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Utah State University Extension

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The goal of most irrigation system design and management is to provide all plants in an irrigated area with equal access to water. Ideally, each plant should receive the exact amount of water it needs. If a field needs 1 inch of water for irrigation, all parts of the field should receive exactly that. The reality is not so perfect. It is practically impossible to apply the same quantity of water to all plants in an irrigated area, plot, or field. In other words, all irrigation systems have some nonuniformities in the water delivered. Instead of designing and managing irrigation systems to apply water 100% uniformly, the goal of irrigation system designers, manufacturers, and operators should be to maximize irrigation uniformity within practical and economic constraints. In this fact sheet, we explain the major causes of uneven water distribution in sprinkler and drip irrigation systems and suggest ways to improve or maintain uniformity.

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