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Common Causes of Irrigation Pressure Problems

An irrigation system cannot function correctly if water pressure fluctuates too high or drops too low. There are several things that can cause fluctuating or low irrigation pressure in a sprinkler system. Some of them are easy to identify and can be resolved above ground, but some problems below ground can be more serious and will likely require costly repairs. Here are a few common sprinkler system problems that are easy to spot, and could indicate fluctuating or low water pressure:

  • Pop-Up Sprinkler Head isn’t popping up: Water pressure is what releases a pop-up sprinkler head. A decrease in irrigation pressure can be caused by a broken irrigation pipe or a worn sprinkler wiper seal.  To resolve, activate the malfunctioning station and pull up the stuck head’s riser stem to check if it pulls up easily. If it pulls up easily, it could be an irrigation pressure problem that’s preventing it from popping up, and the sprinkler system’s hydraulics would need to be assessed. If the head does not pull up freely, the riser seal and stem may need to be replaced.
  • Sprinklers are misting:  Fluctuating irrigation pressure will cause sprinklers to mist so that water is drifting and blowing away, and not being delivered to the lawn and landscape at an optimal rate to keep plants healthy. Misting can also be caused by clogged nozzles or blocked heads. To resolve, check to see that nozzles are free of debris that would obstruct the sprinkler’s spray pattern. If nozzles are clear of debris and misting persists, it is likely an irrigation pressure problem below ground that needs to be repaired.
  • Uneven pressure in Drip Irrigation System: Check to make sure the system’s maximum flow capacity or run length limits haven’t been exceeded. Check filters and clean if necessary. Clean or replace dripper if necessary. Holding finger over drip outlet a few seconds while water is on will reset inconsistent emitters.
  • Water Line Leak or Break: A leaking or broken water line below ground would also cause an irrigation system to malfunction. This will occur if a water line is accidentally damaged when digging to install fence posts or garden stakes. Unusually wet areas in the lawn or random depressions in soil would indicate a broken or leaking water line below ground.

Low water pressure causes loss of irrigation efficiency, leaving brown areas of the landscape that are not receiving adequate watering. Fluctuating water pressure can damage the irrigation system when pressure gets too high. High water pressure also causes loss of irrigation efficiency since water will leave the nozzle in a fine mist and blow away without irrigating the landscape.

Water pressure management is critical to ensure an irrigation system is functioning correctly so that lawns and landscapes can be efficiently hydrated to maintain plant health. When configured with a Pressure Sensor, Baseline’s Pressure biCoder will start, stop or pause programming of an irrigation system based on PSI readings from the device, and will shut off pumps or master valves based on high pressure or low pressure alerts.

There are many things that can go wrong with a sprinkler system, but the most common problem is fluctuating or low water pressure. In order to maintain and nurture a lush and healthy landscape, irrigation pressure in a sprinkler system must be correctly managed. Now, with today’s cutting-edge technology, pressure sensors do the work for you.