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Southern Nevada Water Authority

Drip Watering Tips

Drip Watering Tips

Drip systems should run longer than
sprinkler systems because they deliver
water more slowly.

Because plants have different watering needs than grass, your irrigation clock should allow different settings for drip and sprinkler stations.

Drip irrigation is truly beneficial to plants in desert environments. Drip systems should run longer than sprinkler systems because they deliver water more slowly.

Determine the amount of time to water based on the rate of flow of your drip emitters, the types of plants you are watering and the condition of the soil.

Rate of Flow

To find out how fast your drip emitter produces water, measure how many seconds it takes to fill a tablespoon:

  • 14 seconds equals 1 gallon per hour (gph)
  • 7 seconds equals 2 gph
  • 4 seconds equals 4 gph

How Much to Water

Drip irrigation is usually needed less frequently than sprinkler irrigation. The following frequency is recommended by SNWA and should provide most plants with sufficient water:

  • 1 day per week or less during the winter
  • 2 days per week during spring and fall
  • 3 days per week during the summer

In general, the higher the gph flow of your emitter, the shorter your drip system run time.

Common Drip Emitters
Emitter Type Length of Watering
High-Flow Emitter
(Up to 20 gph)
12 Minutes Each Watering
Low-Flow Emitter
(Up to 4 gph)
30 Minutes Each Watering
Low-Flow Emitter
(Up to 2 gph)
60 Minutes Each Watering
Low-Flow Emitter
(Up to 1 gph)
90 Minutes Each Watering

If your plants appear stressed, check the soil moisture. If the soil is wet, your plants may be over watered. Water less often or for less time. If the soil is dry, check that all emitters are working. If they are, increase the watering time or add emitters only near the stressed plants.

Deep Watering

Water plants by applying water slowly and deeply over a long period of time. Deep watering allows roots to become more firmly established which means healthier plants. It also means less run-off as water is applied slow enough that the soil is able to absorb it. Because deep watering is more important than frequency, be sure to check the soil for moisture and proper drainage.

Designing and Planning Your Drip System

A new plant may require only one emitter initially. As the plant grows, so does the demand for water. When a drip system is installed, it should be designed so it has the flexibility to change the amount of emitters and the location of the emitters in the landscape. Each emitter should give you at least a 30-minute run time without runoff. Trees may also need more drip irrigation adjustments as they mature. See below for general drip emitter quantities.

Plant Type Canopy Diameter Minimum # of Emitters
Small Shrubs/Groundcovers 1-3 Feet 2
Large Shrubs 4-6 Feet 2-3
Small Trees 7-10 Feet 3-5
Medium Trees 11-14 Feet 4-6
Large Trees 15-20 Feet 6-12
Extra Large Trees 21+ Feet 12+


Check your drip line periodically for breaks and check emitters for clogs or heads that have broken off. Ensure that each emitter is releasing the proper amount of water.

Flush the drip irrigation lines and filters every time you change your irrigation schedule or at least twice a year. Find the "end cap" on your drip line. This should be at the furthest point from your valve box. Open the cap and briefly run the system to flush out any debris that could be clogging your line. Turn off the water before trying to recap your line.

Watering Restrictions for Drip

The Mandatory Watering Restrictions also apply to customers with drip irrigation systems, and the restrictions limit the number of days you can water per week. In addition, landscape experts agree that running drip irrigation less frequently than sprinkler irrigation is much better for plants.


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