overlap another sprinkler (or 50% of the adjusted diameter). This provides
for uniform coverage of the irrigated area.
Horticultural practices - Activities to maintain crops, such as irrigation, fertilization,
mowing, plant protection and weed control.
Hydraulic actuator - A device fitted to the valve stem using hydraulic energy to open
and close the valve. Depending on the configuration, the hydraulic fluid may both
open and close the valve, or just open the valve. In that latter case, a spring will
typically be fitted inside the actuator to return it and the valve to the closed position.
Hydraulic conductivity - The rate at which water will move through soil in response
to potential gradient.
Hydraulic valve - Valve which uses small flexible tubes and water under pressure to
provide the actuation signal from the controller to the valve.
Hydrologic cycle - The cyclic transfer of water vapor from the Earth's surface via
evapo-transpiration into the atmosphere, from the atmosphere via precipitation back
to earth, and through runoff into streams, rivers, and lakes, and ultimately into the
Hydrology - The science dealing with the properties, distribution, and flow of water
on or in the earth.
Impermeable layer - A layer of solid material, such as rock or clay, which does not
allow water to pass through.
Infiltration - flow of water from the soil surface into the subsurface.
Infiltration (intake) rate - The dynamic rate at which irrigation or rain water applied
to the soil surface will move into soil depth, expressed as a depth of water per unit of

time in mm per hour. The rate declines proportionally to the square root of time
elapsed from the initial phase of surface hydration.
Injection well - A well constructed for the purpose of injecting treated wastewater
directly into the ground. Wastewater is generally forced (pumped) into the well for
dispersal or storage into a designated aquifer. Injection wells are generally drilled into
aquifers that don't deliver drinking water, unused aquifers, or below freshwater levels.
In-line filter - A filter assembly in which the inlet, outlet and filter element axes are in
a straight line.
Interception - The pattern and amount of precipitation that does not reach the soil
surface due to blocking by the vegetation.
Irrigation - The controlled application of water for agricultural purposes through
manmade systems that supply water requirements not satisfied by rainfall.
Irrigation audit - An on-site evaluation of an irrigation system to assess its water-use
efficiency as measured by distribution uniformity, irrigation schedule, and other
Irrigation cycle - A scheduled application of water by an irrigation system with a
defined start time and duration. A cycle may include multiple watering zones.
Irrigation Efficiency (IE) - The ratio of the average depth of irrigation water that is
beneficially used to the average depth of irrigation water applied, expressed in
percentage units. Beneficial uses include replenishment of soil water deficit and any
leaching requirement to remove salts from the root zone, as well as freeze and hot
spell protection.
Irrigation plan - A two-dimensional drawing/plan that illustrates the layout of an
irrigation system.
Irrigation scheduling - Careful planning of irrigation application rates and timing to
irrigate efficiently.
Irrigation timer - a device that can be programmed to regulate the time and duration
of irrigation; employs a clock mechanism.
Irrigation water requirement - A measure of the water required in addition to
precipitation to obtain desired crop yield.
Irrigation water use - water application on lands to optimize the growing of crops
and pastures or vegetative growth in recreational lands, such as parks and golf
Irrigation - application of water to land for the purpose of growing plants.
Isolation valve - A valve used for isolating all or part of an irrigation system for
repairs, maintenance, or winter shut-down (winterization). Common types of isolation
valves are the ball valve, butterfly valve, and gate valve.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh) - a unit of electric power equivalent to the energy provided by
one thousand watts acting for one hour.
Laminar flow - Fluid flow that is characterized by straight flow lines in constant
direction. In pipes it can be regarded as a series of liquid cylinders in the pipe, where
the innermost ones are the fastest, and those near the pipe wall are the slowest.
Mostly happens in low flow velocities.

Leaching - The process by which soluble materials in the soil, such as salts,
nutrients, pesticide chemicals or contaminants, are washed into a lower layer of soil
or are dissolved and carried away by water.
Leaching Requirement (LR) - the quantity of irrigation water required for removal of
salts from the root zone to maintain a favorable salt balance for plant development.
Leak detection - Systematic methodology for identifying water leakage from pipes,
plumbing fixtures, and fittings.
Lentic waters - Ponds or lakes (standing water).
Levee - A natural or manmade earthen barrier along the edge of a stream, lake, or
river. Land alongside rivers can be protected from flooding by levees.
Lift check - This non-return valve design incorporates a piston to damp the disk
during operation.
Line blind - A pipeline shut-off device, whereby a flat disk is forced between two
flanges. Line blinds are less expensive than valves, but require much more time to
Looped circuit - A piping system, usually a main line, that closes back on itself in a
loop, providing more than one path for the water to flow to the valve(s).
Low head drainage - Water left in the pipe after a valve is turned off that is gently
flowing out of a low elevation emitter.
Low-water-using plants - Plants that require less than 30% of reference ET to
maintain optimum health and appearance.
Lysimeter - An isolated block of soil, usually undisturbed and in situ, placed in a
container, for measuring the quantity, quality, or rate of water movement through or
from the soil.
Mainline - Pressurized pipe running from the point of connection to the zone control
Manifold – (1) A distributing pipe for laterals, starting out from the main or sub-main.
(2) A short pipe segment with multi-oulets for fittings and valves.
Master valve - A normally closed (NC) valve installed at the supply point of the
mainline that opens only when the automatic system is activated.
Matched precipitation rate - A system or zone in which all the emitters have similar
precipitation rates is said to have matched precipitation rates.
Maximum Allowed Depletion (MAD): The fraction of plant available water (PAW)
that may be depleted from the active plant root zone without inducing stress to the
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - The designation given by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to water-quality standards promulgated
under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The MCL is the greatest amount of a contaminant
that can be present in drinking water without endangering human health.
Media filtration (depth filtration) - A thick layer of graded particles such as sand,
gravel or other granular materials contained inside filter housing and perform the
filtration of water. The filtration rate depends on the effective size of the bedding and

