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Micro-Irrigation Systems

    Scope
    Scope Images
    Image
    Micro-irrigation provides water directly to plants at the roots.
    Scope

    Use micro-irrigation for water-efficient landscaping.

    • Select the appropriate equipment for the task. Micro-irrigation technologies include bubbler, drip, trickle, mist, or spray and subsurface water emitters.
    • Install micro-irrigation systems that are equipped with pressure regulators, filters, and flush end assemblies.

    See the Compliance Tab for related codes and standards requirements, and criteria to meet national programs such as DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home programENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes, and Indoor airPLUS.

    Description
    Description

    Micro-irrigation is an important feature in a water-efficient landscape but requires additional components to ensure the system operates efficiently.

    Micro-irrigation provides water directly to plants at the roots.
    Figure 1. Micro-irrigation provides water directly to plants at the roots.

     

    The term "micro-irrigation" describes a family of irrigation systems that apply water through small devices and at lower pressure than sprinkler irrigation systems. These devices deliver water onto the soil surface very near the plant or below the soil surface directly into the plant root zone. Compared to sprinkler irrigation systems, the conveyance loss is minimal and evaporation, runoff, and deep percolation are reduced. Because micro-irrigation operates at a lower pressure, a pressure regulator is required. Filters are required because emission devices are easily clogged by debris. Flush end assemblies flush the laterals after the end of an irrigation cycle.

    Micro-irrigations systems rely on the frequent application of small quantities of water on or below the soil surface. Water may be delivered as drops, tiny streams, or miniature spray through emitters or applicators placed along a water delivery line. Micro-irrigation encompasses a number of methods or concepts, such as bubbler, drip, trickle, mist, or spray and subsurface irrigation. For purposes of this specification, micro-irrigation includes emission devices that have flow rates less than 30 gallons per hour (113.6 liters per hour).

    Certified irrigation professionals should be experienced in the design and installation of micro-irrigation, as it takes expertise in this area to ensure an efficient system. Micro-irrigation should be installed on separate zones from the rest of the irrigation system if sprinkler heads are used in other parts of the landscape. Builders should work with a certified irrigation professional to ensure a pressure regulator, proper filters, and flush end assemblies are installed.

    If using drip irrigation, EPA WaterSense recommends using pressure-compensating drip. These products help deliver a constant flow rate over a range of pressures and are intended for landscapes with wide fluctuations in elevation, topography, and pressures.

    Success
    Ensuring Success

    The EPA WaterSense Home Specification does not have mandatory outdoor requirements. However, if installed, these systems may contribute to the mandatory 30% efficiency requirement. Refer to the specific WaterSense Approved Certification Method (WACM) for specific requirements.

    If installed, it is recommended that a certified irrigation professional verifies that any micro-irrigation systems comply with the criteria in the WACM.

    In addition, the certified irrigation professional will verify that the station or zone pressure based upon the emission device or product being used (drip emitter, rotor head) is within +/- 10 percent of the manufacturer-recommended operating pressure. The certified irrigation professional will test this on a representative zone of the micro-irrigation system.

    Climate
    Climate

    Minimize irrigation needs by designing climate-appropriate landscaping and selecting native and drought-tolerant plant species. Schedule watering to match local climate conditions. For example, irrigation watering is not typically needed in most U.S. climates in the fall, winter, and spring.

    Compliance

    Compliance

    The Compliance tab contains both program and code information. Code language is excerpted and summarized below. For exact code language, refer to the applicable code, which may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.

     

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense® Home Specification

    The EPA WaterSense Home Specification does not have mandatory outdoor requirements. However, if installed, these systems may contribute to the mandatory 30% efficiency requirements. Refer to the specific WaterSense Approved Certification Method (WACM) for specific requirements.

    Retrofit
    Existing Homes

    The measures described in this guide applies to the design of irrigation systems for both new and existing homes.

    More

    More Info.

    Access to some references may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.

    References and Resources*
    Author(s)
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Organization(s)
    EPA
    Publication Date
    Description
    Website providing a description of the WaterSense labeled homes program and a checklist of mandatory requirements for homes to be labeled under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) WaterSense program, Version 2.0.
    Author(s)
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Organization(s)
    EPA
    Publication Date
    Description
    Document of requirements including checklist that establishes the criteria for water-efficient homes under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) WaterSense program, Version 2.0.
    Author(s)
    EPA
    Organization(s)
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Publication Date
    Description
    Resource that provides a directory of individuals that have sucessfully completed all requirements of at least one WaterSense labeled professional certification program.
    *For non-dated media, such as websites, the date listed is the date accessed.
    Contributors to this Guide

    The following authors and organizations contributed to the content in this Guide.

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    Building Science-to-Sales Translator

    Efficient Landscape Irrigation =

    Image(s)
    Technical Description

    EPA’s WaterSense program certifies weather-based irrigation controllers, which employ a "smart" irrigation control technology. These systems use local weather data to determine when and how much to water. Drip irrigation systems use 20% to 50% less water than conventional pop-up sprinkler systems and can save up to 30,000 gallons per year by delivering low volumes of water directly to the plant's' roots, minimizing losses to wind, runoff, evaporation, or overspray. Other technologies for reducing water use include control technologies that measure the moisture in the soil and tailor the irrigation schedule accordingly, rain sensors and rainfall shut-off devices that turn off irrigation on rainy days, and rotary spray sprinkler heads that lose less water to evaporation than misters.


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