What is an Irrigation Sprinkler?

J. Luper

Many farmers and home gardeners use an irrigation sprinkler to transfer water to their crops and lawns. Irrigation simply means to artificially give water to land. Extra water is needed in many areas that do not have adequate rainfall to support plant or crop growth, as well as in some areas that need additional water to grow special crops like cranberries or rice. A sprinkler system is one of several ways, including subsurface or underground irrigation, drip irrigation, or surface irrigation, to successfully irrigate land or lawns. Not only does this add needed water to crops and lawns, but it also cools the air and soil to help spur growth.

Irrigation sprinklers may be used as part of an underground watering system.
Irrigation sprinklers may be used as part of an underground watering system.

An irrigation sprinkler drops water onto the land, mimicking the effects of rain. Most sprinkler irrigation systems use a pipe or hose with water traveling under pressure, which then escapes through sprinkler heads and is thrown or dropped onto the ground. This is a basic means of delivering water, but the forms an irrigation sprinkler can take are highly varied.

Anyone considering an irrigation sprinkler should consider how big an area needs to be irrigated, as well as what shape that land is. Obstructions, such as trees or rocks, may require extra work to water around. How deep the soil needs to be watered should also be considered, along with how much time and effort is available to use the system.

Once decided, there are several types of irrigation sprinklers to choose from for every type of land and the amount of time and effort one has available. A center pivot is a type of irrigation system that has one long pipe with sprinkler heads attached to it and spaced apart at preset measurements. This pipe rotates around in a circle from a center pivot. It is beneficial for large areas of land, and is time and labor efficient.

Another type of irrigation sprinkler uses driving towers that connect pipes and move in a linear fashion along the land. It is a more expensive means of irrigation and is used more often with more valuable crops. The side roll irrigation system uses the pipe or hose that carries the water as an axle and uses wheels which roll along the field as sprinkler heads. This is also a time and labor saving device.

A simple irrigation sprinkler for a homeowner's lawn can use aspects of the previously mentioned devices. The main line of water delivery can be a hose or pipe and be centered in the middle of the lawn for better water transfer. It can be set up similar to the center pivot system, but instead of a long pipe being rotated in a circle from a central pivot, the pressurized water is thrown up and out from a single sprinkler head in the center of the lawn.

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