Furrowed irrigated.JPG
Book data
Authors Pierre-Emile Van Laere
Title Irrigation manual
Cite as Pierre-Emile Van Laere. Irrigation manual.
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Part of ISF-IAI documents
Keywords Water distribution, agriculture, food, Tool construction manuals, Agricultural tool construction manuals
SDGs Sustainable Development Goals SDG06 Clean water and sanitation
Published by Pedro Kracht
KVDP
Chris Watkins
Published 2010
License CC BY-SA 4.0
Affiliations Ingénieurs Assistance Internationale
Ingénieurs sans Frontières
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Irrigation is the supply of water for agriculture. Irrigation can cause the soil to (re)consolidate. When this occurs, tillage is again needed.

Setting up an irrigation system needs to be done by holding on to certain guidelines. A series of elements need to be taken into account, from the project design process to long-term management of facilities. This page aims to describe the different steps to take, mentioning but the basics, and is not intended to extensively answer all questions that might arise. If more precise information is necessary, you should consult references.

When setting up an irrigation system, the logical steps to follow are:

  • Evaluating the water requirements of the crops to be cultivated;
  • Determination of dosage and frequency of watering;
  • Selection, dimensioning and budget of the irrigation system.

A computerprogram to help with irrigation management has been developed by FAO. This software allows the calculation of waterrequirements and quantities of irrigation water necessary crops. It also offers the possibility of developing an irrigation schedule according to various farming practices, assess the effects of too little watering of the crops and the effectiveness of different practices irrigation. The CROPWAT software is freely available on the FAO website at following URL-adress: http://www.fao.org/ag/agl/aglw/cropwat.htm. Two versions exist. The first, which is very compact, runs under a DOS-environment and only takes the size of a single 3,5 inch floppy disk. The second, which is more user-friendly, works under the Windows operating system. This latter version asks nonetheless more memory. The two versions are respectively called CROPWAT 7.0 and CROPWAT for Windows. Both versions use the same methods of calculation and are simple to use. Their main advantage to the user is to avoid the manipulation of formulas, which are often difficult to use.

Evaluation of waterrequirements of crops to be cultivated[edit | edit source]

Firstly, determining the waterrequirements of a crop requires knowledge of various parameters on both the plant itself and the climate or soil of the region.

  • Climate data provide the necessary information concerning water needs of the crop;
  • Pedological parameters will estimate the usable water reserve available in the soil;
  • The cultivation of data will specify the water reserve in the soil, usable by the crop.

With the help of the obtained results, it will be relatively easy to determine the quantities of irrigation water required for the proper development of the crop. These will be calculated using the CROPWAT-computersoftware.

Calculation of evapotranspiration[edit | edit source]

The water deficit, which we may refer to as waterrequirements (W), is defined as the difference between actual evapotranspiration (AET) of the crop and the effective precipitation (EP).

The actual evapotranspiration is calculated by multiplying standard evapotranspiration by a cultural coefficient.

[math]\displaystyle{ AET = ETo * Cc }[/math]

ETo represents standard evapotranspiration, defined by Penman (1956) as the amount of water transpirated per unit of time by a short and green vegetation, which completely covers the soil, is of a uniform height and never has too little water. It is calculated by the Penman-Monteith formula and from regional climate data.

Cc is the cultural coefficient, function of the type of crop and its vegetative state.

Climate data (in monthly averages) to determine the evapotranspiration are listed below:

  • Ta: average temperatures, expressed in degrees C.
  • Ha: air humidity average, expressed in %.
  • Vm: average wind speeds, expressed in m/s.
  • Pa: air pressure, expressed in kPa.
  • P: Precipitation expressed in mm.
  • N: number of days of precipitation per month
  • Expos. Duration of solar exposure, in hours.
  • Eto: evapotranspiration calculated by reference method Penmann-Montheih expressed in mm/day.