the water velocity through the filter.
Medium-water-using plants - Plants that require 30% - 50% of reference ET to
maintain optimum health and appearance.
Megawatt - One million watts; a measure of power-plant output.
Mesh - The number of wires in a linear inch of a screen element.
Meter - An instrument that measures the volume of water delivered.
Microclimate - Climate conditions in limited area that differ from the typical climate
prevalent in the surrounding area.
Micro-irrigation - Irrigation technology employing small, closely spaced emitters to
apply small amounts of water at low pressure.
Micron - One millionth of a meter; known also as a micrometer (µm). Clogging
particle size is usually expressed in microns.
Micro-sprayers - Inclusive designation of micro-jets, spinners, rotators, ray-jets,
misters and foggers.
Micro-sprinklers - Miniature sprinklers discharging water in flow-rate range of 20 –
200 l/hour.
Milligrams per liter (mg/l) - A unit of the concentration of a constituent in water or
wastewater. It represents 0.001 gram of a constituent in 1 liter of water. It is
approximately equal to one part per million (ppm).
Mini-sprinklers- Small sprinklers discharging water in flow-rate range of 120 – 500
Mulch – (1). Organic material (typically leaves, bark, wood chips, straw, compost),
applied to the soil surface to protect soil from raindrop impact, improve infiltration of
rain, reduce runoff, evaporation from soil surface and soil temperature fluctuations.
(2). Plastic sheets used to cover the soil surface for isolating the crop from the soil
surface or to facilitate efficient soil fumigation under the sheets.
Multi-layer screen - A combination of selected ratios of weave type screens
augmenting the mechanical strength.
Multi-ported - Multi-ported valves include additional inlet/outlet ports, to allow fluids
to be directed. The ball and plug valve types are ideally suited to multi-port designs.
Multi-turn - Category of valves (such as gate, globe, and needle) which require
multiple turns of the stem to change the valve position from the fully open to the fully
closed position. Also known as linear valves.
Needle valve - This multi-turn valve derives its name from the needle-shaped closing
element. The design resembles that of the globe valve. Available in small sizes, often
used on secondary systems for on/off applications, sampling, etc.
Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU) - Unit of measure for the turbidity of water. A
measure of the cloudiness of water as measured by a nephelometer. Turbidity
characterizes the amount of light that is reflected off particles in the water.
Neutron probe - An instrument used to estimate soil moisture by measuring the rate
of attenuation in pulsated neutron emissions that depends on soil water content.
Non-consumptive water use - water withdrawn for use but not consumed and thus

returned to the source.
Non-Point Source (NPS) pollution - Pollution discharged over a wide land area, not
from one specific location. These are forms of diffuse pollution caused by sediment,
nutrients, organic and toxic substances originating from land-use activities, which are
carried to lakes and streams by surface runoff. Non-point source pollution is
contamination that occurs when rainwater, snowmelt, or irrigation washes off plowed
fields, city streets, or suburban backyards. As this runoff moves across the land
surface, it picks up soil particles and pollutants, such as nutrients and pesticides.
Non-volatile memory - A feature in irrigation controllers that will retain the
programmed information in electronic memory during a power failure, without the
need for a battery.
Normally Closed (NC) valve - An automatic valve through which no water will flow
unless external actuation is applied that trigger the valve to open. Most electric
valves are of the normally closed type.
Normally Open (NO) valve - An automatic valve through which water will flow
unless external actuation is applied to close the valve. Most hydraulic valves are of
the normally open type.
Nozzle - The final orifice through which water is emmited from the emitter to the
Open area - The Pore Area of the filter medium; expressed often as a percentage of
its total area.
Operating pressure - The pressure at which a device or irrigation system is
designed to operate.
Organic Matter (OM) - Plant and animal residues, or substances generated by living
organisms. All are based upon carbon compounds.
Orifice - Discharge hole in an emitter or lateral.
Osmosis - The movement of water molecules through a thin membrane. The
osmosis process is one method of desalinating saline water.
Outfall - The place where a sewer, drain, or stream discharges; the outlet or
structure through which reclaimed water or treated effluent is finally discharged to a
receiving water body.
Oxygen demand - The need for molecular oxygen to meet the needs of biological
and chemical processes in water. Even though very little oxygen is dissolved in
water, it is extremely important in biological and chemical processes.
Ozonation - The process of applying ozone (O3) to a liquid for disinfection purpose.
Pan evaporation - Evaporative water losses from a standardized pan used to
estimate crop evapo-transpiration and assist in irrigation scheduling.
Particle size - The diameter, in millimeters, of suspended sediment or bed material.
Particle-size classification is:
[1] Clay—0.00024-0.004 millimeters (mm);
[2] Silt—0.004-0.062 mm;
[3] Sand—0.062-2.0 mm;
[4] Gravel—2.0-64.0 mm.

