What’s the most wasteful irrigation method, and how does it compare to what’s out there as an alternative? Here’s what studies are saying about more effective irrigation methods for the future.

What is the Most Wasteful Irrigation Method?

The most wasteful irrigation method is also one of the oldest. Traditional irrigation methods (flood and surface irrigation) are losing favor compared to high-tech methods. Artificial intelligence often aids pressure or overflow irrigation techniques for better yields and less water waste.

Flood and surface irrigation bring water to essential parts of the crop. However, they have the unfortunate drawback of lacking control over where the water goes (or how much goes there).

Wasteful irrigation methods can:

  • Cost money
  • Add unnecessary pressure
  • Give companies a higher carbon footprint measurement

However, wasteful irrigation methods are still prevalent. Unless companies switch to better alternatives with government and community support, problems could continue.

Long-term Irrigation Studies Have The Answer

Scielo studied irrigation science for over forty years, gaining answers that the global industry desperately needs. One aspect explored through this long-term study included the most wasteful methods compared to newer inventions.

  • Older methods can be more wasteful and less sustainable
  • Newer methods apply new knowledge and create a better sustainable future for watering

What Makes Irrigation Systems Efficient (or not)

Several important factors make particular irrigation methods efficient (or not). Here are two:

  1. Where the water is sourced from
  2. How (and where) the water is distributed to

Every irrigation method treats these two factors differently. Newer methods are designed to find more sustainable (sometimes recyclable) water sources, capturing, reusing, and distributing it better with less waste.

Flood & Surface Irrigation Explained

Flood and surface irrigation are among the oldest watering methods known to the agricultural industry. Unfortunately, flood and surface irrigation wastes a lot of water compared to other methods.

Flood irrigation floods a whole field and distributes flowing water evenly. Furrow irrigation floods trenches and rows between crops. Considerable water is lost using these methods of irrigating crops due to evaporation and wind.

Old Sprinkler Systems: A Close Second For Wasteful Irrigation

Traditional sprinkler systems and overhead/drip irrigation methods are a close second as the contender for wasteful watering methods. While they’re popular, they’re not sustainable. Outdated sprinkler systems make almost no practical use of water recycling.

Older sprinkler and overhead systems aren’t calibrated as finely as they could be. They also have maintenance drawbacks. Sprinkler systems that haven’t been maintained can waste hundreds of gallons of water.

Sprinklers don’t generally penetrate deep into the ground to the plant root, requiring longer watering and water waste.

Modern sprinkler systems perform better than systems of several decades ago, especially with the advent of AI. Newer, highly efficient sprinkler heads allow you to use less water but do nothing to reuse irrigation water.

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