The effective rain, Reff, represents the fraction of precipitation that is effectively used by the crop after deducting the losses by surface runoff and deep percolation. The choise of the most appropriate method for calculating the effective precipitation demands serious consideration. Several different methods have also been developed, each taking into account the climate of the region where the measurements must be made. CROPWAT proposes 4 methods:

  • The first option proposes a fixed percentage: Peff = A * Pave in which A is a fraction given by the user. Generally, it lies between 0.7 and 0.9.
  • The second formula was developed from data from arid and semi-arid areas:

[math]\displaystyle{ Peff = 0.6 * Pave - 10 per Pave \lt 70 mm / month }[/math] [math]\displaystyle{ Peff = 0.8 * Pave - 25 per Pave\gt 70 mm / month }[/math]

  • The third is an empirical formula developed locally. The coefficients used are determined by analyzing local climate data

[math]\displaystyle{ Peff = A * Pave + B for Pave \lt x mm / month }[/math] [math]\displaystyle{ Peff = C * Pave + D for Pave \gt x mm / month }[/math]

The fourth option was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): [math]\displaystyle{ Peff = Pave = * (1 - 0.2 * Pave / 125) }[/math] for Pave <250 mm / month [math]\displaystyle{ Peff = 125 + 0.1 * Pave }[/math] for Pave> 250 mm / month

The waterrequirements (B) will be calculated for each crop using the CROPWAT-software by introducing the climate data and crop specifics. The waterrequirements are expressed in m³/ha.

Crop data[edit | edit source]

The CROPWAT-software contains a file containing the specific characteristics of many crops. These data are:

  • The crop coefficient, Cc, is used to calculate the actual evapotranspiration of the crop. This depends on the crop itself and its vegetative state;
  • The allowed dehydration represents the critical level of soil humidity on which stress due to water shortage is being felt by the crop, affecting the evapotranspiration and crop production. The values are expressed as a fraction of the total moisture available in the soil;
  • The coefficient of efficiency response, Ke, to estimate performance reductions due to stress caused by water unbalance.

Estimation of available usable waterreserves[edit | edit source]

[math]\displaystyle{ UW = (θFC - θWP) }[/math] [math]\displaystyle{ EU * UK = Zr = (θFC - θWP) * Zr }[/math] [math]\displaystyle{ RFU =UK * f }[/math]

  • UW is the height of the usable water available in the soil (mm / m). UW is the difference between water content to field capacity (θFC) and water content in point wilting (θWPW).
  • Zr (m), the maximum rooting depth, determined for mature crops and grown in deep soil.
  • RU (mm) is water available to crops in the volume of soil reachable by their roots.
  • The readily available reserve (RRA) is the amount of water a plant can extract from the soil without its production being noticably affected. It is defined by the introduction of an empirical coefficient, f. This coefficient represents the potential risk of subjecting a crop water stress and is a charisteristic of the crop. It is generally accepted to provide a value of 2 or 3.

Estimated irrigation dosage and frequency by plot[edit | edit source]

When the waterrequirements of crops throughout their growth phase are known, the irrigation dosage per plot needs to be determined. To do this, it is necessary to know their pedological data. These will determine the storage capacity of water in the soil and hence determine the amount of irrigation that needs to be applied at a frequency defined by the farmer in order to cover the waterrequirements of the crops.

The parameters needed are:

  • Soil type;
  • The usable water content (UW);
  • The rooting depth (Zr);
  • The maximum speed of water infiltration into the soil (KSAT);
  • The initial dry soil (initial q).

Qty Total (m³) = B (m³/ha) * Surface of irrigated plot (ha) The supplementary irrigation is distinguished from continious irrigation by the fact that it consists of supplying a small amount of water to crops to cope with insufficient precipitation in order to stabilize yields. It could not alone allow crops to mature, but it complements precipitation and classical irrigation. The effect of supplemental irrigation is greatest when it is practiced at a critical stage of crop development (flowering, maturation, etc.)..

Irrigation methods[edit | edit source]

Land has been tilled and terraced to better capture water (Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service)

With agriculture responsible for the largest water usage in the United States and with irrigation dams being the most common type of water supply dam, it is important to examine the way this industry uses water and how conservation methods can be used to increase efficiencies and thus possibly decrease the need for dams. In addition to some of the alternative diversion techniques (described above) to supply water for irrigation, the U.S. EPA has compiled water-saving irrigation practices into three categories:[1]

  • Field Practices
  • Management Strategies
  • System Modifications
When these practices are combined with the alternative diversion strategies above, the need for a diversion dam for irrigation could be eliminated in some circumstances.

