Maintaining a Drip-Irrigation System
Drip-irrigation systems should be thoroughly checked annually for broken and/or damaged components to ensure that water requirements for plants are met. Here is a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Check that pressure for each lateral valve is operating in the correct range. Most drip systems operate in a range of 20 to 50 psi. High pressure is typically the reason for a malfunction. Emitters operating at high pressure will not provide the correct flow rates and frequently pop off the tubing, resulting in significant water waste. If pressure is too high, install or replace the regulator. When pressure is too low, the result is reduced performance. Consider removing the regulator or switching to a regulator with a higher-pressure threshold.
Step 2: Turn on the controller and perform a manual run to operate each valve. Make sure all valves are opening and closing properly with no signs of leaks around the solenoid or flow control. Run irrigation for each valve zone long enough for a thorough check for leaks or defective emitters. Check the timer run times to ensure that plants receive sufficient but not too much water. If the controller is battery operated, replace the batteries.
Step 3: With the use of different water types, including gray or reclaimed water, it is imperative that the proper filter size and type of filter is installed to protect your drip-irrigation system. Filters can drastically improve the longevity of your emitters by helping to prevent clogging due to increased sediments and other contaminants present in various water types. Disk filters are excellent at catching sediments while resisting chemical elements in water. They are easy to extract and clean with a hose. Mesh filters are beneficial and can be easily removed and replaced when sediment has accumulated. In choosing a filter, opt for a larger surface that allows longer intervals between cleaning.
Step 4: In each valve zone, check fittings for a secure connection. If tubing is popping out of the fitting, check to make you are using a properly sized fitting for the tubing. It is important to know the inner and outer diameters of your tubing if you use compression fittings. It only takes one blown connection to lose a substantial amount of water. High-quality fittings can withstand poor water quality, UV exposure and climatic changes. Commercial-grade plastics are impact resistant and will add to the longevity of a drip system.
Step 5: When repairing a leak in tubing, cut out all the damaged section to allow the fitting to slip onto the distribution line. Use a patch of new tubing and connect it to the undamaged part in the line so that the fitting slips on easily for a secure connection. After repairs are complete, open the closed end of the line and flush it of sediments and debris. Repressurize the lines, run irrigation once more and recheck for leaks.
Step 6: Cover drip-irrigation tubing with mulch. Take care to cover bare spots where tubing is exposed. Proper use of mulch and placement of emitters can significantly cut down on unsightly exposed components. A tidy, well-maintained drip-irrigation system is a lot easier on the eyes than unsightly bare spots, puddles and wilting plants.
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