Automatic and Manual Irrigation Introduction

 Almost every homeowner in North America spends some amount of time and money providing water to outdoor plants. There are two basic ways to accomplish this task:

1. Manual irrigation with hoses, nozzles, and sprinklers
2. Clock driven in-ground automatic irrigation

There are hybrids of these two such as an in-ground sprinkler system that is manual operated or an above ground hose system that is clock driven, but these systems are uncommon.

Many new homes come equipped with some form of clock driven automatic irrigation because this is a popular amenity that buyers have come to expect. Manual irrigation is more time and labor intensive and requires regular attention and vigilance. Landscape_sprinkler_bklitAn automatic irrigation system can be simply programmed turned on and left to run. Such a “hands off” approach is not recommended as it almost always results in over-watering and water waste, but there is no denying the convenience of an automatic irrigation system.

Convenience aside, there are a number of issues that should be considered when choosing an irrigation method:

• Budget – can I afford the system, maintenance costs, and the increased cost of water associated with an automatic system?
• Landscape – does my landscape justify an automatic system? Can I effectively irrigate my landscape manually?
• Physical condition – am I physically capable of manually irrigating my landscape?


An automatic irrigation system costs more to purchase, operate, and maintain than just about any manual system that can be dreamed up. Hiring an irrigation contractor to design and install an automatic system will cost a minimum of $1,000 for a very small system and will likely cost between $2,500 and $8,000 for a moderate to larger sized system. Maintenance of the system will cost several hundred dollars per year or more. The cost of the additional water consumed will vary from place to place, but as a rule of thumb outdoor water use is likely to double after installing an automatic system.  Automatic systems when installed and operated optimally can be efficient, but this requires proper programming of the controller and regular maintenance of the system (Vickers 2001).Landscape_spraying


Not all landscapes will benefit from an automatic system. With a small yard, an automatic system may simply be overkill. For a low water use landscape (or a landscape that isn’t watered much) there is probably little point in paying for an automatic sprinkler system. On the other hand, for a moderate or large sized landscape that would take significant time and effort to irrigate with a hose and sprinklers, an automatic system may be an excellent addition.

Physical Condition

For those unable to physically drag hoses and sprinklers and those just plain tired of manually irrigating then an automatic system could be just the ticket. Some people chose to have and automatic system installed as a way of maintaining a high quality landscape with reduced effort.