Spray Irrigation Vs Drip Irrigation

Oct 6, 2020 | Agriculture, Commercial Landscapes, Domestic Gardens, Retirement Villages, Turf

Is spray irrigation better than drip irrigation? Or Is drip irrigation better than spray irrigation?

These are the questions we get asked all of the time! And there is research conducted by universities and manufacturers around the world that theoretically answer these questions.

I wanted to answer these questions based on 20 years of experience, rather than what works in theory. I will also answer them based on our experience in landscape irrigation, rather than agricultural irrigation. The answer is, both have their rightful place within a landscape.

What I love about spray irrigation:

  • Problems with the system are easier to spot than with dripline, If you have a broken irrigation head, there is a good chance that none of the sprays on that zone will work. This will instantly alert you to a problem with the system
  • Longevity, Spray irrigation systems are easier to maintain and tend to have a longer lifespan then drip irrigation
  • You can see the irrigation system at work. Sometimes it’s nice to hear the system running for peace of mind that it actually came on

What I dislike about spray irrigation:

  • Landscape architects don’t tend to design their jobs based on irrigation sprinkler uniformity! In large open areas of turf, it is easy to design a spray irrigation system with uniform coverage. But in landscapes with curves, angles, trees in the way, plants with thick foliage and hard surfaces everywhere it can be difficult to design a spray irrigation system that has a uniform coverage.
  • Vandals love breaking sprinklers, Vandals also tend to be in parks and gardens when sprinklers turn on at night.
  • Sprays and wind don’t work well together.
  • In water restrictions, spray irrigation is often banned.
  • Decent pressure is required in your mains. Many areas of Melbourne, in particular, new estates, have very poor pressure in the mains, meaning pressure boosting with a pump may be required if you want to use sprays. 

What I love about drip irrigation:

  • Shapes, curves and hard surfaces in the landscape are less of an issue with dripline
  • Less likely to be vandalised (If installed properly)
  • Less skill required for installation
  • Can run at lower pressures than sprays
  • Easier to get good irrigation coverage in difficult areas
  • Not wind effected
  • Can be very efficient (it can also be very inefficient if not maintained properly)
  • Can be used to safely distribute lower quality water in public areas (See EPA guidelines)


What I dislike about drip irrigation:

  • Is often installed without consideration for quality workmanship
  • If not installed properly can easily become a tripping hazard
  • Shorter lifespan then sprays
  • Can be difficult to find problems (Think of a dripline that has been cut through by a shovel and then hidden under mulch and thick plant coverage)
  • Easier to get good irrigation coverage in difficult areas
  • Not wind effected
  • If not looked after and maintained can quickly become inefficient (Overtime dripline can get chewed by rodents and pets, a thick tree root can rip a fitting out, a section of dripline can get blocked with debris, drip filters get blocked, Dripline is not flushed regularly etc). As soon as these things happen your dripline becomes completely inefficient and you tend to find out when you get a huge water bill or plants start dying. From my experience, the majority of landscape drip irrigation systems do not get the care they desperately need and become far less efficient than a spray system.
  • Doesn’t tend to be as effective as sprays in sandy soils
  • The method of watering with drip irrigation is not understood by many people who schedule irrigation systems. In dry conditions or hot weather, often the drip system run times get “Ramped up” but often, this method does very little to get much-needed water to where it’s needed. The Sprinkler Nerd is a great resource for learning more, to listen to their podcast click here.

So, is drip irrigation or spray irrigation better? Well difficult to answer. What I can say though is that when we move into our new home in 6 weeks time, I will be installing a spray irrigation system.


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