Particle size distribution - Defines which part of the TSS (Total Suspended Solids)
is relevant to the desired filtration degree; Number Density or Volume Density.
Parts per billion (ppb) - The number of "parts" by weight of a substance per billion
parts of water. Used to measure extremely small concentrations.
Parts per million (ppm) - The number of "parts" by weight of a substance per million
parts of water. This unit is commonly used to represent pollutant concentrations.
Pathogen - A disease-inducing agent; usually applied to a living organism. Actually,
any virus, bacteria, or fungi that cause disease.
Peak demand - The highest total water use experienced by a water system.
Penstock valve - A type of simple gate valve, used to contain fluids in open
channels. Found in wastewater treatment plants.
Percent area wetted - The area wetted by irrigation as a percentage of the total area
in the plot.
Percolation - (1) The movement of water through the voids in rock or soil. (2) The
penetration of a portion of the stream-flow into the channel substratum to contribute
to ground water replenishment.
Percolation rate - (1) The rate at which water moves through porous media, such as
soil; and (2) intake rate used for designing wastewater absorption systems.
Permanent Wilting Point (PWP) - The amount of water in the root zone, as
percentage of the soil weight or volume at or below which the plant will permanently
wilt without recovery.
Permeability - The capacity of a material to allow the passage of a liquid, such as
water through. Permeable materials, such as gravel and sand, allow water to move
quickly through them, whereas un-permeable material, such as clay, doesn't allow
water to flow freely.
pH - A measure of the relative acidity or alkalinity of water, soil solution and other
liquids. The term designates the minus log of the hydrogen ions concentration. Water
with a pH of 7 is neutral; lower pH levels indicate increasing acidity, while pH levels
higher than 7 indicate increasingly basic solutions.
Pilot valve - Small valve requiring little operating power which is used to activate a
larger valve, mainly by means of solenoid.
Pinch valve - A valve in which a flexible hose is pinched between one or two moving
external elements to stop the flow. This valve is often used in slurry and mining
applications, as its operation is not affected by solid particles in the medium.
Pipe dope - Common name for commercial products used to apply to pipe fittings to
assist in the appropriate fit of the threaded joints.
Pitot tube - A small L shaped tube which can be attached to a pressure gauge or
other measuring device to measure the velocity head of water discharging from a
Plant Available Water (PAW) - The amount of water held within the root zone after
gravitational drainage has finished, minus the amount of water that adheres tightly to
soil particles (that is defined as the Permanent Wilting Point).

Plant water requirement - The amount of irrigation water needed to replace
moisture depleted from the plant's root-zone as a result of evapo-transpiration and
deep percolation.
Plug valve - This multi-turn valve derives its name from its rotating plug which is the
closing element. The plug may be cylindrical or truncated. In the open position, the
fluid flows through a hole in the plug. Lubricated plug valves rely on a sealing
compound injected between the plug and the valve body, whilst sleeved plug valves
are fitted with a ‘soft’ insert between the plug and the body.
Pneumatic actuator - A device fitted to the valve stem that uses pneumatic energy
to open/close or regulate the valve. Depending on the configuration, the compressed
air may both open and close the valve, or just open the valve. In that latter case, a
spring will typically be fitted inside the actuator to return the valve to the closed
Point of Connection (P.O.C.) - Location where irrigation system is connected to a
potable water supply network.
Point-source pollution - water pollution coming from a single point, such as a
sewage-outflow pipe.
Poly-pipe - Black, flexible Polyethylene pipe used as a lateral in areas susceptible to
long freezes in the winter. Soil moves as it freezes, squeezing the pipe. Due to the
poly-pipe flexibility, it will hold up to this movement while the more rigid PVC pipe
may crack. An insert fitting with a hose clamp or a compression fitting is used as
connectors with poly-pipes.
PolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) - a group of synthetic, toxic industrial chemical
compounds once used in making paint and electrical transformers, which are
chemically inert and not biodegradable. PCBs are frequently found in industrial
wastes, finding their way into surface and ground waters. As a result of their
persistence, they tend to accumulate in the environment. In terms of streams and
rivers, PCBs are drawn to sediment, to which they attach and can remain virtually
indefinitely, endangering the environment.
Pop-up sprinkler head - a sprinkler head that retracts below ground level when it is
not operating.
Pores – (1) The voids between solid soil particles. (2) Channels or openings in a
filtration medium which allow passage of fluid.
Porosity – (1) A measure of the water-bearing capacity of subsurface rock. With
respect to water movement, it is not just the total magnitude of porosity that is
important, but the size of the voids and the extent to which they are interconnected,
as the pores in a formation may be open, interconnected, or closed and isolated. For
example, clay may have a very high porosity with respect to potential water content,
but it constitutes a poor medium as an aquifer because the pores are usually too
small. (2) The percentage of the soil volume that is occupied by pore spaces. (3)
The ratio of pore volume to total volume of a filter medium expressed as a
Positioner - Device that maintains the correct position of the throttling element in
valve and ensures the adequate throttling or full shut-off of the valve.
Potable water - Water which is fit for consumption by humans and animals;

designated also as drinking water. Water may be naturally potable or it may need to
be treated in order to be safe for drinking.
Pounds per Square Inch (Psi) - A standard measure of water pressure in the
imperial unit system.
ppm - Parts per million.
Precipitation - Rain, snow, hail, sleet, dew, and frost.
Precipitation rate - The rate at which an irrigation system applies water. The
common units of measure for precipitation rates are millimeters per hour (mm/h) or
inches per hour (in the imperial unit system).
Pre-filtration - Removal of coarse particles or large debris prior to a finer filtration
Pressure at the head - The dynamic pressure as measured at the base of the
emitter head.
Pressure gauge - A device used to measure water pressure. The best pressure
gauges are "liquid filled", however cheaper gauges, devoid of liquid, are good
enough for irrigation system use.
Pressure-loss - Loss in water pressure caused by friction of water against the inner
walls of pipe or system components.
Pressure rating - The allowed maximum internal pressure that can be continuously
exerted in a pipe or container with a high degree of certainty that it will not fail.
Pressure reducer - a device designed to reduce water pressure in supply system
pipe or irrigation lines.
Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) - A self-operating valve used to reduce any excess
pressure in a system. The valve opens if the internal pressure exceeds that holding
the closing element onto the seat.
Pressure Regulating Valve - A valve designed to automatically keep a preset
downstream pressure in a hydraulic system.
Pressure regulator - A device that regulates the available pressure to a preset
Pressure relief valve - A valve that will be opened when its inlet pressure exceeds a
preset value.
Pressure Vacuum Breaker (PVB) – A device consisting of either one or two positive
seating check valves and an internally force loaded disc float assembly, downstream
of the check valves, installed as a unit between two tightly closing shut-off valves and
fitted with properly located test cocks. The disc float assembly is force-loaded
(generally by means of a spring) to a normally open position, and allows air to enter
the piping system when the line pressure drops to 1 m (0.1 bar) or below. It
introduces air into the system to prevent back siphonage. employs a spring loaded
seat for positive opening to atmosphere. Since the disc float is force loaded, this
device can be installed on the pressure side of a shut-off valve. However, it is
designed to prevent back-siphonage only and is not effective against backflow due to
Pressure - The force over an area applied to an object in a direction perpendicular to

