Problems With Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems can help to conserve water and save you a great deal of time. When you design a drip system, you direct water only to the places where your plants need it--at their root zone. But it can be time-consuming to set up a drip system and sometimes components can break or malfunction. When unfortunate events happen, it will consume even more of your time to diagnose and remedy the situation.

Clogged Emitters

When you install a drip system, it normally consists of a black, ½-inch, hard plastic feeder line into which you can punch small holes that hold emitters. Emitters are small plastic devices that allow water to drip at a rate determined by the size of the emitter. Some emitters deliver only ½ gallon of water per hour, while larger emitters deliver 3 gallons per hour or more. All emitters can clog, which negates the entire purpose of your drip system. When dirt particles or grass roots enter the line, they can clog emitters, according to California State University at Fresno. Emitters also can break. When they malfunction, you must find the cause of the problem and replace them.

Broken Lines

One of the methods you can use in a drip system is to install small connector pieces into your main line and then attach a smaller ¼-inch hose, into which you can insert emitters. These smaller lines can be subject to cutting or breakage, due to garden tools or chewing animals. Water will gush from the break in the line, so it will be fairly easy for you to locate the area that you need to repair. Sometimes a main line can become cut or broken as well; when this happens, a "fountain" of water will sometimes shoot out, making it easy to find the broken area.

Malfunctioning Timers

If you use a timer at your faucet, it can sometimes malfunction, preventing your garden from getting the water it needs. If you are out of town and you rely on a garden timer to keep your plants watered, this can create a situation that might adversely affect vegetables and even trees that are on your drip line.

Drip is Not the "Be All and End All"

Although a drip irrigation system can save you time and money on your water bill, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization voices the opinion that "Drip irrigation is not a substitute for other proven methods of irrigation. It is just another way of applying water. It is best suited to areas where water quality is marginal, land is steeply sloping or undulating and of poor quality, where water or labour are expensive, or where high-value crops require frequent water applications."

Keywords: drip irrigation, drip irrigation problems, drip irrigation troubleshooting

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, and She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.