Experts opine that the survival of irrigated crops requires adequate water availability. Nonetheless, there is also a critical need for precise timing and application of the water into the soil to increase quantity and quality of production. It is common knowledge that drip irrigation system is the most ideal for doing the job since it uses between 30 and 50 percent less water to provide the moisture in comparison to the conventional irrigation systems. Besides, this method reduces plant disease potential, loss of water through evaporation and weed pressures, which are common problems when using other conventional irrigation means. Drip irrigation allows for the application of low-cost, smaller pumps and pipes to supply water to the plants at low pressure. However, this system requires consistent maintenance to ensure its effectiveness. This paper will thus explore some of the issues relating to maintenance of drip irrigation system to solve the problems that can undermine its operating efficiency.
Water Quality Analysis
Before the start of a season, one of the critical activities should be testing the quality of the water to be used for irrigation. The system can use water from a variety of sources such as streams, lakes, ponds, rivers, wells and municipal water. There is a wide variation in the quality of water from these sources; with the cleanest being water from the municipal and wells. However, even though water might be clean, it is necessary to carry out an analysis of water quality to determine the presence of contaminants or whether it precipitates since these could influence the functioning of the irrigation system. Testing water quality is critical in identifying inorganic solids; silt and sand. It will also help to determine whether the water has organic solids. In totality, organic and inorganic components are likely to cause plugging in drip irrigation system. Therefore, in a scenario where the tests indicate aspects that will possibly cause plugging in the system, it would then be essential to practicing special care that would be beneficial in the maintenance of the drip irrigation system.
Water Supply Capacity and Pressure
Measuring water capacity is quite essential when determining the number of emitters to be used in drip irrigation system at the same time. In fact, it is a special consideration when households share water source for irrigation. Due to uneven rainfall, extended dry weather is likely to complicate the available quality and quantity of wells as a result of the drop in the level of underground water table. Low water capacity will have a negative influence on the efficiency and effectiveness of drip irrigation system. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the level of water supply before designing this system.
Selecting a Filter System
Filters enhance efficient operation of the system. A selected filter should be able to remove large sediment particles that cannot pass through the emitters. There are three types of filters; screens, cartridges and sand filters. Cartridge filters are made of spun fiber or paper and can thus be washable or disposable. They are effective for smaller systems with a low amount of sediments. However, the other filters can be used in case of municipal or well water. Selecting an appropriate filter will be critical in preventing emitters from plugging due to a discharge of heavy sediment particles.
Flush Physical Contaminants
Filters need regular checking and cleaning across the entire period of operation. Determination of cleaning frequency may be possible through the installation of the pressure gauge on the filter’s inlet and outlet sides. In a scenario where the filter pressure losses more than 7 psi, then it signifies the need to clean it. Clogged cartridges need replacement while in the case of disc filter or a clogged screen, soaking in water or using a stiff-bristle brush can help in cleaning and removing clogs. The fine clay particles and silt that enters the system should be flushed out to prevent buildup that can end up clogging the emitters. Drip irrigation system is also susceptible to leaking. Therefore, it is essential to check the lines regularly for excessive leaking. The presence of a large wet area in the field would signify a defective emitter or leaking tube thus requires immediate replacement.
This is one of the greatest challenges that face drip irrigation system users. There is a significant number of evidence indicating damages to drip pipes by animals such as rabbits, mice, raccoons, and deer. These animals often sense the water moving through the tubes and chew through to drink. The most susceptible pipes to chewing are the polyethylene and thin-walled hoses with a diameter of up to 3/8. Therefore, one of the primary means to preventing or minimizing the damage is through switching to heavy-walled pipes.
Nonetheless, a drip system is one of the most effective irrigation techniques. Analysis of water quality is critical in identifying some of the biological, physical and chemical characteristics that might impede the efficient operations of the system. Determining the capacity of water supply is necessary for ensuring sufficient availability of water during dry seasons. Appropriate maintenance practices such as regular flushing and prevention of damages caused by animals are critical in reducing downtime and other associated costs; thus assisting in deriving maximum value from the investment.