Trickle irrigation is an irrigation technique which is designed to use as little water as possible. This type of irrigation is better for the environment for a variety of reasons, and it is cheaper to operate once it is up and running, although establishing a good trickle irrigation system can be quite costly. Companies which offer irrigation design will often design and install trickle systems by request, and people can also design and install their own system if they feel confident with their irrigation skills.
With trickle irrigation, water is released slowly into a small area with targeted irrigation heads. Instead of spraying water across a wide area, the trickle irrigation system delivers it directly to the plants or root systems. This requires extensive tubing to ensure that all of the plants in a garden are reached by the irrigation, but it results in less wastage of water. The system can be programmed to run on a timer, manually operated, or programmed to respond to current conditions.
Some of the many advantages of trickle irrigation include less water waste due to runoff or water being applied in the wrong areas, along with reduced growth of weeds, since the plants in the garden get most of the water and weeds can't grow. Trickle irrigation also reduces loss of nutrients in the soil, lowers leaching into the water table and local waterways, and reduces water loss due to evaporation. Soil damage caused by spray and other types of irrigation is also reduced. Furthermore, foliar and root disease is reduced because water is not allowed to sit on the weeds or accumulate around the roots.
The primary disadvantage is that installing a trickle irrigation system is expensive. In addition, the irrigation heads can become clogged, impairing the delivery of water to the plants. The tubing can also be damaged by the sun, slips with garden tools, and animals, causing the system to malfunction. Keeping the system running requires constant inspection of the tubes and irrigation heads, to ensure that there are no problems.
Also known as drip irrigation, trickle irrigation is often strongly recommended in areas with limited water resources, or in regions where there can be water shortages during certain times of the year. In some regions, gardeners may be able to receive rebates, reduced water rates, or other benefits in exchange for installation and operation of a drip irrigation system, with government authorities rewarding people who practice water conservation to encourage more people to conserve water.