Irrigation Systems[edit | edit source]

Irrigation systems are divided into 2 categories: gravity-fed systems and pressurised systems:

Gravity systems[edit | edit source]

  • Irrigation pond (best known): Water is provided in the form of a tablecloth in a basin (which can be partitioned) built on a leveled ground (slope of 0.1 to 1%);
  • Irrigation skate: water is made by runoff in separate paths from a distance of 0.6 m to 1.25 m; soil is leveled (slope of 0.2 to 3%);
  • Irrigation siphon or bordered ramps : water is beamed down by siphons or railed ramps to allow a reduction of head erosion, better flowcontrol and consistency of waterdistribution.

Pressurised systems[edit | edit source]

  • Sprinkler irrigation: distributing the water as rain with regulation and uniformity of the dosage given; only possible on the condition that the area does not suffer under wind with speeds over 4 m/s; systems sprinkler irrigation are either fixed or mobile;
  • Localized irrigation: water circulates in flexbible, small diameter pipes, arranged on the surface and fitted with emitting devices providing water at the plant's foot; the most prevailent localised irrigation systems are drip-irrigation (targeted at domestic audience) and micro-jet (targeted at sylviculture-market).

Pressurized irrigation systems create, on average, a water savings of 30 to 60% compared to gravity-fed systems. Localized irrigation systems, in turn, can lead to water saving up to 50% compared to the sprinkler systems (limit maximum evaporation and percolation because water is delivered in a unhumidified, low dosage on a fraction of the soil). Localized irrigation systems also have following advantages:

  • Preventing the development of weeds and the possibility of fertilisation. They are however unsuitable if crops are deep-rooted and if the water is too rich (with sand, silt, organic matter, iron, ... which can clog the pipes) or too salty (no leaching).
  • Spray irrigation is recommended in case of low soil depth, light and permeable soil, where terrain is too uneven and when salt water is used.

Care and maintenance of irrigation systems[edit | edit source]

Proper maintenance of irrigation systems is essential if we want to maintain the potential for saving water and avoid waste. Among the main problems concerning the maintenance of the irrigation system, we remember:

  • Defective pressure regulators or flow limiters;
  • Leaks in the water pipes;
  • Defective canals and borders.

These elements lead to a reduction in the life expectancy of the equipment, deregulation of uniformity of the spatial distribution of water, overconsumption of water, problems of water supply (which may penalize operators located at the end of the supply system) and userconflicts. To avoid these problems, we must:

  • Maintain the irrigation system: replace joints; damaged concrete and/or sealing cracks; replacement and/or cleaning filters and gratings; clean and unblock or flush;
  • Maintain the elevations/borders;
  • Maintain storage openings (cleaning and flushing);
  • Monitoring of water quality;
  • Continuously observe the state of infrastructure and equipment;
  • Plan the operations;
  • Budget the cost of operations;

The cost of not budgeting and planning routine maintenance infrastructure and systems generally impedes the development of these techniques.

Management Structure[edit | edit source]

Finally, the establishment of a irrigation infrastructure is essential to the establishment of a management structure, a representative body of all operators who manage the day-to-day functioning of the perimeter irrigation.

The establishment of such a structure with well-defined tasks allows to regulate conflict of users, the struggle between individual interests and the collective charisteristics of certain infrastructures, the monitoring strategies, and the maintenance of equipment.

Avoiding the need of irrigation[edit | edit source]

A well designed agricultural field is made in such a fashion that no irrigation is needed at all, except for in dry periods. To make sure of this, use crops that match the water availability (soil water). In addition, use a correct planting density (space between crops). This as having too many plants at an agricultural field drains off too much water. Finally, the planting pattern may also be optimized. Spreading the plants as good as possible over the field (ie using a checkers-pattern rather than simple rows with spaces)[2] of the rows is thus advised).

