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Applicability, advantages and disadvantages of surface irrigation


This system depends on three factors: type of soil, water quality and climate, plant and labours. If the soil is very permeable, it is difficult to transport the water over the surface and the field may not be irrigated entirely. However, surface irrigation is not influenced negatively by winds or sediments and debris as it is the case for sprinkler systems. Moreover, salinity is less of a problem under surface irrigation because of a lower risk of clogging pipes and salts can be leached from the soil profile. Surface irrigation is not a high-automated system, which makes it more simple, but therefore it requires more labours. (Stauffer & Spuhler 2012b)


  • Because it is so widely utilized, local irrigators generally have at least minimal understanding of how to operate and maintain the system
  • Surface irrigation systems can be developed at the farm level with minimal capital investment
  • The essential structural elements are located at the edges of the fields, which facilitates operation and maintenance activities
  • If the topography is not too undulating, these costs are not great
  • Energy requirements for surface irrigation systems come from gravity
  • Surface irrigation systems are less affected by climatic and water quality characteristics
  • The gravity flow system is a highly flexible, relatively easily managed method of irrigation


  • The soil, which must be used to convey the water over the field, has properties that are highly varied both spatially and temporally
  • Surface irrigation systems are typically less efficient in applying water than either sprinkler or trickle systems
  • The need to use the field surface as a conveyance and distribution facility requires that fields be well graded if possible
  • Surface systems tend to be labour-intensive

(Walker 1989)