Millions of miles of dripline have been installed in recent years on
sites as diverse as glitzy Las Vegas hotels, Little League ballparks
and upscale residential communities.
While each project has its own compelling reasons for choosing dripline, end-users are curious about the efficiencies of dripline when compared to overhead sprinklers. This article will review dripline ROI (return on investment) and help you answer these questions:
Which system is more cost efficient to install in a subsurface application: dripline or traditional overhead sprinklers? And when will I see a return on my investment?
Which Subsurface System is More Cost Efficient to Install?
The quick answer is that it depends on the size of the area to be irrigated. When a site is 12-feet wide or smaller, it is more cost efficient to install dripline because less materials and labor are required. In fact, with long narrow runs, such as medians and side strips, dripline will always be less costly to install than overhead sprays or rotors.
However, once an area reaches 12- to 15-feet in width, the installation costs for dripline are nearly equivalent to the costs for an overhead system.
But here's the difference: Dripline customers (even on a small site) will see immediate returns on their investment (ROI). Reduced water bills, less system maintenance, elimination of hazardous overspray, and a more efficient use of resources all add up to immediate payback.
ROI: Future Payback, An Added Benefit on Large Sites
On large, multi-acre projects with specific site challenges, such as irrigating with reclaimed water or limitations of pumping equipment, dripline will be the best solution. Though a dripline installation will cost more than a traditional overhead system, there will be important added benefits in "future payback." And this translates to very significant dollars saved over time.
ROI: Lower Water Bills
From the first month, dripline end-users see ROI savings on their water bills. This is especially relevant on large turf fields or parks where thousands, if not millions, of gallons of water are put down every year by overhead sprinklers, with 35 to 65 percent wasted. In areas of the country with high water rates, the dripline payback adds up quickly, often saving up to 65 percent of water costs over traditional overheads.
ROI: Better Use of Available Resources
Dripline give facilities the opportunity to make better use of their resources. If a district relies on reclaimed water, for example, dripline is a practical solution because no matter how clean the reclaimed water may be, communities do not want it sprayed into the air around parks, playgrounds or sports fields.
Dripline also solves "water window" issues for recreational facilities that may have limited equipment, such as a single P.O.C. or pump that can only irrigate one field at a time. Dripline allows the end-user to irrigate 24/7 without affecting field use.
ROI: Event Scheduling
Even with multiple pumps, busy sports parks typically have to plan activities around overhead irrigation and maintenance schedules. When dripline is in the ground, however, events can be held anytime. In fact, dripline often runs while play is on the field, yet no one is aware of it. Colleges and public facilities can schedule more activities around-the-clock to fully maximize field use.
ROI: System Maintenance
Sprinkler repair and replacement (wear and tear, vandalism, mower and vehicle accidents) are major budget items for every sports facility and commercial center, in addition to the labor spent adjusting and replacing heads.
However, dripline's consistently lower maintenance costs add up to more "future payback." Because there are no exposed or moving parts, dripline maintenance is minimal. The only recommended service is a yearly filter cleaning and a spring system flushing.
Additionally, a sports field with a properly-installed dripline system may not require aeration, even with constant use. The soil does not become hard and compacted as it does with overheads.
ROI: Reduced Hazards, Liabilities
Overspray can be a costly liability. Rotors and sprays throw water onto sidewalks and buildings, cars and residences, and can negatively impact the landscape with run-off and erosion problems. In time, overspray can also damage siding, stucco, roadways and wood fencing. Some communities in northern climates prohibit overspray on sidewalks in case there is an unexpected freeze.
Overspray is a major concern in Las Vegas where showplace hotels and casinos on The Strip rely on dripline to maintain their lush landscapes. Because Las Vegas is a 24-hour-a-day town, there is no "water window" for sprays or rotors to operate. Guests and walkways would be soaked whether it's 2 a.m. or 2 p.m.
The solution has been to install dripline throughout the properties so that irrigation can operate anytime, day or night, without affecting visitors.
Aesthetic ROI: Benefits to Plant Health
Water is never wasted with dripline; it works within the landscape, percolating down to the root zones. Studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of water applied through dripline is absorbed by plants. However,
35 to 65 percent of water applied with overheads is lost to overspray, evaporation and wind.
Shrubs, flower beds, trees and turf thrive with dripline. In fact, most new installations see accelerated growth with plants "filling in" and creating a more pleasing landscape in less time. And there will be fewer weeds.
Dripline vs Overheads: A Cost Comparison
An Arizona landscape maintenance firm recently completed a 12-month study that compared the maintenance costs of an overhead system with Netafim TechlineŽ subsurface dripline. The study included three apartment buildings with approximately the same amount and type of landscape. All properties were maintained in the same manner by the same company.
Over the course of 12 months, Complex A, with an overhead system, required $1,400.00 in maintenance costs for heads, risers and other components. Complex B, also with an overhead system, required $1,998.00 in maintenance expenses, while Complex C, with Netafim TechlineŽ, only required $60.00 in annual maintenance. This dramatic difference in costs (especially when extrapolated over a five-year period) demonstrates how the initial investment in Netafim dripline was easily re-couped.