Five Facts about Your Current Sprinklers

Published online: May 18, 2017 Irrigation Andrew Olson, Senior Water Application Specialist, Valley Irrigation
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After over seven years working as part of the Valley Water Application Group, I’ve seen so many sprinkler package variations that it would make your head spin.

Valley has around 500 dealers globally. With this broad distribution network and customer base, it’s obvious that many factors, beyond just crop, soil and climate, influence the ever-so-complex irrigation sprinkler market. With all these options and so many factors, it’s not uncommon to see sprinkler packages that should be reconsidered and possibly upgraded. With that, here are five true facts about most growers’ current irrigation sprinklers.

1. Your sprinkler spacing is too wide.

While there’s no doubt that closer sprinkler spacing can reach a point of diminishing returns, most of the time this is not the case. Generally speaking, the uniformity of a sprinkler package will increase as the irrigation sprinklers get spaced closer together while staying within the manufacturer’s guidelines for the sprinkler being used.

2. Energy is being wasted.

Energy costs, like everything else, tend to increase with time. If you’re either operating above the design pressure of your sprinkler package or using high-pressure sprinklers, it’s time to consider making some changes. Modern, low-pressure sprinklers offer high performance from lower pressures. In most cases, excessive pressure simply wastes energy and money.

3. Your sprinkler package is worn out.

Oftentimes, wear and tear on a sprinkler package can be subtle to the human eye, but it’s nonetheless still present and important to keep tabs on. When tolerances of nozzles and regulators start to open up, the water distribution uniformity of the machine suffers. The plates and moving components no longer perform as they had. As far as the life expectancy of a sprinkler package goes, we generally advise 10 years or 10,000 hours.

4. You see runoff and ponding.

If you have to speed up the machine to avoid runoff and ponding, you’re probably not applying the depth of water you’d like based on your irrigation scheduling needs. Choosing an adequate—but not excessive—flow rate is the first step, and the next step is selecting a sprinkler package that is right for your soil, crop and climate.

5. You don’t use pressure regulators.

Pressure regulators ensure a constant, ideal pressure is supplied to the sprinkler nozzle, and thus the plate, as long as you provide +5 PSI of the pressure rating. This leads to predictable and consistent performance, especially with varying water supply pressures and field terrain. Water application efficiency can be improved because the sprinkler operates at the ideal pressure.

A colleague of mine stated all of this in a simple way: “You’re making a very large investment in a machine to mount the sprinklers on; don’t forget about the sprinkler package.”