its surface. Measured with a pressure gauge and expressed in bars, kPa or Pounds
per Square Inch (PSI). It represents the amount of energy available to move water
through pipes, valves, emitters or other components. Static pressure is the pressure
measured when no water is flowing through a closed system. Dynamic pressure is
the pressure measured when water is flowing through the system.
Pre-treatment - The preliminary treatment in the processes of filtration and water
reclamation (chemical or physical).
Primary wastewater treatment - the first stage of the wastewater treatment process
where mechanical means, such as filters and scrapers, are used to remove
pollutants. Solid material in sewage also settles out in this process.
Program - Information the user enters into controller’s memory that determines when
the system will water. A program contains three pieces of information: what days to
water, what time to start watering, and how much water will be applied. In time
oriented programming, irrigation duration of each zone is determined instead of the
water amoun to be applied.
PSI - A pressure unit in the imperial unit system, Abbreviation for Pounds per Square
Public supply - water withdrawn by public agencies and by private companies that is
delivered to users.
Pump (water-pump) - A device which converts mechanical force and motion into
hydraulic fluid power.
Pump curve - A graphic representation of the performance of a pump correlating the
rate of flow against the total head. The efficiency of the pump can be obtained at
selected points along the curve.
Pump start circuit - The feature on an irrigation controller that allows a connection
to be made through a relay, with the pump starter, so that the starter will be
energized when a watering cycle begins.
Pump start relay - An electronic device that uses a signal current from the irrigation
controller to actuate a separate electrical circuit to energize the pump starter.
PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride) pipe – (1) Rigid PVC pipe is more stiff than black poly-
pipe, and requires the use of PVC solvents (glue) for connections. The pipe
manufacturers also recommend the use of primer just prior to the application of the
solvent to ensure a strong, watertight connection. Rigid PVC pipe can be used both
as a mainline or as a lateral line provided it is buried in the soil. (2) Soft PVC pipes of
small diameter are used in gardening and landscpe irrigation. They are sensitive to
long-time exposure to sun-light.
Quarter-turn - Category of valves (such as ball, plug, butterfly) which require just a
90 degree turn of the stem to change from the fully open to the fully closed position.
Some larger valves may, for easier manual operation, be fitted with gearboxes, giving
them the appearance of a multi-turn valve.
Quick coupling - A permanently installed valve which allows direct access to the
irrigation mainline for use of hoses. A quick coupling key is used to open the valve.
Radius of throw - The distance from the emitter head to the furthest point of water

Rain sensor - A device that automatically shuts off an irrigation system after a preset
amount of precipitation falls.
Rain switch - A simple on/off switch in an irrigation system that makes it easy to shut
the system down during a rainstorm.
Rainwater harvesting - the capture and use of runoff from rainfall.
Raw water - Intake water prior to any treatment or use.
Recharge - The addition of water to the groundwater supply by natural or artificial
Reclaimed wastewater - Treated wastewater that can be used for beneficial
purposes, such as irrigating certain crops.
Recycled water - A type of reuse water usually run repeatedly through a closed
system; sometimes used to describe reclaimed water.
Reduced bore - Indicates that the internal diameter of the valve is smaller than the
diameter of the pipe to which the valve is fitted.
Reduced Pressure Backflow Preventer (RPBP, RP, RPA, RPZ) – A device
consisting of two positive seating check valves, and an automatically operating
pressure differential relief valve, internally located between the two check valves,
installed as a unit between two tightly closing shut-off valves, and fitted with properly
located test cocks. During normal operation, the pressure in the zone between the
two check valves is maintained at a lower pressure than the supply pressure. If the
zone pressure starts to approach the supply pressure, the differential pressure relief
valve will automatically maintain a differential of not less than 1 m (0.1 bar) between
the supply pressure and the zone between the two check valves by discharging
water to the atmosphere. This device is effective against backflow caused by both
backpressure and back siphonage and is used to protect potable water systems from
substances immersed in the irrigation water which are hazardous to health.
Reducer - A fitting used to change from certain pipe diameter to a smaller one.
Reducer bushing - a small segment of pipe, used to connect two pipes of different
sizes together. A standard reducer bushing has one male end (for the larger pipe)
and one female connection (for the smaller pipe).
Reference Evapo-Transpiration (ET0) - the evapo-transpiration of a broad expanse
of adequately watered cool-season grass 10 - 15 cm in height. A standard
measurement for determining maximum water allowances for plants so that regional
differences in climate can be accommodated.
Reference Evapo-Transpiration (ET0) of Low Crops - Represents the rate of
evapo-transpiration from an extensive surface of cool-season grass cover of uniform
height of 12 cm, actively growing, completely shading the ground, and not short of
Reference Evapo-Transpiration (Etr) of Medium Height Crops - represents the
rate of evapo-transpiration from an extensive surface of alfalfa or similar agricultural
crop of uniform height of approximately 50 cm, actively growing, completely shading
the ground, and not short of water. On the average ETr is 10% - 30% greater than
Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI) - Irrigation management strategy where the plant