Getting water pressure[edit | edit source]

In order to transport water, we have 2 options:

Appendixes[edit | edit source]

Appendix 1: Questionnaire for identifying irrigation projects projects for crops[edit | edit source]

In the case of the existence of several plots and/or different crops, please use a single questionnaire for each plot and each crop. The requested information is highly technical. The requested climatological data can be obtained from the appropriate authority in your area. If this is not the case, please contact the Faculty of Agronomy of the your nearest university. For the pedological data, it is highly advisable to conduct a soil test in order to obtain information that is as accurate as possible. These studies can be ordered from universities or specialized firms.


I. Precise location of the place (Country, department, district, commune, ...) .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... It is necessary to consult a topographical map of the region, on which the cultivated plot and water sources used (rivers, wells, water supply, groundwater tables, ...) are indicated.


II. Crop information

  • Name of the crop:

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

  • Size of the plot occupied by the crop (ha):

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

  • Date when the culture commenced (months of the year):

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................


III. Soil data: - Type of soil (sandy, clay, loam, sandy loam, ...): .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Indicate the soil's make up in percentage, if this data is available: % Clay: ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... % Loam: .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... % Sand: .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

  • Speed of water percolation into the soil:

KSAT (mm/j): .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

  • Initial soil moisture when planting:

θinitiale (cm³/cm³): .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

  • Presence of a water table: yes / no

If yes, what is its range: Maximum depth: ...........cm; minimum depth: ...........cm.

  • What is the curve pf of the soil?

Otherwise, can you give capacity of the field? The wilting point?

V. Hydrological and climatographical situation of the region. Average monthly data, followed for one year to is required to determine the Crop Evapotranspiration (CET):

  • Ta: average temperatures, expressed in degrees C.
  • HRa: air humidity average, expressed in %.
  • Wa: average wind speeds, expressed in m / s.
  • Pa: air pressure, expressed in kPa.
  • P: Precipitation expressed in mm.
  • N: number of days of precipitation per month
  • Insol. Duration of solar exposure, expressed in hours.
  • ETo: reference evapotranspiration calculated by the method Penmann-Montheih expressed in mm/day.

If obtaining the required data to complete the picture above is too complicated, it is possible to ask the local authorities or the FAO for the data on the potential evapotranspiration (ETP):


Information needed for dimensionning of irrigation systems VI. It is essential to have accurate information about water supplies available for irrigation, including the waterflow of wells, the water movement of the closest rivers (see Section I). .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................


VII. Choice of irrigation system (gravity-fed, sprinkler, drip irrigation, Other) Defined by the farmer: .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Still to be determined


VIII. Optional remarks: .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Credits[edit | edit source]

Handbook of irrigation systems[5]

Collection "Technical Manuals" Manual directed by ISF with the support of the Directorate General for International Cooperation (DCIG)

Pierre-Emile Van Laere

Ingénieurs Assis tance Internationale - Ingénieurs sans Frontières 2003 http://www.isf-iai.be mail@isf-iai.be Avenue du Marly, 48, 1120 Brussels - Belgium

We thank thank all the people without whom this document could have not seen the light of day; in particular Jerome Bindels and Emmanuel Grosjean

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Environmental Protection Agency, Cleaner Water Through Conservation, April 1995, http://www.epa.gov/water/you/chap3.html (2 July 2003).
  2. Focus on how the rows are aligned together, rather than focusing on the spaces between the plants on the same row
  3. Pressure vessel schematics
  4. Pushard, Doug. "Alternatives to pressure vessels in domestic water systems". Harvesth2o.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  5. Source document

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Allen R. G., Luis S. Pereira LS, Raes D., M. Smith (1998). Crop evapotranspiration
  • Guidelines for computing crop water requirements. Rome, Italy, FAO. Available on the Internet, accessed 5 May 2002: http://www.fao.org/docrep/X0490E/x0490e00.htm
  • CIRAD (2002), Mémento de l'agronome. Montpellier, France : CIRAD
  • Grosjean E. (2002). Manuel de bonnes pratiques agricoles pour la région de Meknès-Tafilalet (Maroc).
  • National School of Agriculture of Meknes - FUSAGx.
  • Wallonie-Bruxelles/Maroc cooperation. Draft.
  • Guidelines for designing and evaluating surface irrigation systems. Rome, Italy, FAO. Available on the Internet, accessed 5 May 2002: http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0231E/t0231e00.htm

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]