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Installing Drip Irrigation


The heart of any beautiful Water Smart landscape is the irrigation system. It’s necessary for trees, plants, and shrubs to thrive in our desert climate. And since this is often the most intimidating part of landscaping, we’re here to guide you through the installation process. If you’re adding Water Smart plants and trees to your home landscape, the installation of a drip irrigation is a must. Drip systems are ideal for desert landscapes because they apply water slowly and deeply to a plant’s root zone, which allows dry desert soil time to absorb water that would otherwise evaporate or run off. Installing a drip system can be overwhelming. But with the right tools and expert advice, the process is a lot easier. Before you dig in, you’ll need a plan. That includes deciding who is going to install your Water Smart upgrade. Installing your drip irrigation system is much easier than traditional spray irrigation which you would find for grass. Drip is much easier because it doesn’t use glue for most of the fittings after you’re past your irrigation valve. You’re going to save money if you do it yourself. But if you can’t, you can pay a little bit more and have a contractor do it for you. You could find that information on SNWA.com of a list of our Water Smart Contractors. They take classes that provide them with information on the correct ways to install drip irrigation. Once you have your plan on paper, it’s time to get started. Begin by reviewing the basic design and irrigation components. A drip system is composed of an irrigation clock, backflow prevention device, electric control valve, filter, pressure regulator, poly tubing, emitter, and flush end cap. Next, locate your home’s point of connection and shut off the water running to the irrigation system. The point of connection is the location where your irrigation supply line tees off the main water line that runs from your water meter to your home. With the water off, start building the manifold system. Three parts are required for the installation. In your valve box, for a drip irrigation system, you’re going to have your traditional electric valve. But, for a drip system you’re going to want to have a couple extra components for that. The first being a filter. A filter is required for a drip irrigation system because it allows the water be very pure before it goes into the irrigation system so it doesn’t clog up the tiny openings in the drip emitters. The next component would be the pressure regulator. What this component does is it brings the pressure down, usually for an optimal range of 30 psi, or pounds per square inch, so the pressure isn’t too much so the system will last for an extended period of time. Nowadays, you can go to an irrigation store and you can purchase a drip manifold from the store already pre-assembled. It will have the electric valve, the filter, and the pressure regulator already matched, so all you’d have to do is put them in the ground and put out your irrigation line. With the valve box now in the ground, it’s time to install tubing to the areas in the landscape that will need water. Dig trenches from your valves and run them everywhere you plan to lay tubing. Poly tubing should be at least 4 to 6 inches deep. Run 1/2 inch or 3/4 poly tubing for drip irrigation. Snake the tubing across the landscape to within a couple feet of planting areas. Leave this tubing exposed until the plants are in place. At the end of the tubing attach a flush end cap. Well, after you’ve run your 1/2 inch dripped polyethylene tubing out to where your plants are going to be, you would just need to attach the 1/4 inch. You would punch a hole in the line running your 1/4 inch lines off of that. Those lines should not be more than 12 to 15 feet in distance because if you run into long no water will come out the end. Also you want to be very careful not to use the tease too often in those lines, or you may not have enough pressure when they come out each one of the emitters. So that’s a very important step. One of the other great things about this 1/2 inch poly tubing is, is anytime you want to add plants in the future. you just have to find that line, puncture a new hole, and you can add a drip emitter to it for any new plants or if you think the plants need more water in the future. A well-designed drip system will allow you to add additional emitters fairly easily, and to move emitters outward as the plants root zone expands. There are a few rules of thumb based on a plant’s size. It’s very important when you put out your drip emitters for your plant to make sure that you’re getting a good wetting pattern around the plant. So all of the root zone of the plant is being wetted and flushing salts from the soils around the plant. This will provide the plant with a very healthy root structure for the future. As the plant matures, you need to keep in mind that you may need to move these drip emitters out, for such as trees, and make sure that all of the root zone is getting a very good watering. Put emitters further apart if you have hard clay soil. Because water moves to the roots much slower in hard soil, a slow flow rate at 1/2, 1, or 2 gallons per hour should be used. For sandy soil, use high-flow emitters, 4 to 20 gallons per hour. Finally, it’s time to install your irrigation clock, which is an important component because it tells your irrigation system when to come on and how long to run. Most irrigation clocks are found in the garage, but they can be installed almost anywhere. It’s very easy to install your wiring for an irrigation system. If you’re putting in a new drip, manifold, or drip irrigation system, just look in your sprinkler clock. You may already have an additional wire that you can use. If you just hook that wire up to your clock and also the other into your new drip manifold, you may already be in luck to have it completed. If you’re still not comfortable with hooking up your wiring for your irrigation system, you could take a class at the Springs Preserve. Make it a point to understand how your irrigation clock operates. It should have separate programs for sprinklers and drip. The SNWA offers a variety of resources and landscape planning tools to help homeowners complete their landscape upgrades with ease. At the Springs Preserve design lab, visitors receive 1-on-1 guidance from local landscape experts to assist with their landscape conversion. You also can get expert advice by enrolling in classes that highlight Water Smart landscaping, drip irrigation, and more, to introduce you to the basics of creating a beautiful, water efficient, and sustainable landscape. For more design ideas and landscaping advice, check out the free resources at SNWA.com. The website features landscape sample designs created by architects and a variety of how-to videos and publications. If you’re the do-it-yourself type, request materials from the SNWA’s Simply Beautiful design series. The series includes a detailed landscape planning guide and an interactive CD that features tours through the valley landscapes and a searchable plant database. If you don’t have internet access, call the Conservation Helpline at 258-SAVE to request these free resources. Drip irrigation is not an exact science, but if you follow these steps and use the tools available, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your new healthy water efficient landscape. Reporting for Waterways, I’m Crystal Zuelke.

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