root zone is not filled with water to field capacity level and the plant water
requirement is not fully met.
Regulating valve - This valve type is used to regulate flows to provide a constant
pressure output.
Remote control - Device that can be used to activate electronic irrigation valves
from a given distance away from the irrigation controller , actuated by an automatic
controller of electric or hydraulic command.
Reservoir - Any natural or artificial holding area used to store, regulate, or control
Residual chlorine - The total concentration of chlorine remaining in water, sewage,
or industrial wastes at the end of a specified contact period following chlorination;
expressed in ppm units.
Resistance block - type of soil moisture probe used to monitor soil moisture state for
helping determine the timing of irrigation.
Resistance (electrical) - The resistance to the flow of electrical current. It can be
compared to friction-loss in an irrigation piping system. Resistance causes a drop in
voltage along the length of a wire and is measured in ohms.
Retrofit - Replacement of existing system components with new equipment that
increase the efficiency of water use.
Return-flow - (1) That part of a diverted flow that is not consumptively used and
returned to its original source or another body of water. (2) (Irrigation) Drainage water
from irrigated farmlands that re-enters the water system to be used further
Reverse Osmosis (RO) - The process of removing salts from water, using a
membrane. With reverse osmosis, the product water passes through a fine
membrane that the salts are unable to pass through. The salt waste (brine) is
removed and disposed. This process differs from electro-dialysis, where the salts are
extracted from the feed-water by using a membrane with an electrical current to
separate the ions. The positive ions go through one membrane, while the negative
ions flow through a different membrane, leaving the end product of freshwater. This
technique is used in desalination and water-reclamation practices.
Riparian water rights - The rights of an owner whose land abuts water. Riparian
users of a stream share the stream-flow among themselves, and the concept of
priority of use (Prior Appropriation Doctrine) is not applicable. Riparian rights cannot
be sold or transferred for use on non-riparian land.
Riser - The pipe segment connecting an emitter or other irrigation device to the pipe
or lateral that supplies the water to it.
Root-zone - that volume of soil which plant roots readily penetrate and in which the
predominant root activity occurs.
Rotors – Emitters that distribute a solid stream of water and rotate slowly in a
circular pattern.
Runoff - (1) That part of the precipitation, snow melt, or irrigation water that appears
in uncontrolled surface streams, rivers, drains or sewers. Runoff may be classified
according to speed of appearance after rainfall or melting snow as direct runoff or

base runoff, and according to source as surface runoff, storm interflow, or
groundwater runoff. (2) The flow of water over the soil surface when rainfall (or
irrigation) rate exceeds the infiltration rate of the soil. Runoff can detach and remove
soil particles and thus cause erosion. (3) Also defined as the depth to which a
drainage area would be covered if all of the runoff for a given period of time were
uniformly distributed over it.
Runtime - Length of time available to operate an irrigation system or an individual
zone for a single irrigation event.
Saline - the feature of containing dissolved or soluble salts beyond a specified level.
Saline soils productivity is impaired by high soluble salt content. Saline water is that
which would impair production if used to irrigate salt-sensitive crops without adequate
leaching to prevent soil salinization.
Saline water - Water that contains significant amounts of dissolved solids.
parameters for saline water:
Fresh water - Less than 1,000 parts per million (ppm)
Slightly saline water - From 1,000 to 3,000 ppm
Moderately saline water - From 3,000 to 10,000 ppm
Highly saline water - Over 10,000 ppm
Sampling valve - A valve which is fitted to an accessory or pipeline to allow small
sample of a fluid to be withdrawn for further testing. Commonly, a standard gate or
needle valve is used. The disadvantage is that inappropriate use may result in
spillage. As an alternative, valves are available which ‘trap’ a small quantity of fluid in
a chamber, and only this small amount of fluid is released when the valve is
Saturated flow - The movement of water in saturated soil (when all the pores are
filled with water).
Scale - Precipitate that forms on surfaces in contact with water as a result of
chemical or physical change.
Scheduling Coefficient (SC) - The SC is a measure of uniformity of water
distribution in any specific irrigated area as it relates to the precipitation rate of the
entire area. The SC is an indication of the additional system run-time necessary to
compensate for dry areas. In a catchment test, the average precipitation rate for all
catchments is divided by the lowest precipitation rate in a pre-dfined fraction of the
area (mostly 5% - 10%) to establish the SC of the system. (A perfect SC of 1.0 states
that all catchments in a zone fill to the same level.)
Scheduling - The procedure of establishing and implementing the time and amount
of irrigation water application.
Screen (of filter) - Perforated cylindrical body made of metal or plastic wedge-wire
or woven-wire elements housed in a plastic or steel body.
Screen filtration - Filtration using a screen to remove solid particles out of water.
Secondary wastewater treatment – The second step, following primary wastewater
treatment, involving the biological process of reducing suspended, colloidal, and
dissolved organic matter in effluent from primary treatment systems. Generally
removes 80% - 95% of the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and suspended
matter. Secondary wastewater treatment may be accomplished by biological or

chemical-physical methods. Activated sludge and trickling filters are two of the most
common methods of secondary treatment. It is accomplished by bringing together
waste, bacteria, and oxygen. This treatment removes floating and suspended solids
and about 90% of the oxygen-demanding substances and solids. Disinfection is the
final stage of the secondary treatment.
Sediment - A material in suspension in water or recently deposited from suspension.
In the plural the word is applied to all kinds of deposits from the waters of streams,
lakes, or seas.
Sediment load - Amount of sediment carried by running water.
Sedimentation - Deposition of waterborne sediments due to a decrease in velocity
and corresponding reduction in the size and amount of sediment which can be
carried in the water.
Sedimentation tanks – (1) Wastewater tanks in which floating wastes are skimmed
off and settled solids are removed for disposal. (2) Tank for sedimentation of sand
and other solids from the water by extremely slowing water movement by flowing
through very wide cross-section.
Seepage - (1) The slow movement of water through small cracks, pores, Interstices,
etc., of a material into or out of a body of surface or subsurface water. (2) The loss of
water by infiltration into the soil from a canal, ditches, laterals, watercourse, reservoir,
storage facilities, other bodies of water, or from a field.
Self-supplied water - water withdrawn from a surface or groundwater source by a
user rather than being obtained from a public supply.
Semi-arid climate - A climate characterized by 250 – 500 mm of annual
Sewage treatment plant - A facility designed to receive the wastewater from
domestic and/or industrial sources and to remove materials that downgrade water
quality and threaten public health and safety when used for irrigation or discharged
into receiving streams or bodies of water. The substances removed are classified into
five basic groups:
[1] greases and fats;
[2] solids from human waste and other sources;
[3] dissolved pollutants from human waste and decomposition products;
[4] dangerous microorganisms;
[5] poisonous industrial residues.
Most facilities employ a combination of mechanical removal steps and bacterial
decomposition to achieve the desired results. Chlorine is often added to the water to
reduce the danger of spreading diseases by the release of pathogenic bacteria.
Sewer - A system of underground pipes that collect and deliver wastewater to
treatment facilities or streams.
Simple water budget - A water budget that is the product of reference evapo-
transpiration, irrigated area, and a conversion factor, relating to the specific
requirements of the crop.
Sludge - The residual semi-solid material left from the water reclamation process.
Snaking - Laying of loosened laterals to allow temperature induced contraction and

