Irrigation refers to the process in which we artificially bring water to soil for a variety of purposes, but mainly agricultural. We irrigate land that doesn’t get enough water from direct rainfall or other natural phenomena, meaning we must transfer water to and across it from another source. The process itself was developed independently across different societies around the world, and as a result it exists in several forms for various purposes. That being said, irrigation is very much an exercise in problem solving, and determining the most effective means of transporting water from one place to another.
Water’s necessity for human life is absolute, and a proper system of irrigation can mean the difference between being able to live somewhere or not. Irrigation requires you to have a source of water to begin with, so you will need to have access to a sufficient body of it such as a river, lake or underground aquifers. If there is no water in sight you may be able to dig a well in order to reach one of these aquifers and bring water to the surface. Once you have a source of abundant water, you need to transport it to where you want to apply it. It doesn’t matter if you run pipes, tunnels or canals above or below ground; the sky’s the limit as long as you get it to where you need it to be. Once it’s there, it might make sense to allow your water to accumulate in a reservoir for easier access on location, but either way you will need a system to distribute and apply the water to the surface. It doesn’t matter whether it’s literally dumping or spraying water all over the ground or running a complex network of canals or drip-feeding pipes and hoses. So long as you are able to transmit that water or its moisture to the soil you are trying to affect, you are irrigating it. You might have to consider drainage but in terms of theory; mission accomplished.
Irrigation is obviously more complicated than that, but understanding the general concept that the term represents is important to establish. It is completely open ended problem solving where you have to work with what you’ve got. Whether it’s a wild river, or water trapped deep underground, to be applied to a plot of land the size of a table or across a field the size of a city, how you physically achieve this will depend on ingenuity and creativity on a case-by-case scenario.
While the term and process of irrigation is generally associated with agriculture, systems of irrigation are also used in sewage disposal and mining among other things. Irrigation for agriculture can be used to literally water plants and deliver nutrients, treat soil and change landscapes, however irrigation can present an array of challenges and negative phenomenon that can be compounded by the process.
Although simply moving water from one place to another is often harmless, it may also have grave environmental consequences which can do more harm than good. Usually, landscapes are naturally the way they are for a reason, and altering or disturbing this can cause chain reactions elsewhere if things are put out of balance. Care must always be taken not to remove so much water from the original source that you diminish its supply completely. Not only does this leave you with nothing else to irrigate with, it may also have robbed the source’s ecosystem of its natural water source.
Depending on where you are finding water to use, it could be contaminated or over-saturated with anything that may have adverse effects on your designs. From algae to parasites, viruses and bacteria or chemical toxins; the water you find may not be suitable for the purpose you intend and may present unforeseen challenges of its own. These constant challenges represent why the use and adaptation of technology has been prevalent in irrigation systems since we started developing them. You may need to purify the water, or kill algae which can clog up pipes or distribution points. Many techniques such as drip irrigation and even some spray methods, can actually encourage a concentration of salinity in the soil when there isn’t enough water present to wash it out. Irrigation often requires the implementation of additional processes and technology in order to build upon efficiency to levels of viability. Technology allows us to to irrigate more land, faster and further from original water sources, but again be forewarned; the excessive displacement of water from its natural place to an area where it was not before, can have dire implications for the balances of both ecosystems. If a sustainable balance cannot be maintained, you should not be irrigating for long.
That being said, irrigation can be a blast if you enjoy logistics, solving problems and balancing systems (if not feeding the residual effects of one to the other). In many societies it has been the benchmark for being able to civilize a place and feed a population, and its importance cannot be understated.
As irrigation can be conducted on a scale which ranges from hobby to industrial, commercial irrigation systems, tools and devices are available that can make the process much easier and more efficient. We have several different kits for various purposes and applications available in our store, and we can also teach you about a few different kinds of effective irrigation processes here:
- Surface Irrigation
- In-Ground Irrigation
- Localized Irrigation (like drip irrigation)
- Sprinkler Irrigation
- Irrigation from Condensation
- Non-Electric Water Transfer