How Does Drip Irrigation Compare with Sprinkler Irrigation?

How to Ensure All Your Plants Are Getting Enough Water

As you consider how your landscape will look, remember that the irrigation system you use matters a lot. This is a decision you cannot make alone unless you are an expert in irrigation and landscaping. Better leave this work to landscaping experts.

The type of irrigation system you use will depend on the topography of your landscape. It will also depend on the types of plants you want to grow. There are two main types of irrigation systems you can choose: sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation.

Here, we look at the differences between the two systems and how you can choose the best one for you. Of course, the irrigation system you get will depend on your budget and landscaping needs.

Definition of Sprinkler System and Drip Irrigation

As stated above, sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation are two broad categories. This means we can further break down these systems into subcategories. However, we will only discuss the basic irrigation systems used in landscaping for commercial and residential properties.

Sprinkler Irrigation

A sprinkler system spreads water in controlled, widespread ranges. The pipes used to transmit water are normally underground. These pipes will have sprinkler heads connected to them. The sprinkler heads are above the ground. When you activate the sprinkler system, it will spray a large amount of water and cover a wide area.

Experts need to lay these sprinklers to ensure your landscape gets the right amount of water. No area should remain unwatered, and you shouldn’t over-water an area.

Drip Irrigation

Just as the name implies, drip irrigation dispenses water in a more controlled way. This system makes use of a series of plastic pipes. These pipes usually sit on or slightly above the ground.

On these pipes are small holes bored at intervals depending on the design of the landscape. Water drips through these holes to water the plants. This reduces the loss of water.

Drip irrigation can work well if you have plants in a row. You’ll just have to make the holes, so they can directly water the plants.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sprinkler Irrigation and Drip Irrigation

Now you understand what sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation are. Can you choose the one that’s best for you? Are you still confused? Here are their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Pros and Cons of Sprinkler Irrigation


  • It works with nearly all types of soils.
  • You can program the system to use a timer.
  • The pipes are underground, so they are safe.
  • It covers a large area easily.
  • Some systems can allow the addition of fertilizers and pesticides to the sprayed water.
  • It’s easily plugged.


  • Because of evaporation and runoff, you can lose large amounts of water.
  • The sprinkler heads damage easily.
  • Runoff can cause soil erosion. The runoff occurs when the rate of water application surpasses the soil infiltration capacity.

Pros and Cons of Drip Irrigation


  • It minimizes water loss.
  • Because it can water individual plants, it is more cost-effective.
  • It does not cause soil erosion.
  • It’s easier to install and manage.
  • It reduces attacks by weeds.
  • There’s no over-watering.


  • It only provides small amounts of water and may take longer to irrigate plants.
  • It’s not attractive because the pipes are visible.
  • It is easy to damage the exposed pipes.
  • It may clog and, therefore, may need regular checks.

Factors to Consider When choosing an irrigation Method

Are you still unsure about which type of irrigation system is the most suitable for your landscape needs? Knowing what types or irrigation systems exist, and their advantages and disadvantages may not be enough for you to decide.

That’s why it is good to know which factors you can consider when choosing the right system. Here are the four factors to consider when choosing between drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation.

1. Land Topography

Sloping or hilly areas present a great challenge when it comes to irrigation. In this case, you can use drip irrigation if you can run laterals along topographical lines. You must be careful with your run times to prevent erosion.

2. Soil Type

Soil type affects both the irrigation system used and the time it takes to water the landscape. Sandy soils drain easily, so they need regular application of water to keep the area moist.

On the other hand, clay soils have high water retention capacity and may not require frequent water applications. Sprinkler irrigation works well with sandy soils, while drip irrigation works well with clay soils.

3. Type of crops

Drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation systems are costly to install. That’s why it better to use them on orchards, small fruits, vegetables, and other high-value crops. There’s no need to use the systems on low-value crops, such as soybeans, wheat, etc.

4. Weather Patterns

Are you living in an arid area or an area where a strong wind usually blows? If yes, sprinkler irrigation may not be the best option for you. This is because high temperatures and low humidity in these areas will lead to a higher water loss rate. This loss occurs through evaporation. So, if you are living in such an area, go for drip irrigation.

Can You Combine Sprinkler Irrigation and Drip Irrigation?

Whether you combine these two irrigation systems is a matter of personal choice and financial muscle. The topography of your landscape can also dictate it. In some landscapes, no single type of irrigation can satisfy all the plants’ water needs. For example, you can use drip irrigation for your trees and sprinkler irrigation on your lawn.

Final Words

Coming up with an effective irrigation system isn’t a walk in the park. That’s why you need to hire experts to guide you and help you through the process. An expert in landscaping and irrigation will analyze your soil type and water quality. Then, he or she will advise you on which crops you can plant and which irrigation system you can use. The expert will also consider the topography of your landscape and weather patterns.