elongation before the final set-up of the system.
Softening - The removal of calcium and magnesium ions from water.
Soil amendment - The addition of organic and inorganic materials to soil to improve
its texture, nutrient load, moisture-holding capacity, and infiltration rate.
Soil auger - A metallic device used for drilling into the soil and removing soil samples
for analysis.
Soil conservation - Protection of soil against physical damage and loss by erosion
and chemical deterioration by the implementation of management and land use
practices that safeguard the soil against the natural and human induced detrimental
Soil moisture deficit - the amount of water required to replenish the soil moisture to
field capacity level in the plant root zone at the time of irrigation, expressed as a
depth of water in mm.
Soil moisture replacement - The amount of water applied to replace a portion of all
of the soil moisture deficit, expressed as a depth of water in mm.
Soil moisture sensor - A device positioned in the ground at the plant root zone
depth to measure the water state in the soil. Soil moisture sensors are used to
control irrigation and indicate whether watering is required or not.
Soil moisture - Water stored in soil.
Soil probe - A soil-coring tool that allows an intact soil core to be removed from the
soil profile for examination.
Soil profile - A vertical cross-section of the relevant depth of the soil at a specific
site, exposed by digging a soil pit.
Soil texture - The classification of soil according to the distribution of particle sizes,
designated as its percentage of sand, silt, and clay.
Solenoid valve - An automatic valve actuated by electrical signals operates under
low voltage (24v AC) which may be remotely actuated and controlled via a cable or
wireless from the central controller. Typically, valves of the needle and globe types
are operated by an electrical solenoid. They are often deployed as pilot valves, i.e.,
fitted to actuators which in turn control larger valves.
Solute - A substance that is dissolved in a fluid, thus forming a solution.
Solution - A mixture of a solvent and a solute.
Solvent - A fluid that dissolves other substances thus forms a solution. Water
dissolves more substances than any other fluid, and is known as the "universal
Solvent welding - The act of chemically fusing pipes and fittings together using
solvent and cement.
Specific conductance - A measure of the ability of water to conduct an electrical
current as measured using a 1-cm cell and expressed in units of electrical
conductance, i.e., Siemens or deciSimens (dS) per centimeter at 250C. Specific
conductance can be used for approximating the total dissolved solids content of
water by testing its capacity to carry an electrical current. In water quality detection,
specific conductance is used in ground water monitoring as an indication of the

presence of ions of chemical substances that may have been released by a leaking
landfill, other waste storage or disposal facility. A higher specific conductance in
water drawn from down-gradient wells when compared to up-gradient wells indicates
possible contamination from the facility.
Spray heads Emitters that discharge a fan-type spray of small droplets of water.
These heads generally have a wetting radius of 5 m and less.
Sprinkler distribution pattern - Two-dimensional water depth-distance relationship
measured for a single or multiple sprinklers.
Sprinklers - Devices that distribute water through the air, over a given area for
Sprinkler irrigation - An irrigation method where water is shot from high, medium or
low pressure emitters through the air, onto crops. In that technology, some water is
lost to evaporation.
Static water pressure - water pressure as measured when the water is not moving.
When measuring static water pressure all the water outlets on the pipe must be
Station - A circuit on an irrigation controller that can be programmed with a run-time
separate from other circuits and provides power to one or more remote control
Stream - A general term for a body of flowing water; natural water course containing
water at least part of the year. In hydrology, it is generally applied to the water flowing
in a natural channel as distinct from a manmade canal.
Stream rotors - Emitter heads that deliver rotating streams of water in partial or full
circles at relative low precipitation rates.
Stream-flow - The water discharge that occurs in a natural channel. A more general
term than runoff, stream-flow may be applied to discharge whether or not it is
affected by diversion or regulation.
Subsidence - A dropping of the land surface as a result of ground water being
pumped. Cracks and fissures can appear in the land. Subsidence is virtually an
irreversible process.
Substrate - A mineral or organic material that provides anchoring medium and
reservoir of water and nutrients for the plants.
Suction-scanning (also known as focused back-flush) - Suction force that is
created by reversing flow through a small section of the screen element into a nozzle
at the tip of a rotating scanning element in filters.
Supplemental irrigation - The application of water to a crop to supplement natural
Surface irrigation - The application of water to land by surface flow driven by
Surface tension - The force acting on molecules at the surface of a liquid resulting
from the attraction of the liquid molecules to each other. Thus, a barrier is created
between the air and the liquid.
Surface water - All water naturally opened to the atmosphere (rivers, lakes,

