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Applicability, advantages and disadvantages of drip irrigation


Image Credit: Jisl (2006)


Generally, drip irrigation is the most appropriate irrigation method; it is especially good for arid and drought prone areas. Drip and subsurface drip irrigation is used almost exclusively when using recycled municipal wastewater. Regulations typically do not permit spraying water through the air that has not been fully treated to potable water standards. Furthermore, this system can be very technical for industrial crop production but also a simple small-scale irrigation method, which farmers can construct by themselves.


  • High water application efficiency and lower labor costs
  • Minimized fertilizer/nutrient loss due to localized application and reduced leaching
  • Ability to irrigate irregular shaped fields. Levelling of the field is not necessary
  • Allows safe use of recycled (waste-) water
  • Moisture within the root zone can be maintained at field capacity and minimized soil erosion
  • Soil type plays less important role in frequency of irrigation
  • Highly uniform distribution of water i.e., controlled by output of each nozzle
  • Usually operated at lower pressure than other types of pressurized irrigation, reducing energy costs


  • Expensive initial cost can be more than overhead systems (commercial system)
  • The sun can affect the tubes used for drip irrigation, shortening their usable life
  • If the water is not properly filtered and the equipment not properly maintained, it can result in clogging
  • Drip irrigation might be unsatisfactory if herbicides or top dressed fertilizers need sprinkler irrigation for activation
  • Waste of water, time & harvest, if not installed properly
  • Systems require careful study of all the relevant factors like land topography, soil, water, crop and agro-climatic conditions, and suitability of drip irrigation system and its components
  • Without sufficient leaching (most drip systems are designed for high efficiency, meaning little or no leaching fraction), salts applied with the irrigation water may build up in the root zone

(Stauffer 2012a)