reservoirs, ponds, streams, impoundments, seas, estuaries, etc.).
Surface water supply - Water supplied from a stream, lake, or reservoir.
Surge - An energy wave in pipelines caused by abrupt opening or closing of valves.
Surge irrigation - A surface irrigation technique wherein flow is applied to furrows
(or less commonly, borders) intermittently during a single irrigation set.
Suspended-sediment - Very fine soil particles that remain in suspension in water for
a considerable period of time without contact with the bottom of canals, pipes, tanks
and accessories. Such material remains in suspension due to the upward
components of turbulence and currents and/or by suspension.
Suspended-sediment concentration - The ratio of the mass of dry sediment in a
water-sediment mixture to the mass of the water sediment mixture. Typically
expressed in milligrams of dry sediment per liter of water-sediment mixture.
Suspended solids - solids that are not in true solution and that can be removed by
filtration or sedimentation. Such suspended solids usually contribute directly to
turbidity. Defined in waste management, these are small particles of solid pollutants
that resist separation by conventional methods.
Swing-check - A non-return valve that employs a hinged disk as the closing
Swing-joint - A combination of threaded pipe and fittings used between the pipe and
sprinkler that allows movement to be taken up in the threads rather than as a sheer
force on the pipe. Can also be used to raise or lower sprinklers to final height without
plumbing changes.
Tail-water - Applied irrigation water that runs off the lower end of a field. Tail-water is
measured as the average depth of runoff water, expressed in mm.
Tank-valve - A valve arranged for fitting at the bottom of a tank.
Tensiometer - Instrument consisting of a porous cup filled with water and connected
to a manometer or vacuum gage; used for measuring the soil-water matric potential
that indicates the soil moisture content.
Tertiary treatment - Advanced cleaning treatment of wastewater that goes beyond
the secondary or biological stage, removing nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen,
and most BOD and suspended solids.
Selected biological, physical, and chemical separation processes are employed to
remove organic and inorganic substances that resist conventional treatment
practices. the additional treatment of effluent is aimed to obtain a very high quality of
effluent. The complete wastewater treatment process typically involves a three-phase
(1) First, in the primary wastewater treatment process, which incorporates physical
aspects, untreated water is passed through a series of screens to remove solid
(2) Second, in the secondary wastewater treatment process, typically involving
biological and chemical processes, screened wastewater is then passed a series of
holding and aeration tanks and ponds; and
(3) Third, the tertiary wastewater treatment process consists of flocculation basins,

clarifiers, filters, and chlorine basins or ozone or ultraviolet radiation processes.
Throttle - A restriction of the cross-section of water passage in valves, pipes and
other water passageways.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) - A measure (in mg/l units) of the mineral salts that
will be deposited after the water had completely evaporated.
Total Dynamic Head (TDH) - The sum of operation head, friction head and
elevation head. The total energy that a pump must incorporate in the water to
guarantee optimal function of the irrigation system.
Total Suspended Solids (TSS) - A measure of all suspended solids in a liquid, not
including the dissolved salts, expressed in mg/l.
Trajectory - The angle, relating to soil surface, of the water spattered out into the air
from the emitter's nozzle.
Transitional (semi-turbulent) flow - A mix of laminar and turbulent flow, with
turbulence in the center of the pipe, and laminar flow near the walls. Each of these
flows behaves differently in terms of their frictional energy loss while flowing.
Transmissibility (ground water) - The capacity of a rock to transmit water under
pressure. The coefficient of transmissibility is the rate of flow of water, at the
prevailing water temperature, in liters per day, through a vertical strip of the aquifer
one foot wide, extending the full saturated height of the aquifer under a hydraulic
gradient of 100%. A hydraulic gradient of 100% means a one m drop in head in one
m of flow distance.
Transpiration - The transfer of water vapor from plants to air. The water that is
absorbed by plants, usually through the roots, is evaporated into the atmosphere
from the plant surface, mainly from the leaf stomata.
Treatment plant - A structure built to treat wastewater before discharging it into the
Turbidity - The amount of solid particles that are suspended in water and that cause
light rays shining through the water to scatter. Thus, turbidity makes the water cloudy
or even opaque in extreme cases. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water
quality and it is measured as the amount of Light transmission through a water
sample. The turbidity is expressed in nephelometric turbidity units (NTU).
Turbulent flow - Flow pattern in which vortices, eddies and wakes make the flow
unpredictable. The flow regime is characterized by random direction changes as well
as rapid variation of pressure and velocity in space and time. Turbulent flow happens
generally at high flow velocities and causes higher friction head losses than the same
flow-rate in laminar flow.
UPVC pipe - Unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride pipe. Has better endurance and
flexibility than ordinary PVC pipes.
Under-irrigation - The difference between the water stored in a plant root zone
during irrigation and the amount needed to refill the root zone to field capacity.
Uniformity - The evenness of precipitation over a given area.
Union - A pipe fitting used to connect two segments of pipe in such a way that
neither has to be rotated.

Unsaturated zone - The layer immediately below the soil surface where the pores
contain both water and air, but are not totally saturated with water. These zones differ
from an aquifer, where the pores are saturated with water.
Valve – (In irrigation and water supply) A device used to control the flow of water.
Valves used in pressurized systems include: Angle Valves, Ball valves, Drain Valves,
Gate Valves, Globe valves, Hydraulic Valves, isolation valves, Pressure Regulating
Valves, Pressure Sustaining Valves, Air Release Valves, Vacuum Breaking Valves,
Automatic Control Valves. Isolation valves are used to shut-off water for repairs.
Control valves turn on and off the water to individual zones of sprinklers or drip
emitters. Check valves allow the water to flow in only one direction. Master valves
are located at the water source and turn on and off the water for the entire irrigation
system when not in use.
Valve zone - An area where irrigation is all controlled by a single control valve. Each
valve zone must be within only one hydro-zone.
Vapor pressure - The pressure at which water evaporates at a given temperature;
the temperature at which the vapor pressure is equal to the atmospheric pressure is
called the boiling point.
Velocity – (Of water) The speed at which water travels through a pipe or other
conduit. The maximum recommended water velocity is 1.5 m/s in supply networks
and 2.0 – 2.5 m/s in irrigation systems.
Viscosity - The resistance of a fluid to flow, caused by internal friction between the
fluid molecules and by intermolecular forces.
Voltage - Amount of electrical potential required to force one amper of current flow in
a circuit against one ohm of resistance.
Wafer design - The construction of wafer design valves allows them to be
‘sandwiched’ between flanged sections of pipeline. The benefit is lower bolting
requirements. Typically used with certain butterfly and check valves.
Wastewater - Spent or used water from individual homes, a community, a farm, or
an industry plant that contains dissolved or suspended matter...
Wastewater treatment plant - A facility with an engineered system designed to
remove pollutants, such as organic matter, poisonous chemicals, phosphorus and
nitrogen, from municipal and industrial wastewater for irrigation or discharge into
surface waters.
Wastewater-treatment return flow - water returned to the environment by
wastewater-treatment facilities.
Water audit - An on-site survey and assessment of water-using hardware, fixtures,
equipment, irrigation systems, and management practices to determine the efficiency
of water use and to develop recommendations for improving water use efficiency.
Water budget - The amount of water required to maintain crop profitable; a method
of establishing water efficiency standards by prescribing limits on water applications.
Water conservation - Activities designed to reduce the demand for water, improve
efficiency in use, and reduce losses and waste of water.
Water cycle - the circuit of water movement from the oceans to the atmosphere and
to the Earth and return to the atmosphere through various stages or processes such

as precipitation, interception, runoff, infiltration, percolation, storage, evaporation, and
Water delivery system - Reservoirs, canals, ditches, pipes, pumps, and other
facilities to move water.
Water hammer - The surging of pressure which occurs when a valve is suddenly
closed. In extreme conditions, this surging will cause the pipes to vibrate or create a
pounding noise. Water hammer is most commonly caused by fast closing valves
and/or high velocity water flow.
Water harvesting - The capture and use of runoff from rainfall.
Water meter - A device used to measure the flow of water.
Water quality - A term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological
characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose.
Water reclamation - The treatment of wastewater to make it reusable for non-
potable purposes.
Water recycling: the treatment of urban wastewater to make it reusable for a
specific beneficial purpose.
Water reuse - Deliberate use of reclaimed water or wastewater in compliance with
applicable rules for a beneficial purpose (agricultural irrigation, landscape irrigation,
aesthetic uses, ground water recharge, industrial uses, and fire protection).
Water right - A legally protected claim to take possession of water occurring in a
natural waterway and to divert that water for beneficial use.
Water table - In an unconfined aquifer, the top of the saturated zone; the level at
which a well penetrates the top of an unconfined aquifer.
Water Use Efficiency (WUE) - The amount of dry vegetal matter produced per unit
of applied water. Expressed as g/m3 (grams of dry matter per m3 of applied water).
Watering window - The span of hours and days of the week that water is available
for irrigation.
Watershed - The area from which all precipitation and runoff drain into a single water
source or conduit.
Watt-hour (Wh) - An electrical energy unit of measure equal to one watt of power
supplied to, or taken from, an electrical circuit steadily for one hour.
Weather station - A facility where meteorological data are measured and gathered.
Well (water) - An artificial excavation put down for the purpose of withdrawing water
from the underground aquifers. A bored, drilled, or driven shaft or a dug hole whose
depth is greater than the largest surface dimension and whose purpose is to reach
underground water supplies or oil, or to store or bury fluids below ground.
Wetlands - lands including swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas such as wet
meadows, river overflows, mud flats, and natural ponds. That area is characterized
by periodic inundation or saturation, hydric soils, and vegetation adapted for life in
saturated soil conditions.
Wire - In an automatic irrigation system, low voltage direct burial wire is used to
connect the automatic control valves to the controller. The most frequently used wire
for commercial applications is single strand, heavy gauge direct burial copper wire.

(The larger the gauge number, the thinner the wire.) The most frequently used wire
for landscpe sprinkler systems is multi-strand. Color-coded, multi-strand wire has
several coated wires together in one protective jacket.
Xeriscaping - A method of landscaping that uses plants that are well adapted to arid
and semi-arid climate and are drought-resistant. Xeriscaping is becoming more
popular as a way of saving water.
Zone: A zone is the area to be watered from one control head valve.

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Catalogs, Brochures, manuals, User Guides, Data Sheets and CD-roms
of Manufacturers
 Agrifim  Nelson
 Ami Tensiometers  Netafim
 Amiad  Nibco
 Arad  OCV
 Ari  Odis
 Arkal  Olson Irrigation
 Automata  Orbit
 Azud  Orival Filters
 Baccara  Phytech
 Berkeley Pumps  Plassim
 Bermad  Plasson
 Bonneti  Plast-O-Matic
 Bowsmith  Plastro
 Buckner  Priva
 Campbel Scientific  Queen Gil
 Caprary  Rain Bird
 Cornell pumps  Rain-Flo Irrigation
 C-Valves  Reinke
 Dig  Rovatti Pumps
 Dis  Saf-T-Flo
 Dorot  Sagiv
 Dosatron  Senninger
 Ein Dor  Sentek
 Ein Tal  Smith Irrigation
 Filtomat  Soil Moisture
 Galcon-Eldar shani  Sta-Rite Pumps
 Hunter  Sure-Flo
 ICT  Swagelock
 Irriline  Talgil
 Irritrol  Tavlit Plastic
 Irrometer  Technoram
 John Deere  Tekleen
 Komet  T-L Irrigation
 Lasco  Toro
 LevelGSM Communications  T-Systems
 Maxijet  T-Tape
 Mazzei  Val-Matic
 MCCrometer  Valmont
 Mezerplas  Vent-O-Mat
 Micro rain  Wade Rain
 Motorola  Weathermatic
 Naan-Dan-Jain  Yardney
 Napac Remote Control  Zimmatic